How Southampton’s innovative plan to break into US market will work

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SOUTHAMPTON — The age old question of ‘why is North America struggling to develop top class players?’ is one we’re all familiar with.

But how about – with a little help from a Premier League club — flipping that question around and simply asking: ‘well, why not?’

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Southampton Football Club have decided they will be at the forefront of helping on that front, as Saints are launching a unique and long-term plan to use their expert knowledge in this area to help develop better coaches who will then develop better youth players in both the U.S. and Canada, while also growing their brand across the pond.

Last week NBC Sports got the chance to exclusively dig deeper into this initiative and speak to leading figures at the Premier League club about the nuts and bolts of Southampton’s master plan to move into the North American market.

Everything will kick off on July 1 this year and the initial plan is to partner with 10 wide-ranging travel and club teams from across North America, many of whom possess thousands of youngsters across the different age groups. Here’s a look at some of the maim aspects in more detail:

  • Southampton will send some of their top coaches and staff out to the U.S. frequently and will host their partner clubs in conferences on both sides of the pond, with a three-day conference coming up in Baltimore this August available to partner clubs and interested parties.
  • They will also organize a “Southampton Cup” tournament in April 2017 for North American sides to play against English and European opponents.
  • Saints will host a coaching conference in Southampton next May which would showcase how the club works behind-the-scenes from the U-8 level all the way to the first-team.
  • Influential figures in the day-to-day running of the Premier League club, and this new initiative, are Technical Director Martin Hunter and Director of Sports Medicine & Science Performance Support Mo Gimpel.
  • Along with Hunter and Gimpel will be a dedicated team from Southampton’s staff who will work hand-in-hand with their partner teams in the USA and Canada to give them access to state-of-the-art equipment and methods to help with the development of their young players.

Saints are going all-in with this American venture and among their long-term aims is to have a permanent center set up on both coasts in the U.S., help the game grow by developing better coaches and there’s a strong desire to bring young American players through their academy and, one day, into their first team.

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It’s an ambitious plan but Southampton is an ambitious club as it continues to fight against the PL’s elite and overachieves year-on-year with other teams incredibly envious of the top talent they continue to produce. If you need a reminder of just how good they are at producing youngsters, then look no further than the “Southampton Way” documentary (video in full, above) produced and presented by our very own Roger Bennett.

Their journey from the depths of the third-tier in 2009 to the top seven of the PL and a spot in the Europa League in 2015 pays tribute to the way the club has rebuilt itself thanks to the generosity of the Liebherr family but Saints have always had developing top quality youth players at its core. Now, it wants to bring those values to North America and with the help of Chairman Ralph Krueger – born and raised in Canada – and his vast list of contacts in the American sporting realm, it is becoming a reality.

“If you do any market research on the Premier League we are near the top, if not at the top, when it comes to teaching the game,” Krueger said in an interview last fall. “So we want to come to the U.S. with a clear development model that we’re going to bring to academies and development centers that have over 6,000 kids in them.”

Last week I sat down with Hunter and Gimpel in the Markus Liebherr Pavilion as the swirling wind and rain brought across the Atlantic from Winter Storm Jonas battered the skylight windows. It’s clear everybody at the club is excited about taking on this new, and rather ambitious, challenge.

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Saints’ plan to try and muscle their way into the American market is a little bit different than the tact most English and European clubs have taken in the past. They don’t have the fan base or finances of their PL rivals Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. So, instead of coming on a preseason tour and chucking out shirts into the stands to entice prospective new fans, the Hampshire club is looking to build a sustainable fan base by sharing what it’s known the world over for: developing top young talent thanks to elite coaching methods.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Gareth Bale of Tottenham Hotspur is challenged by Theo Walcott of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on February 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Two of the most successful products developed by Saints are Gareth Bale, left, and Theo Walcott battle out.

Over the years the production line from their famed academy at the Staplewood training base speaks for itself. Before the recent influx of star names the likes of Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier and Wayne Bridge came through. More recently Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers have been developed and sold on for huge sums and now play for some of the biggest teams on the planet.

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Saints’ production line keeps on rolling too, with current first team players James Ward-Prowse and Matt Targett regulars in the PL, plus the likes of Harrison Reed and Sam Gallagher on the fringes.

So, what is so special about the “Southampton Way” of developing players and what can they offer to these partner clubs in the U.S. from July 1 onwards?

“The whole history of the club is steeped in this,” Hunter said. “Over the past six years since the Liebherr family has been involved, we’ve got this facility now and we are in a position to share. We don’t have anything to hide. We’ve got not magical dust to sprinkle on people. It’s just the way we do things. It’s like going to a good University. You go to Oxford University, you expect a good education. If you come to Southampton, you only have to look at quotes from the likes of Gareth Bale to know you expect a good football education from us. It’s quite simple. So we can share it and we will back it.

“The other thing we need to mention is that when we actually send staff across they will be key staff that work here,” Hunter continued. “We are not starting a franchise. We will send key people out at key times. That’s why we are sure it will work. We are not paying lip service. We see it as a very important venture therefore we will back it like that.”

To start with Saints will partner with 10 clubs and begin the tailored four-year plan with each side this July. They aim to build a solid base and a way of doing things which can then be replicated on a larger scale across North America and even in other emerging markets such as China and Australia in the future. The entire team involved in this project recently set up a stall at the NSCAA convention in Baltimore in January and were overwhelmed by the interest levels and described the American coaches as being “like sponges, so open-minded.”

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Gimpel, who has met with members of the New York Knicks, Baltimore Ravens, San Antonio Spurs and Tampa Bay Lightning’s science, medical and performance staff to discuss methods of how things are done in America compared to the UK, is eager to get things going.

“On July 1 we will be up and running, we will have clubs signed and we will be going,” Gimpel said. “At the conference there were 13,000 people from all over the U.S. We fielded questions from everywhere and there are probably clubs from coast to coast who are in serious discussions about signing up.”

So, why are Saints so convinced this model will work in the U.S.?

“It will work because of the input and the importance we will give it. We see it as a long-term plan and partnership. We want to develop close links with clubs particularly on developing the coaches understanding,” Hunter explained. “We are not in competition with the governing bodies that award coaching badges. We would see that as being as a supplement to the things we’ve been very successful here at in terms of developing players and good young players both male and female. That will be critical as to what we do. What we are trying to do is share our best practice with the coaches and have a knock-on effect with the players in the U.S. The way we do things here, we want to share the key points about that in terms of coach education and player pathway.

“We are also looking at an aspiring coach maybe from a different area, there would be a chance for them to come in and join in that situation. But primarily it is a partnership with clubs who have got teams from all age groups and it is a chance to affect their coaching culture.”

With the finances on offer for developing a scheme such as this surely paltry in comparison to the riches of the Premier League, I’m sure many of you are asking: ‘why put all this time and effort in?’

“One of the things our organization does well, is it does due diligence and when a decision is made then we are on to do something for the medium to long-term. This is long-term project and why can’t it just become forever?” Gimpel said. “It could just be there, slowly building our brand in the U.S. and building to help the U.S. as a nation become better coaches of soccer and improving the health of a nation. Whatever angle you want to take on it, why can’t Southampton be part of that and be pushing that forward? We will build our brand and hopefully we build support and a fan base and if we find players, great. But that’s not the primary aim of the project.”

[ MORE: The dramatic rise of Southampton

Bale and fellow academy graduate Adam Lallana embrace after a Champions League clash.
Bale and fellow academy graduate Adam Lallana embrace after a Champions League clash.

Growing the brand of Southampton is the main aim but teams who partner with Saints will get the choice whether or not they want to play in a replicata Southampton kit or have a badge on their current jersey or simply show no physical correlation with the club. There’s no pressure for any of that.

But should there be any concerns regarding the resources of a small to medium size PL club being stretched and Southampton’s academy staff being overworked?

“That is part of our discussions. We will start off with things that we know are going to work and we will staff and support it,” Hunter said. “We know the potential is huge but we have to do what we have done here, which is build the blocks to be successful. We are not going to build a weak base that crumbles. We want solidity like we’ve had here in the last six years. We are mindful of that and we will take that into account.”

Speaking to Matt Sanger, Global Development Manager at Southampton, it was clear he is ambitious yet realistic about the potential of this project as one thing is key to remember: quality over quantity.

“We are realistic in terms of how many [clubs] we could get,” Sanger explained. “If it was to explode and go really massive then that’s great but there is a limit to how many clubs you can really have working with you because you have to have the quality and we have to maintain that quality. That is an absolute key for us when we are doing the program, to maintain that link with the Football Development & Support Center.”

Another part of the service Saints will provide is giving clubs in the North America access to their tracking systems which will be able to look at historical data from previous years and compare to their teams.

“One of the things we’ve been talking about is that a club in the U.S. could see the data of their player and how it compares to a player like Gareth Bale at that age,” Sanger said. “So they can really start understanding what a player of that stature would need to have achieved physically and technically at certain periods.”

Southampton v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Ward-Prowse, left, and Targett are the latest academy graduates to crack the first team.

Another thing the program will take into account is inclusion. Saints will not focus on one particular age group but work with clubs who have teams from as young as U-8 and up to U-16 and even some USDA level teams are in serious discussions. Their methods will also be used to coach male and female players and Hunter explained a little more about the advantages of setting this initiative up in the U.S., a region which many would say has huge untapped potential in terms of developing top players.

“Absolutely, it is untapped,” Hunter agreed. “The potential in America in terms of the country being an active country, sport is massive like it is in this country so the knock on effect in terms of young people and their discipline is done through a medium. Our football, American soccer, we see as a very important vehicle for longer-term.”

Huge athletic potential aside, one of the biggest issues facing club teams in North America is the widely-accepted fact that children play soccer up until the age of 12-13 and then focus on more traditional sports such as basketball, American football and baseball. Speaking to a Technical Director of one of the most successful youth academies on the planet, is there a “golden stage” when children should learn the sport?

“The golden years for learning the experts would say is from 7-12. So it seems a bit strange that actually you are starting to get some sort of understanding and master it and then you don’t want to play,” Hunter said. “If you look at our track record, some of our very, very best players were here from eight years of age. So they are grounded in all sorts of way, in terms of sports science, plus tactical and technical education. We can’t do everything in the U.S. module but that is a proven fact that they are key ages to learn.

“Our curriculum is run in three phases. The foundation phase starts at eight and then goes up to 12, then the youth development stage which goes up to about 16 and then the professional development phase is really 16+. We talk about a pathway and we talk about opportunity to the first team. That’s how we do it. We are not a club who can go out and buy a young player for $3-4 million and we wouldn’t believe in it.”

The fact that Southampton has given debuts to 10 teenagers in the Premier League over the past three-and-a-half seasons, and many more before that, suggests that they are extremely strong at accelerating the development of young players from the age of 15-16 and preparing them for a first-team environment.

Could those methods be used in conjunction with Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer in the future?

“It is possible but the college soccer system… the whole sporting line from U-16s to U-21s means the college system appears to be a huge block in those key years,” Gimpel explained. “Whereas here guys at the same age are full time athletes but in the U.S. they became part student and part athlete. It is quite a complicated scenario and I don’t know enough about it to give you a complete opinion on it. I think we definitely have knowledge of how to go from say, a U-16 to a U-21 professional and any organization that was keen to investigate that, we’d be happy to have the chat with them. When we were in the U.S. we did have a meeting with Sacha Cirovski, the soccer coach at Maryland University, just to up-skill our knowledge in the college system and how it works.”

Looking at other sports and other clubs is something Hunter did when he first took over as technical director in 2010. Southampton looked at the examples of Auxerre, Barcelona and Ajax and the success they had in developing young talent. Now, everybody is looking at them as they continue to churn out top class prospects.

Saints are mindful, though, that they do things properly from the very beginning in North America and won’t push for immediate results.

“We will see how it goes. Player development takes years. It is a slow process,” Gimpel said. “Because we are in it for the long term, as Martin said, that foundation is the key. If we muck this up then clubs in a year’s time will say ‘oh, we aren’t going to get involved there’ so we need to make sure we start right and resource it well.”

Shaw, 19, was the youngest player at the 2014 World Cup.
Saints academy product Shaw was the youngest player at the 2014 World Cup.

It will be a slow and meticulous process but 10 years from now the key movers and shakers at Saints hope to be a force in the U.S.

“Long term, if we could work with an academy and have a kid that was eight years old and could come up and become a professional footballer, that would be fantastic,” Sanger beamed. “That would be the ultimate success of the program because it would show that what we do here in Southampton could be replicated somewhere else by working with us and develop that professional player.”

But just how big can this become?

“In 10 years the ultimate aim is that it would be a full-time department with bases on the East and West Coasts,” Gimpel said, with a smile on his face. “We’d have lots and lots of clubs and a successful talent ID pathway. Plus, Saints could be the Premier League team of the U.S. fan.”

“Some young American players at this club,” Hunter added, rubbing his hands excitedly. “Why not?”

That ideology of “why not?” is something that will resonate strongly with the American market as club and travel coaches fight to develop young players in a country where the game is still growing exponentially but also battling against the traditional powerhouse sports to find its footing in the American sporting realm.

Now, coaches have some help from one of the best in the business to help take them, and their players, to the next level. Both Southampton and their soon-to-be partner clubs in North America hope to one day produce the American version of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott or Luke Shaw.

After all, why not?

Mexicans Abroad

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As MLS-based players finish up their preseason, a hand full of El Tri players in Europe continue to make a big impact.

Raul Jimenez scored again for Wolves, his 12th of the Premier League season, leaving him just one goal shy of his record set last year. Last year it took him 38 games to score 13 goals. So far, he’s scored 12 goals in 27 games. Elsewhere, Andres Guardado was back for Betis, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona continues to start for Porto, and Nestor Araujo put in another terrific performance for Celta Vigo.

Meanwhile, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Rodolfo Pizarro, and Alan Pulido all one week away from the start of the MLS season.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Jimenez started, played 72 minutes, and scored the final goal in a 3-0 rout of Norwich City. He also picked up a first half yellow card.

La Liga

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid —  Herrera was not in the squad for the second straight week as Atletico Madrid defeated Villarreal, 3-1.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado started and played 87 minutes in Betis’ wild 3-3 draw with Mallorca.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old is out after undergoing appendicitis surgery.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo secured another huge result for his club as ten-man Celta Vigo beat Mexican coach Javier Aguirre and Leganes. With the win and Araujo’s 90-minute performance, Celta is now out of the relegation zone.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  Lozano, Napoli’s most expensive player in team history, made the bench but did not see action in Napoli’s 2-1 win over Brescia. The 24-year-old and the Italian manager seem to be on different pages, and the situation doesn’t appear to be getting better with time. It might be time to panic for Lozano’s development in Italy.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played the full 90 minutes in Porto’s 1-0 win over Portimonense on Sunday.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez entered the match in the first half after teammate Jorrit Hendrix was injured. Gutierrez finished with 56 minutes in PSV’s 2-1 win at Vitesse

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez was back on the bench and didn’t appear in Ajax’s 1-0 defeat to Heracles

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea made the bench but did not appear in Zulte’s 1-1 draw on Saturday with Oostende.

Major League Soccer

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, LA Galaxy – In the Galaxy’s final preseason showdown, Chicharito Hernandez provided the assist for Sacha Kljestan’s lone goal of the match as the LA Galaxy drew 1-1 with the Chicago Fire. The Galaxy open the MLS season against Houston Dynamo on February 29.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – Vela and LAFC weren’t in action this weekend as the club were recovering from a 2-0 defeat in CONCACAF Champions League at Club Leon.

Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami – Pizarro was officially announced as a Designated Player signing for Inter Miami last week, but it doesn’t appear he played (he at least didn’t start) in Inter Miami’s 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Alan Pulido, Sporting Kansas City – Pulido played 76 minutes in Sporting KC’s final preseason match of the year, helping contribute to a goal scored by Gadi Kinda.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Ulises Davila, Wellington Phoenix – Davila played all 90 minutes in Phoenix’s 2-0 victory over Western United. Davila recorded an assist on the first goal and sent Wellington into a tie for fourth place.

Marco Fabian, Al-Sadd – Fabian played all 90 minutes for Al-Sadd in it’s 2-2 draw at Umm Salal

Hector Moreno, Al-Gharafa – Moreno and Al-Gharafa were inactive this weekend.

Report: Matches in Italy could be played behind closed doors this week

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For at least the next week, we could see matches in Italy played behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus scare.

According to a report in Gazzetta Dello Sport, the Italian sports minister, Vincenzo Spadafora, has determined that clubs based in regions where there have been positive Coronavirus (officially known as Covid-19) cases will need to play matches without fans for at least the next week.

An NBC News report from Sunday cited Italian government officials stating more than 133 people had tested positive for COVID-19, and that ten cities in Northern Italy were on lockdown.

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The Italian sporting authorities are trying to keep people from congregating together in large numbers, where the virus could potentially spread.

In a sporting context, this reported decision from the Italian government will also create headaches within Juventus FC. The club has a massive match next Saturday against Inter Milan, and would likely prefer to either have it cancelled or moved to a safe location so it could be played with fans in attendance.

La Liga: Sevilla leapfrogs Getafe into 3rd place

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Sevilla leapfrogged Getafe to take third place in the Spanish league after routing the season’s surprise team 3-0 in Madrid on Sunday.

Sevilla beat Getafe at its own game, out-muscling the hosts with a suffocating defense and demonstrating clinical finishing to convert its scant scoring chances.

The Andalusian side got an opener from Lucas Ocampos in the 43rd minute. Midfielder Fernando doubled the lead in the 67th before he set up Jules Kounde to seal the victory in the 75th.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Sevilla lost goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik to an apparent leg injury before the second half started. He was replaced by Yassine Bounou, who was never tested.

The victory ended Sevilla’s five-game winless streak across all competitions that put coach Julen Lopetegui under growing pressure to restore the team’s good form from the first half of the season.

Getafe has had an outstanding campaign, fighting for a Champions League spot for next season despite its modest budget.

Getafe’s loss was just its fourth at home in any competition this season. It lost last round away at Barcelona, but had bounced back with a 2-0 win over Ajax in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sevilla moved one point ahead of Getafe, which dropped into fourth place. Leader Barcelona is 12 points ahead of Sevilla.

Real Madrid trails Barcelona by two points before the two teams meet next weekend.

Elsewhere in La Liga action, Atletico Madrid took home a 3-1 result over Villarreal, adding to the club’s already great week. Villarreal went up first through Paco Alcacer, but Atleti hit back with goals from Angel Correa, Koke, and Joao Felix. It was Felix’s first game back after a hamstring strain, and England National Team right back Kieran Trippier made his return to the field for the first time since early January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Here are other scores from Sunday’s La Liga action:

Osasuna 0-3 Granada

Alaves 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Real Valladolid 2-1 Espanyol

American’s Abroad: Strong defensive performances and an eye for the future

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It wasn’t exactly a banner week for American attackers abroad, but there were some fine defensive performances and some youngsters making a name for themselves.

Both John Brooks of Wolfsburg and Tim Ream of Fulham played the full 90 in their team’s matches this weekend. Brooks led Wolfsburg to a 4-0 rout of Mainz, while Fulham played Derby County to a 1-1 stalemate. Derby County’s only goal however came off a Wayne Rooney penalty kick, as otherwise Ream and co. kept Derby out through the run of play.

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There were some bright notes for the future, however. Both Ajax youngster Alex Mendez and Wolfsburg U-19 star Uly Llanez scored in action for their teams, as did Wisconsin native Andrija Novakovich, who assisted on one goal and scored the second in Frosinone’s 2-0 win over Crotone, lifting Alessandro Nesta’s side to second in Serie B. If the season ended today, Novakovich would be playing in Serie A next year. Former Sporting Kansas City Homegrown talent Erik Palmer-Brown also scored in Austria Wien’s 2-2 draw with Jesse Marsch and RB Salzburg

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic is still recovering from his injury and missed Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin made the bench but didn’t see action in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa — Vassilev didn’t dress in Aston Villa’s 2-0 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  For a third weekend in a row Robinson did not dress for Wigan. Robinson continues to deal with a groin injury that ended the potential loan move to AC Milan.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes did not dress in Derby’s 1-1 draw with Fulham after suffering an ankle injury on February 15 against Huddersfield Town.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The defender is out for the season after sustaining an injury.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes in QPR’s 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Derby County on Friday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luton Town (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and played 90 minutes in Luton’s 3-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic.

League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — The 24-year-old American scored the game-winning-goal in Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers, which moved Sunderland into fourth place in the table, just three points behind first place Rotherham United. A strong spring could put Gooch on USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s radar.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt play on Monday at home against Union Berlin

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started, played 90 minutes, and helped keep a clean sheet in Wolfsburg’s 4-0 win over Mainz.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started but only played 55 minutes as Schalke was routed, 5-0 by RB Leipzig.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams is out with an injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is out with an injury, while Morales came off the bench and played 23 minutes in Dusseldorf’s 2-0 win at Freiburg on Saturday.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent came off the bench and played seven minutes plus stoppage time in Werder Bremen’s 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund Reyna made his sixth Bundesliga appearance this season, coming in for Jadon Sancho and played 13 minutes in a 2-0 win over Werder Bremen

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson did not dress for Monchengladbach’s 1-1 draw with Johnson’s former club, Hoffenheim.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played 90 minutes in Ajax’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Heracles.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker started and played all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over FC Groningen.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — After a six-month absence, Weah featured for Lille on February 16, playing the final 10 minutes in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille. Unfortunately, in that game, Weah suffered another muscle injury, this time a torn right hamstring that will leave him out indefinitely.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu did not dress for Rennes in its 2-1 win over Nimes.

Honorable Mentions

Kenny Saief, Lechia Gdansk, on loan from Anderlecht — The American-Israeli made his first appearance on the field in around 10 months, playing 13 minutes off the bench in Gdansk’s 2-0 defeat to Lech Poznan. Saief’s injury problems and a falling out in Cincinnati during his loan there led to it being terminated early. However, he wasn’t in Anderlecht’s plans this fall, meaning he had to wait until the January transfer window to find a new club after he failed to move during the summer.

Ian Harkes, Dillon Powers, Dundee United — I don’t know the last time this has happened, but in the 57th minute Harkes (son of John Harkes) came on for Powers in a rare American for American substitution abroad. It’s safe to say that while rare, we could see this happening again, as both Harkes and Powers play similar positions in midfield.