From the supremely confident revival of Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie’s glowing report card to another unbeaten weekend for Auston Trusty — welcome to this week’s instalment of the USMNT Player Tracker.
Each week, we will be bringing you updates on the United States players plying their trade in various leagues around Europe. With the Copa America next year, and a World Cup on home soil on the horizon, we’re keeping tabs on how they perform every weekend.
Issue of the weekend
The maelstrom of rumour that perpetually rages around Barcelona produced a curious one back in August. The Catalan club, so the gossip went, were considering terminating Dest’s contract.
The suggestion was that, with their complex financial headache still throbbing, Barcelona felt that removing the full-back’s wages off their books made sense after his failure to impress on loan in AC Milan last term.
Taking a step back, that rumour always felt dubious. Would they have entertained bids for him? Probably. But even a dearth of clubs willing to put money on the table for a permanent move was not realistically enough for Barcelona to stomach paying off the final year of his contract while taking a hit on a chunk of the £18million ($22m) they paid to sign him from Ajax in 2020.
Even if Xavi just did not spy enough growth in a player who managed 14 appearances in all competitions for the Rossoneri, releasing him from his contract did not make much sense.
The solution was to find another loan that could revive the 23-year-old’s fortunes and inflate his value. Fast forward a few months and the plan looks like it is coming together nicely.
— PSV (@PSV) November 12, 2023
Also progressing nicely is the renewed belief, form and experience of a player to whom Gregg Berhalter can look as an important mainstay in his young, attacking team.
Before getting too carried away, even the player’s biggest supporters can acknowledge that his supercharged loan at PSV Eindhoven comes in a league ranked two places below Italy’s Serie A in UEFA’s rankings
But there is no denying the quality of his play for a team who have won all 12 of their Eredivisie games this term and sit comfortably top of the table.
In their latest victory, the 4-0 win against PEC Zwolle on Sunday, Dest ran riot causing the opposition constant problems with his pace, energy and invention from left-back — he has started there in the league more than his traditional right-back berth.
The highlight, especially for a player who idolised Brazil playmaker Ronaldinho as a child, was a deft no-look pass to set up USMNT team-mate Malik Tillman’s goal.
Our American duo 😁🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/oLNvZiT4KO
— PSV (@PSV) November 13, 2023
His 100 per cent successful dribble rate (three out of three) stood out and defensively, Dest was on point: he won 86 per cent of his ground duels.
Manager Peter Bosz was impressed. “He has extraordinary qualities when he has the ball,” he said. “Just look at the no-look assist. He is a versatile player who can occupy both the full-back spots. We help him improve as a defender.”
It might be easier to shine in an all-conquering team than in the pressure of San Siro, but Dest’s consistency and flexibility can only be positives for club(s) and country. To top it all off, PSV’s chances of progressing from the Champions League group stages remain decent.
Dest has started each of those European games, including last week’s 1-0 win against Lens, notching more top-level experience along the way and restoring his self-belief after that difficult season on the fringes.
Player of the weekend
Hot on the heels of helping Sheffield United to their first win of the season, Trusty ensured the green shoots of recovery underwent another growth spurt with a commendable point at Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
The 25-year-old defender dealt with most of what the hosts’ formidable attack could throw at him and his team-mates in the 1-1 draw.
Trusty had to face Barcelona prodigy Ansu Fati, Karou Mitoma and the pace and energy of Joao Pedro, but managed to contain Brighton — in truth, partly down to their own wastefulness and a red card for the hosts’ midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud.
His defensive stats were solid — he won both of his two tackles, made four ball recoveries and won three of four aerial duels — and on the ball, he linked up smoothly with left wing-back Luke Thomas.
With fellow strugglers Bournemouth and Burnley next up for Sheffield United, dependable Trusty could help his side move away from the relegation zone if they can maintain their newfound resilience.
Quote of the weekend
“Wes is having a good season,” said Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri after yet another impressive performance from McKennie for the Serie A giants as they maintained the pressure on league leaders Inter Milan with a 2-1 home win over Caligari on Sunday. “He is maturing, too, after the experience on loan (at Leeds).
“He has physical strength that helps cover for a few technical errors, but when running into space, he can be devastating. I told him at the start of the season that this was a very important year for him. He would be a wing-back and so he had to run back and forth. He put himself at our disposal.”
There is undoubtedly more to McKennie’s tactical remit this term than running back and forth, but the dynamo certainly does a lot of that in his selfless performances.
The manager’s honesty over areas where McKennie can improve technically bodes well, too. After the disappointment of his Premier League spell with Leeds last term, he is learning fast at a high level under an exacting coach.
Graphic of the weekend
On Monday morning, U.S. Soccer announced the roster for its November pre-Olympics training camp. The under-23s squad comprises 20 players, eight of whom are with European clubs. A few of that octet have already appeared for the senior national team, including right-back Bryan Reynolds.
Nearly three years have passed since Reynolds left boyhood club FC Dallas to join Roma. He made just six Serie A appearances for the club, however, and instead spent 18 months loaned out to Belgium, first at Kortrijk and then Westerlo, whom he joined for £3m over the summer.
He was a regular starter as Westerlo finished seventh, their first campaign back in the top flight since 2017, and this year, his form indicates a wide defender who is doing more to progress play down the flank. He notched his second assist of the league campaign last Friday, supplying Westerlo’s first goal in a hard-fought 3-3 draw against Sint-Truiden.
The uptick in progressive passes and progressive receptions (balls that travel at least 10 yards closer to the opponent’s goal) is indicative of a shift from playing as a full-back to more of a wing-back role, taking greater initiative in build-up play and working to get the ball closer to the goal when dribbling.
He isn’t limited to crossing, either, as he has nearly doubled his box entries with the ball at his feet. With seven senior caps to his name already, he would be among the headliners if he’s part of the final Olympic roster.
The other squad members playing abroad are defenders Jonathan Tomkinson (Bradford City, on loan from Norwich City) and Maximilian Dietz (Greuther Furth); midfielders Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann (both Venezia); and forwards Agustin Anello (Sparta Rotterdam), Taylor Booth (Utrecht) and Johan Gomez (Eintracht Braunschweig).
How did other U.S. players get on?
Name: Joe Scally
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
League appearances: 11
There was an exceptional performance from Scally as his side bagged an emphatic 4-0 win against Wolfsburg on Friday.
He contributed an assist for Alassane Plea to score the hosts’ fourth of the day, made four passes into the final third from defence and put in a near-flawless defensive shift with six ball recoveries and seven successful duels.
Name: Giovanni Reyna
Club: Borussia Dortmund
League appearances: Four
Another week without a start, but there were 30 minutes in the bank for Reyna in Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat away at Stuttgart at the weekend.
It was a difficult afternoon for the visitors, but Reyna did not lack application or spirit with three passes into the final third and three ball recoveries as he tried to make his mark.
Name: Brenden Aaronson
Club: Union Berlin
League appearances: Eight
A tough game on the road for Aaronson as Union were beaten comprehensively 4-0 at Bayer Leverkusen.
His side only had 31 per cent possession and it tells in the individual numbers. In his 26 minutes from the bench, the USMNT player managed just 11 touches and six passes (which were, at least, all accurate).
What’s coming up?
Scally and Jordan Pefok are back out for Gladbach on November 25, after the international window, in a big game against Reyna’s Dortmund (9:30am ET, ESPN+).
Meanwhile, Christian Pulisic could return for Milan alongside Yunus Musah as they face Fiorentina on that same Saturday (2:45pm ET, Paramount+).
The following day, McKennie and, if he recovers from a hamstring problem, Timothy Weah will try to help Juventus topple Inter and take top spot in Serie A’s game of the weekend (2:45pm ET, Paramount+).
(Top photos: Getty Images)