Haji Wright

Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

The USMNT player pool in Europe is as promising as ever

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It would be a challenge to put together a Best XI from Americans performing in Europe this Saturday.

That’s for two reasons, not one of them because there aren’t 11 players worthy of the honor.

One is goalkeepers: Zack Steffen is hurt and Ethan Horvath backing up Simon Mignolet.

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The other is pretty great: There are many more than 11 players thriving in Europe even with Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, and Timothy Weah not available for selection.

It’s a weekly thing now. Gregg Berhalter trains a strong and mostly-MLS squad for January friendlies, The Americans Abroad round-ups on our site have shown plenty of progress for those eligible for the USMNT.

There was a time when Haji Wright coming off the bench for VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands had a shot at being the highlight of the weekend.

Now it’s a footnote. The 21-year-old is a regular for the relegation-threatened side after a transfer from Schalke. If anything, the discussion is about two in-a-row off the bench after a run of 10-straight league starts.

Consider this list of players, now that Aston Villa’s Indiana Vassilev and Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna made league debuts in the same weekend.

First team players in top tier leagues

Zack Steffen (Man City, on loan to Dusseldorf)
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)
DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Tyler Boyd (Besiktas)
Indiana Vassilev (Aston Villa)
Haji Wright (VVV Venlo)
Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Tim Weah (Lille)

Dig deeper and there’s more: Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), Geoff Cameron (QPR), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), and Duane Holmes (Derby County) have been regulars in the English Championship. Same for Julian Green (Greuther Furth) in 2.Bundesliga and in-form Lynden Gooch at League One’s Sunderland. Niko Hamalainen (Kilmarnock) is a regular starter in the Scottish Premiership.

Then there are heralded U-20 and U-17 prospects Chris Gloster (Jong PSV), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Alex Mendez (Ajax), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Ulysses Lainez (Wolfsburg II). Some have taken first team bows while others have made the bench or ar eon the verge.

And we’re just talking Europe here, as the U.S. still has a bevy of reliable international players playing domestically like Jordan Morris, Miles Robinson, and Jozy Altidore amongst others. That’s leaving alone the caliber of Homegrown players being produced by Major League Soccer academies, Paxton Pomykal and Djordje Mihailovic among them (Reyna and Richards, too).

In terms of potential, American soccer is at a golden age. This makes Brian McBride’s new role as USMNT general manager even more important, as he teams up with Gregg Berhalter to put the best possible American team together for qualifying.

One thing’s for sure, the player pool is deep and no longer an excuse. Game on.

American winger Haji Wright signs with Eredivisie’s Venlo

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Haji Wright, a 21-year-old American winger, signed a one-year contract with VVV Venlo on Friday that gives the Dutch club an additional one-year option.

Wright had been with Germany’s Schalke since April 2016 and made his first-team debut last Nov. 24 as an 88th-minute substitute against Nuremberg. He scored on Dec. 19 in a 2-1 loss to Bayer Levekusen, his only goal in seven appearances.

Wright is from Los Angeles and played for the U.S. at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup alongside Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams. He spent 2015 with the New York Cosmos in the second-tier North American Soccer League and signed with Schalke in March 2016. He was loaned to second-division Sandhausen for 2017-18, scoring once in 15 games.

VIDEO: US youngsters Wright, McKennie combine for Schalke goal

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Wednesday was a big day for USMNT talent in Germany’s top-flight.

Haji Wright scored his first goal for Bundesliga side Schalke, and his countryman Weston McKennie grabbed the assist.

Right on half time Wright flicked home from close range after McKennie had nodded a header from a corner into his path. The goal made it Schalke 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen at half time.

Wright, 20, has broken into Schalke’s first team this season to join McKennie, also 20, as a regular.

The good times for young American players in the Bundesliga keep on arriving, as Josh Sargent jumped off the bench for Werder Bremen and scored with his first-ever touch in the Bundesliga earlier this month.

Take a look at the goal below.


Bundesliga wrap: Gnabry drives Bayern; American makes 1st Bundesliga start

Carmen Jaspersen/dpa via AP
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Borussia Dortmund continued its winning ways, while Niko Kovac and Bayern Munich may finally be pulling it all together for a worthwhile chase for the Bundesliga title.

[ RECAP: Saints 2-2 Man Utd ]


Hoffenheim 1-1 Schalke

Saturday will go down as an unforgettable one for California native Haji Wright, as the 20-year-old American center forward made his first Bundesliga start (a week after coming off the bench for his first senior appearance).

Wright played 70 minutes, leaving the match one minute after countryman Weston McKennie entered as a sub. Wright’s was industrious on the day but only managed 18 touches and 4-for-4 passing to go with his mileage up top.

As for Schalke, it answered in-form Andrej Kramaric‘s 59th minute goal with Nabil Bentaleb‘s 73rd minute marker to earn a point and move 11th.

Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Freiburg

Speaking of Americans, the league-leading hosts’ Christian Pulisic missed this one with a calf injury. No problem, really, as Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer scored to move the table lead to seven points before second-place Gladbach plays Sunday.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Werder Bremen
The serial champions are third for the time-being following a Serge Gnabry double at the Allianz Arena.

Elsewhere
Fortuna Dusseldorf 0-1 Mainz — Friday
Stuttgart 1-0 Augsburg
Hannover 96 0-2 Hertha Berlin
RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Wolfsburg — Noon ET Sunday
Nurnberg vs. Bayer Leverkusen — 2:30 p.m. ET Monday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 13 10 3 0 37 13 24 6-1-0 4-2-0 33
 Mönchengladbach 12 8 2 2 30 14 16 6-0-0 2-2-2 26
 Bayern Munich 13 7 3 3 25 18 7 2-3-1 5-0-2 24
 Eintracht Frankfurt 12 7 2 3 29 14 15 3-1-1 4-1-2 23
 RB Leipzig 12 6 4 2 22 10 12 4-2-0 2-2-2 22
 1899 Hoffenheim 13 6 3 4 28 19 9 3-2-2 3-1-2 21
 Hertha BSC Berlin 13 5 5 3 21 20 1 3-2-1 2-3-2 20
 Werder Bremen 13 5 3 5 21 22 -1 2-2-3 3-1-2 18
 FSV Mainz 05 13 5 3 5 12 14 -2 3-2-2 2-1-3 18
 VfL Wolfsburg 12 4 3 5 16 17 -1 2-2-3 2-1-2 15
 FC Schalke 04 13 4 2 7 14 18 -4 3-0-3 1-2-4 14
 Bayer Leverkusen 12 4 2 6 18 24 -6 2-1-3 2-1-3 14
 SC Freiburg 13 3 5 5 16 22 -6 2-3-2 1-2-3 14
 FC Augsburg 13 3 4 6 20 22 -2 1-3-2 2-1-4 13
 VfB Stuttgart 13 3 2 8 9 26 -17 2-1-3 1-1-5 11
 1. FC Nürnberg 12 2 4 6 13 29 -16 2-2-2 0-2-4 10
 Hannover 96 13 2 3 8 15 28 -13 2-1-3 0-2-5 9
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 13 2 3 8 13 29 -16 2-0-5 0-3-3 9

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern falls, Eintracht rises, USMNT’s Wright debuts

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Goals, goals, goals: The Bundesliga returned from international break with a fury, with only 1-0 in the seven matches staged Friday and Saturday.

[ MORE: Spurs thump Chelsea ]

The fact that a 2-1 win from leaders Borussia Dortmund gets pushed down to the “Elsewhere” portion of our wrap-up shows you the nutty nature of the day.

Bayern Munich 3-3 Fortuna Dusseldorf

Bayern is now nine points off of first place BVB following a Dodi Lukebakio-inspired loss at the Allianz Arena.

Thomas Muller scored twice as Bayern held 2-0 and 3-1 leads, the latter with just over a half-hour to play.

But Lukebakio finished off his hat trick with goals in the 77th minute and third minute of stoppage time to send Bayern’s winless league run to three matches.

Augsburg 1-3 Eintracht Frankfurt

There’s a new second place side, at least until Sunday, as Eintracht built a three-goal lead starting with a first minute goal from Canadian midfielder Jonathan De Guzman. Star strikers Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic also scored in the win.

Schalke 5-2 Nurnberg

It was 2-1 to the hosts when Nurnberg went down a man through Robery Bauer’s second yellow card. Schalke took further control through Guido Burgstaller, and scored twice in the final 10 minutes to salt away a fourth win of the season.

American winger Haji Wright made his Schalke senior debut in the 88th minute, getting three touches and completing both of his passes in the cameo. The 20-year-old has six goals and three assists for Schalke II, earning his first spot in a match day 18 since 2017.

Elsewhere
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Stuttgart — Friday
Mainz 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Wolfsburg 1-0 RB Leipzig
Hertha Berlin 3-3 Hoffenheim
Freiburg vs. Werder Bremen — 
9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hannover 96 — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 12 9 3 0 35 13 22 5-1-0 4-2-0 30
 Eintracht Frankfurt 12 7 2 3 29 14 15 3-1-1 4-1-2 23
 Mönchengladbach 11 7 2 2 26 13 13 5-0-0 2-2-2 23
 RB Leipzig 12 6 4 2 22 10 12 4-2-0 2-2-2 22
 Bayern Munich 12 6 3 3 23 17 6 2-3-1 4-0-2 21
 1899 Hoffenheim 12 6 2 4 27 18 9 3-1-2 3-1-2 20
 Werder Bremen 11 5 2 4 19 19 0 2-2-2 3-0-2 17
 Hertha BSC Berlin 12 4 5 3 19 20 -1 3-2-1 1-3-2 17
 VfL Wolfsburg 12 4 3 5 16 17 -1 2-2-3 2-1-2 15
 FSV Mainz 05 12 4 3 5 11 14 -3 3-2-2 1-1-3 15
 Bayer Leverkusen 12 4 2 6 18 24 -6 2-1-3 2-1-3 14
 FC Augsburg 12 3 4 5 20 21 -1 1-3-2 2-1-3 13
 SC Freiburg 11 3 4 4 15 19 -4 2-2-2 1-2-2 13
 FC Schalke 04 12 4 1 7 13 17 -4 3-0-3 1-1-4 13
 1. FC Nürnberg 12 2 4 6 13 29 -16 2-2-2 0-2-4 10
 Hannover 96 11 2 3 6 14 22 -8 2-1-2 0-2-4 9
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 12 2 3 7 13 28 -15 2-0-4 0-3-3 9
 VfB Stuttgart 12 2 2 8 8 26 -18 1-1-3 1-1-5 8