by Phil Schoen
While it ended in a draw, the performance of national team defender John Anthony Brooks against Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich last week is continuing to draw rave reviews for the Hertha Berlin star. EA Sports honored him on their FIFA team of the week.
Brooks and Hertha continued their climb this past weekend with a 2-0 home win over fellow American Timmy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt. Former St. Louis Billiken Vedad Ibisevic scored the game-winning goal early in the second half. The victory lifts the Berlin side to fifth in the table, just a point out of the Champions League spots.
As more and more young American players head overseas, Gelsenkirchen is becoming a popular destination. In fact, there are so many young players from the United States in the Schalke 04 system, some have taken to calling the club “SchalkAmerica”. This week, you can officially add one more.
After training with the club for months, Midlothian, Va. native Nick Taitague was finally able to play officially for the Royal Blues under-19 team after turning 18 earlier this month. His debut came this past weekend in the local derby against Borussia Dortmund, starting alongside fellow Americans Haji Wright and Weston McKennie.
The match ended in a 2-0 loss, but it’s just the start for the promising American attacker. Schalke remains atop their division, but the gap with second-placed Dortmund has been cut to just two points.
There are several scouts who predict Taitague can be an impact player for the full national team. For the U.S. u18’s, Taitague scored four goals in four matches at the prestigious Vaclav Jezek youth tournament in the Czech Republic last August, winning the Golden Ball as the competition’s best player. England’s The Guardian newspaper honored him as part of their Generation 2016 team, as one of the 60 best young talents under the age of 18 in world football. He was the only American on the list, which has previously honored Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Sporting KC’s Erik Palmer-Brown.
Last year, Taitague became the first amateur to play in the history of the new NASL, playing four games for the Carolina Railhawks (now Carolina F.C.) before heading over to Germany. Wright’s younger brother, Hanif, and U.S. u17 star Josh Sargent could be joining the prestigious Knappenschmiede academy soon.
Sargent was called up to the U.S.’s u17 national team this month for their first international camp of the year, a trip to Honduras. While the St. Louis native is still considering his international options, only one overseas player was called in by U.S. coach John Hackworth, forward Nicolas Garcia-Morillo of Atletico Madrid. Garcia made the move from Florida’s Weston FC academy to Atletico in 2015, and is now scoring goals for their Juvenil B (u17) team.
And now a look at some more of what was happening on the field:
The Bosnian Premier League is back from its winter break, and former Michigan Bucks midfielder Nermin Crnkic helped FK Sarajevo to a 1-0 win over Vitez to keep pace at the top of the table. The Bosnian-American attacker is second on the team in scoring with five goals, and was denied a sixth on a nice save by the Vitez keeper to start the second half. The win keeps Sarajevo second, just two points off the lead.
A better result for former Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark in his second start for the Danish Superliga’s AC Horsens, a 1-1 home draw against Odense Boldklub. New York native Conor O’Brien played the full 90 in the Horsens midfield. The point draws the Yellow Danger up to eighth in the standings, four points from sixth place and the Championship Round, with three matches remaining before the cut-off. Clark’s debut came in a 1-0 loss at Silkeborg last week, but the former Crew keeper did so well, he made the Superliga team of the week anyway and earned Man of the Match honors for the second straight game.
It might have only been an eight-minute stint off the Stoke City bench in a blowout loss, but it was a big step in the return of national team defender Geoff Cameron. After sitting out the past four months with a nagging knee injury, the former Houston Dynamo star came in at the 82nd minute in the 4-0 loss against Tottenham. Stoke stand a comfortable 10th, 17 points out of the European berths, but 11 points above the drop zone. Cameron’s next chance for action is Saturday as Brad Guzan and Middlesbrough visit the Potters.
Eric Lichaj put in another strong shift for Nottingham Forest in their scoreless road draw at Wigan Athletic. The point keeps Forest at 18th in the table, six points above the relegation zone.
Another game, another goal for Jordan Siebatcheu. The Stade de Reims youngster is on loan at Chateauroux in the third-tier Championnat National and found the net again in a 2-1 home win over US Avranches. Siebatcheu scored the game-winning goal in the 60th minute with a well-placed strike, just two minutes after Avranches had tied the score. The 6’3” D.C. native has now scored in four straight games, with six goals in total. After three straight wins, Chateauroux has climbed to second in the table, just two points off the lead.
Fabian Johnson’s return from injury seems complete as he played the full 90 minutes in Borussia Moenchengladbach’s 2-0 road win over fellow American Alfredo Morales and Ingolstadt. With the win, Gladbach climbs to 10th in the Bundesliga standings, just six points out of the European spots with 12 matches remaining. Ingolstadt remain in the relegation zone, but are only four points from safety. Johnson came off the bench midweek in the Foals impressive comeback against Fiorentina in Europa League action to advance to the round of 16.
While injury might have kept Bobby Wood from the car crash that was Hamburg SV’s 8-0 demolition by Bayern Munich, he wasn’t as fortunate on the road. Bild is reporting that the national team striker crashed his Mercedes, but that he wasn’t hurt in the accident.
Fellow former youth internationals Joe Gyau and Mario Rodriguez were both in the starting lineup for the first time, as Sonnenhof Grossaspach edged Hallescher 1-0 for the road win in third division play. The news was not as good for fellow American David Yelldell, who is recovering from a back injury just weeks after reclaiming the starting goalkeeper spot. Rodriguez played the opening hour, shortly after the goal. Gyau was substituted 11 minutes later. The win lifts Grossaspach three spots in the table up to ninth, just two points out of third place and a promotion playoff spot after 24 rounds.
Elsewhere in the 3.Liga, American and Canadian defenders combined to help FSV Frankfurt earn a point from a scoreless home draw against Hansa Rostock. Miramar, Fla. native Shawn Barry and London-born La’Vere Corbin-Ong, out of the Vancouver Whitecaps academy, lined up in the back-four for Frankfurt to earn the clean sheet. In addition to his defensive duties, the Canadian left back caused problems for Rostock all game with his crosses and long throw-ins, but the hosts were unable to capitalize. The point keeps Frankfurt one point above the drop zone with 14 matches left to play.
After missing out on the first eleven the last two rounds, Jann George returned to the starting lineup at center forward as Jahn Regensburg earned a 2-1 road win at VfR Aalen. The 24-year-old Nuremburg native has eight goals on the season, but hasn’t scored since mid-December. The win lifts Regensburg six spots, from ninth to third in the table. They are unbeaten in their last seven, climbing from 15th to the promotional playoff spot.
In the Regionaliga, U.S. youth international Justin vom Steeg earned a shutout in a 0-0 draw at sixth-placed Rot-Weiss Essen. The point keeps Fortuna above the drop zone on goal differential. It’s the second straight clean sheet for the Santa Barbara, Calif. native following another scoreless draw against the league-leading Borussia Moenchengladbach last week. Vom Steeg now has three shutouts on the season, all in his past four games.
In u19 action, McKinze Gaines helped Wolfsburg blow past JFV Nordwest 4-1. The speedy winger from Austin, Texas has six goals on the season, and is reportedly close to a Bundesliga debut. Six minutes into the second half of a 1-1 game, Gaines worked a give-and-go inside the box for a shot, which was saved but the rebound was buried for the go-ahead goal. Twenty minutes later, Gaines flicked on a free kick to the back of the net to put the game out of reach (see the goal at the 2:30 mark.) Wall, N.J.’s Thanasi Scheidt made his Nordwest debut in a losing effort off the bench. Scheidt headed to Germany after completing his freshman year at Rutgers. The win lifts Wolfsburg to the top of the division table with a game in hand.
Isaiah Young made an impact off the bench for Werder Bremen. The newly signed striker out of South Jersey came off the bench with Werder trailing Dynamo Dresden by two goals at home after just 17 minutes and helped spark the comeback in a 2-2 draw. The point keeps Werder two points clear of the relegation zone.
While he’s still awaiting another shot at Serie A, 18-year old youth national team attacker Josh Perez found the net again for Fiorentina’s primavera. Perez scored a go-ahead goal with a Robben-like left footed curler in the 56th minute, (you can see it 50 seconds in,) but Cesena fought back for the 2-2 draw. The tie hurts Fiorentina’s quest to catch up to league leading Lazio, as they stand second, six points back, but still one point ahead of Sampdoria for a direct ticket to the final eight playoffs.
Michael Orozco returned from injury to put in a full-shift alongside fellow American Joe Corona as Club Tijuana beat Edgar Castillo and Monterrey 2-0. Paul Arriola came off the bench in the second half. The win lifts Xolos back to the top of the Liga MX standings after eight rounds. Monterrey is sixth, but just a point away from falling out of the playoff spots.
Omar Gonzalez was back on the back line for Pachuca, helping the Tuzos keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Veracruz. The victory lifts Pachuca up to third in the table, two points off the pace. It was a busy week for the former Galaxy star, as he also put in a full 90-minute shift on Tuesday in a scoreless draw at Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series. The return leg is set for Tuesday with a berth in the semifinals on the line.
After an injury to the regular starter, Matt Miazga continues to step up to the challenge in Vitesse Arnhem’s 3-1 road win at Go Ahead Eagles. The Chelsea-loanee and former NY Red Bull defender was dominant in the back, earning Eredivisie Team of the Week honors for the second straight week. Vitesse holds the seventh and final Europa League playoff spot by a single point with 10 games to go in the Eredivisie regular season.
Freddy Adu’s continuing quest to catch up to his potential might be headed to Poland. Reports out of Europe have Polish second division side Sandecja Nowy Sacz talking to the one-time U.S. phenom, now 27 years old.
While he’s still waiting for his Allsvenskan debut with his new club, former DC United goalkeeper Josh Wicks kept a clean sheet in Swedish Cup play in a 2-0 home win for IK Sirius against Ljungskile. Sirius heads to IFK Goteborg this weekend in a must win match to advance to the next stage. Wicks, meanwhile, is drawing some attention.
Alex De John wasn’t out of a job long. The Marlboro Township, N.J. native and former Old Dominion defender was recently released by IK Start in Norway, has now signed with Dalkurd of Sweden’s second-tier Superettan.
Former Virginia Cavalier forward Marcus Salandy-Defour is headed to Denmark, joining San Francisco midfielder Anton Peterlin at B.93 in the Danish second division.
Another American women’s player is headed abroad as former Duke Blue Devil Toni Payne is headed to Amsterdam to join Ajax’s women’s team. Payne was selected by Kansas City in the recent NWSL draft but is electing to head abroad instead. While Payne is eligible for the USWNT, she is also considering joining Nigeria’s national team.
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.