Americans Abroad

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Pulisic “would love to become” like Hazard

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Christian Pulisic has barely spent a couple of days in Chelsea blue, but he’s already got his eyes on one of the club’s icons.

“It is incredible to see what Eden can do,” said Pulisic in an interview with BBC Sport. “He is a guy to look up to and what I would love to become. It is definitely a goal. Any player would be dumb not to want to be in the same team as him.”

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Pulisic may not get that chance, with Hazard expected by many to join Real Madrid this summer, but he will become the highest profile American in the Premier League when next season begins in August.

The BBC asked the 20-year-old USMNT star about being the flag bearer for American soccer, the golden boy for a nation of young players.

“I don’t want to be looked at as someone who is the youngest to do this or that. I just want to be an established player and someone people respect, who is successful in this league.”

“It is completely new to me and something not a lot of American players have experienced. It is a blessing to be in this position, so I can inspire American kids, to show them we can do it too.”

Pulisic says he’s confident Chelsea can quickly close the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City.

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).

USMNT midfielder Williams not retained by Huddersfield Town

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Danny Williams‘ tenure with the Terriers is complete.

The 30-year-old German American midfielder was one of five players released by Huddersfield Town on Friday, days after their final Premier League match.

[ MORE: Williams with our own JPW ]

Williams was a significant factor in the Terriers’ beating the drop in 2017-18, but injuries and a coaching change combined to limit him to just six appearance this season.

He scored an FA Cup goal for Huddersfield last season, but made just one start before suffering a knee injury in his sophomore campaign.

Goalkeeper Jonas Lossl and forward Laurent Depoitre were two other notable names not retained by Huddersfield, who also axed Erik Durm and Jack Payne.

Wagner or not, Schalke’s next manager hire big for USMNT

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Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie may get a manager who’s represented his same national team.

Former USMNT striker David Wagner is reportedly in “very advanced” talks to take the helm of the Bundesliga outfit.

[ MORE UCL: Spurs-Ajax recap | Eriksen reacts ]

Wagner, 47, was the Borussia Dortmund II manager before taking the job at Huddersfield Town and guiding the Terriers to the Premier League, but left the club in January en route to relegation.

Now with Schalke having dodged relegation and beaten rivals Borussia Dortmund this weekend under interim boss Huub Stevens, who himself has led the club on two other occasions.

The German-born Wagner won the UEFA Cup during a short stint as a player at Schalke, and was capped eight times by the United States.

But the move, whether Wagner or not, is significant for American soccer.

McKennie doesn’t turn 21 until the start of next season, and already boasts 44 Bundesliga appearances, a half-dozen Champions League matches, and six more German Cup slots.

He’s played in every central midfield position, as well as right back, right mid, and even a little center back and center forward. McKennie is one of the most industrious and experienced young players in USMNT history, but how much of his experience at the club level will even matter to Gregg Berhalter?

I mean, look at his positional usage at Schalke this season via Transfermarkt (right).

This could also become a David Alaba situation. The Austrian has played the majority of his Bayern Munich career as a left back, and then a center back. Yet the 26-year-old has only recently made the move to left mid or left back for Das Team, having been a center midfielder in World Cups and EURO tournaments.

So perhaps Wagner takes over at Schalke, and slots McKennie at right back. Does Berhalter think at all about whether Tyler Adams should go into the middle role and McKennie play a more natural right back? Or does Berhalter say Adams is his right back and McKennie a center mid, end of story?

Also, Wagner was a Danny Williams fan, so perhaps he’d consider the option of an All-American midfield with McKennie and Williams. Half-kidding aside, Schalke’s next manager and their intention for McKennie will be one of the more intriguing and important moves for the future of the U.S. midfield.