Welcome to the latest edition of the USMNT Player Tracker, where each week we will be bringing you updates on U.S. players in various leagues around Europe.
With the Copa America next year and a World Cup on home soil on the horizon, we’ll be tracking how they perform every weekend.
Player of the weekend
Christian Pulisic appears thoroughly revitalised after a supercharged start to life in Italy’s Serie A.
Not content with a goal on his debut at Bologna last week, he showed AC Milan fans what he’s about with another in his first San Siro appearance on Saturday. Never mind Barbie, Captain America already looks like being the biggest box office hit in Italy this summer.
Pulisic has fit straight into Stefano Pioli’s team after his €22million ($24.2m; £18.8m) move in July.
“It was a difficult last few seasons at Chelsea for whatever reason,” Pulisic said with more than a dash of understatement in James Horncastle’s piece last week. “This is just a brilliant opportunity to step away and play for a big team.”
He looks hungry to seize the opportunity. Against Torino, Pulisic started a move that saw him rush into the box and then sweep home the pull-back from former Stamford Bridge team-mate Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
His presence is unsettling defences and bringing the best from another former Chelsea attacker, Olivier Giroud, who already has three goals in two league games. His brace after Pulisic’s lively start helped seal a 4-0 win in front of the Rossoneri faithful and whet the appetite for what Milan’s new team can achieve this season.
There was also a chance for fellow USMNT star Yunus Musah to make his home bow, with the midfielder coming on in the 80th minute to continue his acclimatisation.
Issue of the weekend
For all the positivity around Pulisic’s fine form, there were a few scares from a USMNT angle, with worrying injuries for two players.
Striker Josh Sargent (last week’s player of the weekend) has made a prolific start to the campaign and notched his third in four games as Norwich City thumped Huddersfield 4-0.
But Sargent’s brave header came at a cost — he charged down opposition goalkeeper Lee Nicholls’ rushed clearance to score but sustained what manager David Wagner fears is a bad injury in the process.
“The only setback we had to take is that Josh looks like a serious ankle injury,” said Wagner, a former USMNT striker. “We have to assess him but it looks serious, it’s quite swollen. He will have a scan and we will know more in the coming days.”
It also looks as though the hamstring injury that defender Cameron Carter-Vickers picked up in an earlier game against Aberdeen is worse than initially thought.
This is awful timing for the 25-year-old Celtic centre-back, who could now miss an Old Firm derby, two Champions League fixtures, and two international games against Uzbekistan and Oman for Gregg Berhalter’s side in September.
Carter-Vickers, an influential performer at Celtic Park, is bound to be frustrated after he also missed the end of last season with a knee injury.
Quote of the weekend
Showing a delightful lack of corporate veneer, Union Berlin’s Twitter feed took an outspoken position in response to criticism of Aaronson following his red card on Saturday.
Brenden Aaronson is a superbly skilled footballer and a young man who doesn’t deserve any of the shit being thrown at him here. Keep it to your own sites, please.
— 1. FC Union Berlin (English) (@fcunion_en) August 26, 2023
The Union Berlin loanee picked up two yellow cards in quick succession early on against Darmstadt. His first warning came in the fifth minute for a high-boot challenge on Fabian Nurnberger, while the second yellow card, on 21 minutes, was for wasting time by kicking the ball away.
It left Union a man down for a big portion of the game, but they still managed a convincing 4-1 win to put them top of the early table. He cut a disconsolate figure as he walked off, shirt over his head. At least the Twitter admin had his back.
Graphic of the weekend
Pulisic didn’t score for Chelsea until his 10th appearance but already has two in two for Milan, writes Jeff Rueter.
It’s especially worth highlighting that, if he continues this form, Pulisic will be a vital foil for Rafael Leao. Last year, Milan’s attack inevitably built toward Leao and Giroud, with the right-wingers failing to provide adequate scoring opportunities.
Junior Messias, Alexis Saelemaekers, and Brahim Diaz combined for four goals from 23 shots across 1,291 minutes. Ultimately, Inter Milan had the advantage in the Champions League semi-final in part due to that ability to singularly focus on containing Leao across two legs.
Still, enabling Pulisic to shoot answers one of Chelsea’s great failures when he was on their books: encouraging him to take over games in the same way he so often does for his country.
Note the small sample size, but the early signs are very positive on a per 90 basis, listed as (Chelsea, 821 minutes/Milan, 162 minutes):
- xG per 90: (0.19/0.48)
- Progressive passes per 90: (2.53/5.56)
- Progressive pass receptions per 90: (8.35/9.44)
Those last two suggest he’s not only playing further up the field than he had under Tuchel, Potter, and Lampard, but that AC Milan are making sure he has more time on the ball compared to Chelsea. He’s bound to come down to earth a bit – he’s putting 75 per cent of his shots on target, almost double his (solid) career average of 39.6 per cent. However, it isn’t as though he’s shooting far more than usual (2.08 per 90 last year, 2.22 this year, 2.47 across his career).
The volume of shots should sustain, or possibly increase, given a more prominent role under Pioli. His touches per 90 are actually a bit down from last year: 47.1 in 22-23, 44.4 for Milan, 51.5 over his career since 2017-18.
How did other U.S. players get on?
Name: Paxten Aaronson
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
It was a better weekend for the younger Aaronson sibling, who got 14 minutes from the bench as Frankfurt came from behind to grab a point at Mainz with an equaliser in stoppage time.
It may not have been an especially lengthy cameo, but it was an encouraging show of faith from manager Timo Toppmoller, who introduced the American in place of German international Mario Gotze.
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Name: Timothy Weah
Weah looks to be a starter for Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus, going straight into the team again for their 1-1 draw with Bologna on Sunday. Playing as a right wing-back again, he made two key passes, contributed two interceptions and a successful tackle, and was not dribbled past by any opponent.
Name: Luca Koleosho
At just 18 years old, the Connecticut-born winger has clearly impressed Burnley boss Vincent Kompany to get his second start against high-flying Aston Villa on Sunday.
His was a bright display, too, trying more dribbles than any of his team-mates (three of the six successfully) as Burnley caused Villa problems, even if they eventually lost 3-1.
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Name: Tyler Adams
Adams was introduced to the home crowd at the Vitality Stadium before his new club’s 2-0 defeat by Tottenham on Saturday. He is back in training as he recovers from a long-term injury and his new coach, Andoni Iraola, seems delighted to have signed the USMNT midfielder.
“He will bring a lot of energy,” said the Bournemouth boss. “He’s a very dynamic player. Playing as a No 6, he will help us with and without the ball. He’s a young player but with enough experience to be one of the players on the pitch that are pushing for the team.”
What’s coming up?
Folarin Balogun looks set to become the USMNT’s next €40million (£35m; $44m) player as his move from Arsenal to Monaco edges closer. David Ornstein reported last week that the Ligue 1 side’s sporting director, Thiago Scuro, has a strong relationship with Edu, his opposite number at Arsenal, and Balogun could sign a five-year deal in France.
As Friday’s transfer deadline approaches, Crystal Palace defender Chris Richards looks set to make his first appearance for the club this season against Plymouth Argyle in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if the 23-year-old moves elsewhere, though, after not getting on the pitch in any of Palace’s three Premier League fixtures this term.
(Top photos: Getty Images)