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Americans Overseas: Ventura Alvarado Takes The Bull By The Horns

The Arizona-native has gone from Club America benchwarmer to automatic starter just in time for a Club World Cup showdown with Real Madrid.

By Phil Schoen

He might have been forgotten by the U.S. national team and he’s got his suitcases packed for a move to Santos Laguna next season, but Ventura Alvarado is looking to grab some silverware before he leaves. The Arizona native has had a month to remember as he stepped up to help the Aguilas earn a spot in the Liga MX final against Tigres, and came off the bench as America came from behind to beat Jeonbuk to earn a spot in the Club World Cup semifinals against Real Madrid. Alvarado was finally given a chance to play by Club America manager Ricardo Lavolpe in the last game of the regular season, and has played an important role ever since. In the matc against the Asian Confederation champions, Alvarado pushed up the right wing, sending in a dangerous cross that was eventually sent out for the corner that created the game-winning goal.
 

Heading into the weekend, Bob Bradley was being touted as the most likely Premier League manager to be fired, even though he only took the Swansea City job two months ago. Then the Swans put together arguably their best performance of the season in a 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Sunderland. Swansea is still in the relegation zone, but just a point from safety. Up next, a midweek trip to surprising West Brom, who stand eighth in the Premier League, followed by a weekend visit to Middlesbrough (16th) before returning home for a Boxing Day showdown against West Ham (17th) and a New Year’s Eve tilt vs. Bournemouth (12th). The Swans start the New Year at Crystal Palace (15th) before heading back into the buzz-saw with matches against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea in January and February.

 

Another former U.S. national team manager was in the news. Jurgen Klinsmann, who was fired last month, won’t be out of a job long. It was announced on Monday that Klinsmann will be headed to China to take control of an as-of-yet unnamed Super League club next season.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic has been named the Young Player of the Year by U.S. Soccer after his breakout performance with the national team. His performance at Dortmund is also drawing attention as reports out of England say Liverpool is still intent on buying the 18-year-old phenom to reunite him with Jurgen Klopp. Arsenal and Tottenham are also rumored to be interested. Dortmund has reportedly slapped a $30-million buyout clause on the teenager to try to discourage suitors. If he sticks around, he will get the opportunity to continue his Champions League heroics with a quarterfinal matchup against Benfica.

 

The U.S. under 20 national team is headed to Costa Rica for a pair of friendlies against the Ticos later this week. It’s in preparation for the CONCACAF u20 Championship set for Costa Rica Feb. 17 – March 5. The majority of the players called-in are either in college or participating in the U.S. Development Academy system. However, two players have already moved abroad. Striker Emmanuel Sabbi who is playing with Las Palmas youth squad in Spain’s Tercera Division and under-20 debutant Nick Taitague, a 17-year-old out of Virginia who has been training in Germany with Schalke 04, unable to sign until his 18th birthday in February.

 

And now a look at some more of what was happening on the field:

 

DENMARK

Conor O’Brien scored his first of the season as Horsens pounded Aalborg 3-0 to climb to seventh in the Superliga table. The 28-year-old Long Island native is a regular at defensive midfield for the mid-table team. It’s the final match before the winter break. Action resumes in mid-February with five regular season rounds remaining before the table splits into a championship and a relegation round. Horsens is in the bottom half, but just three points away from competing for the title.

 

ENGLAND

Sunderland’s U.S. youngster Lynden Gooch got some (relatively) good news. Gooch injured his ankle late last month, but found out last week that while he will miss then next 10-12 weeks, he will not require surgery, which could have knocked him out of action for the rest of the season.

West Brom’s young American center back Danny Barbir helped Albion to a 1-1 Premier League Cup draw at Liverpool in u23 action last week, driving a long ball in for a header for the opening goal. The 6’3” Macungie, Pa. native then cheekily helped Liverpool’s Twitter account understand what had happened. The top two teams in each PL Cup group advance, and West Brom stands second at the midway point, with three matches remaining.

 

GERMANY

Forgotten U.S. international midfielder Alfredo Morales helped cellar-dwelling Ingolstadt to a shock 1-0 upset over league leaders RB Leipzig, their first loss of the season. Morales got the start in the midfield, making his eighth appearance of the season. It’s only the second win of the year for Ingolstadt and draws them just one point from safety after 14 rounds.

Meanwhile, Borussia Monchengladbach winger Fabian Johnson hurt his ankle in training last week, missing this weekend’s match against Mainz. The club announced an Achilles tendon problem will sideline Johnson until 2017. It’s not the birthday present Johnson would have wanted, as he turned 29 on Sunday.

In the second division, Russell Canouse scored his first ever goal for Bochum, and it was the winner in a 1-0 home victory over 1860 Munich. The 21-year-old midfielder came out of the same PA Classics club in Pennsylvania that produced Christian Pulisic. He moved to Bochum this season after four years in the Hoffenheim system, where he captained the u19s to the 2014 title.

 

Former U.S. youth international Royal-Dominique Fennell is off to a good start for his new side Hallescher FC in Germany’s 3.Liga. The 27-year-old California born defender scored his fourth goal of the season in their 1-1 road draw at Wehen Wiesbaden this past weekend. The point puts Hallescher fourth in the third division table, just one point out of the promotion playoff spot. Fennell was interviewed by MDR this week, and if your German is up to snuff, you can find out even more about how he’s getting along.

 

Jann George got an assist as Jahn Regensburg grabbed a 3-0 road win at Chemnitzer. The 24-year-old German-American striker didn’t score himself, but his seven goals on the season have him tied for sixth on the scoring chart. The win lifts Regensburg four points clear of the drop zone and only six points out of a promotion playoff berth. Former U.S. youth international Mario Rodriguez came off the bench for the hosts.

In Regionalliga action, 26-year-old Harlem, N.Y. native Devann Yao netted a hat-trick, his first goals of the season for Berliner AK, in a 5-3 home loss to RB Leipzig II. The capital city club is still third in the table, but nine points out of the lead, with only the group champion earning promotion. Yao scored five goals for BAK last year after making a mid-season move from Kickers Offenbach. You can watch the highlights here.

 

Elsewhere, playmaker Joel Sonora scored in Stuttgart II’s 4-1 comeback win over Pirmasens. It was his fourth goal of the season. Former LA Galaxy project Charlie Rugg played 90 for the visitors in a losing effort. The win lifted Stuttgart over their foes to 12th in the table with both teams just above the relegation zone. You can watch his goal at the 5:30 mark from the DFB highlights.

Former Canadian u-20 goalkeeper Julien Latendresse-Levesque helped Lokomotive Leipzig to a 2-1 road win over Hertha II to climb to eighth in the table. The 25-year-old netminder has started all 17 games this season. Despite being born in Montreal, Latendresse-Levesque came up through the Vancouver Whitecaps system before moving to Germany in 2009 at the age of 18.

Fellow Canadian Massih Wassey scored the winning goal for Borussia Dortmund II in a 1-0 win over Wattenscheid. It was the fourth goal of the season for the 28-year-old Munster-born midfielder. American international Joe Gyau made a late appearance off the bench for Dortmund as he continues his injury comeback. They stand third, five points behind the leaders with two games in hand.

In u19 play, Kevin Coleman scored his first goal for Kaiserslautern in a 2-0 win over 1860 Munich. The goal comes just a week after he set up the only goal of the match in Kaiserslautern’s 1-0 win at Stuttgarter Kickers. FCK is second on goal differential in the u19 Bundesliga standings.

Haji Wright continues his stellar form with Schalke 04's u19 team, brilliantly setting up the first goal in a 2-0 win over Duisberg. The 18-year-old ex-Galaxy and Cosmos youth player has played 13 games with the blues, scoring six goals and registering nine assists. 

 

ITALY

Fiorentina faced struggling Sassuolo in Serie A play on Monday. It was the fourth match in a row where 18-year-old U.S. attacker Josh Perez made the match-day roster for the Viola. Two weeks ago, he made his Serie A debut as the youngest American to ever play in the Italian top-flight. The 2-1 win lifted Fiorentina to seventh place, with a game in hand.

 

MEXICO

U.S. u19 goalkeeper Benny Diaz is training with Queretaro’s first team in Cancun. The Gallos Blancos are preparing for the upcoming Clausura season, after finishing 11th in the Apertura, six points out of the playoff spots.

 

NORWAY

Former Columbus Crew striker Cole Grossman announcing that he will be on the move, leaving Norwegian club Stabaek after scoring 5 goals in 51 matches over the last two years. The announcement comes just a week after Stabaek held on to their top-flight spot in the playoffs.

 

Two years in Norway in the books. Hade Bra 👍🏼

A photo posted by Cole Grossman (@cole_grossman) on Dec 9, 2016 at 11:57am PST

 

PORTUGAL

U.S midfielder Keaton Parks was a late substitute for Varzim and created the needed spark against third-placed Cova Piedade. Parks came on in the 87th minute, and immediately earned a penalty for the game-winning goal, but not without some controversy. Settling and shooting after a hard pass into the box, Parks got his own rebound and appeared to score the game-winner only for the referee to wave off the goal for an apparent penalty. However, Parks appeared to be in an offside position on the initial play. Varzim uses the three points to climb out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

 

TRANSFER TRACKER

U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan is reportedly heading home in a return to MLS from Middlesbrough backup to Atlanta United for their inaugural season.

Fellow U.S. national team goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is on the move from Norway’s Molde to Belgium’s Brugge.

Midfielder Joe Corona reportedly turning down MLS overtures to re-sign with Liga MX’s Club Tijuana. Corona just helped Dorados win the Mexican second division title while on loan from Xolos.

Left back Edgar Castillo is leaving Monterrey and is considering a move to MLS with the Columbus Crew or staying in Mexico with Cruz Azul.

U20 midfielder Junior Flores might be heading back stateside on loan to the Columbus Crew. He has not seen any action for Borussia Dortmund’s reserve side so far this season.

U.S. national team striker Terrence Boyd’s comeback will send the RB Leipzig man a bit closer to his beloved NY Giants. Boyd will reportedly join Leipzig’s sister club, the NY Red Bulls on loan next season after spending much of the past two years recovering from a series of knee injuries.

 

These are just a few of the U.S. footballers playing overseas. We will continue to shine the light on many more in the weeks and months to come. American soccer ambassadors continue to make inroads around the globe. Feel free to add your comments below to share your thoughts, shout-outs and suggestions. We’re asking for your help to correct any errors and make sure nothing important gets overlooked. So tweet to us @beINSPORTSUSA, or to me directly @PhilSchoen and use the hashtag #beINOverseas. We’ll pass it on.