Pulisic, Steffen and Robinson make headlines overseas in England
Ten years ago, of the 23 USA squad players who would win a World Cup squad for the first time in 80 years, eight spent the club’s 2009-10 campaign in England. Seven were part of Premier League teams. In the 2015 squad that faced Mexico in a decisive qualifier for a Confederations Cup berth, there were seven England-based men. Four came from the Premier League, which was the team’s most represented foreign circuit.
For a while, it emerged that the English first level was the most welcoming or preferred destination (or both) for American gamers overseas. But if there was a World Cup next summer, after the English season 2020-21, how many Premier League players would American coach Gregg Berhalter call?
that of Chelsea Christian Pulisic is the best player in the country and that’s for sure to begin with, if he’s in good health. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen appears to have the national team’s No.1 shirt sewn on, but he might struggle to find Manchester City minutes. Defender Tim Ream is a veteran who trusted Berhalter, and Antonée Robinson is able to take on the role of the left-back. But both play for Fulham, who is favored by many to face relegation after a top-flight season. And DeAndre Yedlin slipped behind right-back Sergiño Dest and Reggie Canon on the depth map of the United States, and appears to be about to come out at Newcastle United.
There are other Americans in England, either in Premier League clubs, or on loan from Premier League clubs, or in Championship and League One. But at first glance, it looks like the number of top US players has shrunk. There are a few possible explanations: the increased purchasing power of MLS clubs, the Bundesliga, a decline in generational quality, the strict criteria for UK work permits or a coincidence. Maybe it’s a bit of everyone. Whatever the reason, as the Premier League season kicks off this weekend—Less than two months after the end of the 2019-20 campaign — there are fewer Americans who are expected to play leading roles.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean there is less reason to intrigue.
It starts with Pulisic, who enters 2020-21 with more pressure and under a brighter spotlight than any American in Premier League history. And also, with good reason, with concerns about his physical form. Last season, following a groin injury and the end of the pandemic, Pulisic lit up London and helped Chelsea to finish fourth and the FA Cup final with five goals and four assists in 11 appearances. His adjustment to the Premier League was swift and seemed complete, and his ability to put defenders on their heels and change the game was remarkable. He has emerged as a legitimate star.
But this season presents several challenges, both new and boring. The first is Pulisic’s health. When he’s in good shape he’s borderline unstoppable. But on several occasions during his young career, Pulisic, who turns 22 next week, has been sidelined with muscle injuries. He’ll always be the first name on Berhalter’s team sheet when he’s healthy, but Pulisic’s fitness unpredictability isn’t ideal. And the Premier League is relentless.
After scoring a sensational goal in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, Pulisic limped away with a hamstring injury. He is fighting to be ready for Chelsea’s Premier League opener on Monday at Brighton & Hove Albion, the last of eight games scheduled for the weekend.
” He is fine. The leg is doing very well. He is recovering, he is recovering and he is in a good mood and the club is focused on his return as soon as possible. We have a lot of confidence in Chelsea and a lot of confidence in their medical staff, and a lot of confidence in Christian, ”Berhalter said two weeks ago.
The US manager said that Pulisic’s “explosion on the stage” is “all due to his work ethic and his focus on playing well. It was great to see, and we’re excited to see how he returns and begins his second season in England.
Berhalter is not in denial, however. He knows Pulisic has struggled to stay healthy for long periods of time.
“It’s something we have to look at, but it’s certainly not uncommon,” said the coach. “A lot of players go through this, especially at the start of their careers. But as his body gets stronger and gets used to those cluttered devices, I think he’ll be fine.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will certainly want to see Pulisic in good health, but he will be better equipped to handle his absence than Berhalter. That’s because Chelsea are deep, and this summer the Premier League’s third most productive attack got even deeper thanks to a spending spree by owner Roman Abramovich. The Blues have spent around $ 200 million to acquire wanted forwards Timo Werner (of RB Leipzig), Kai Havertz (of Bayer Leverkusen) and Hakim Ziyech (of Ajax).
With that expense comes expectation, and in Lampard’s second season in charge, Abramovich will likely want to see his club push title favorites Liverpool and Manchester City to the top of the table and do well in the Champions League. The pressure for points, and maybe even playing time, will be unlike anything Pulisic has experienced in his career. It will be fascinating to watch.
The United States’ second infallible Premier League starter is Steffen, who was US Soccer Male Player of the Year in 2018 and was loaned out last season to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Man City have recalled the 25-year-old keeper, however, leaving him sitting behind Ederson on Pep Guardiola’s depth chart. If City don’t move in the next few weeks, how many games can Steffen reasonably expect this season? And would enough rust build up to give Berhalter a break when picking his teams?
Berhalter chose to focus on the positive when he addressed the issue last month.
“Man City are a very high level… To gain that experience for a year, to be in this training environment and to have the opportunity to potentially enter this team is exciting, and I think it would be worth it,” said the manager. . “You still have to weigh in if you’re going to be sitting on the bench and not playing enough games, but for me that opportunity alone is something special. Few players in the world have the chance to play for a club like this.
“I hope they will continue to play goalkeepers in the cups and other competitions and that you can play games there,” Berhalter continued. “I hope the national team can play an important role in its development in this case.”
Manchester City launch their quest to reclaim the title on September 21 at Wolverhampton Wanderers (which features another rising American, 19-year-old midfielder Owen Otasowie).
On the other end of the spectrum are Ream and Robinson, who can get national team development every day while playing side-to-side for the Cottagers. The US left-back is open, and Robinson said he pledged to grab him. And Ream remains an experienced option for Berhalter in the center back. The pair are likely to have a lot of work to do this season as Fulham adjusts to Premier League opposition. The fight for the club’s survival will lead to a tense campaign for both Americans and for Berhalter, who will want as many players as possible to compete at the highest level as qualifying for the 2022 World Cup kicks off next September. Fulham’s last stint in the Premier League lasted a season. He was relegated in 2019 after finishing 19th.
Among the other Americans on the Premier League rosters, Yedlin and Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers will likely be on the move. Yedlin, 27, has been at Newcastle for four seasons and his contract expires next summer. The player and the club have been considering their options, and reports have emerged recently linking the former Seattle Sounder to a potential MLS return or in a league elsewhere in Europe.
Carter-Vickers, 22, failed to break through for Spurs and spent the spring of 2020 on loan at championship club Luton Town. He was still there for the Chapeliers as they finished 19th and avoided relegation by three points. But this consistency was short-lived. The destination of the 2020-2021 defender is uncertain. In recent days, AFC Bournemouth, relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, have reportedly expressed interest in a permanent transfer.
Matt Miazga is another US Premier League player on perpetual loan. The 25-year-old center-back was signed up for Chelsea but has spent the last four seasons at Vitesse Arnhem, Nantes and Reading. His contract expires in 2022, but a future at Stamford Bridge seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, no one would blink if Aston Villa loaned out US striker Indiana Vassilev. He is only 19. But the United States U-17 World Cup veteran, who signed with Villa outside of IMG Academy in 2018, has had a taste of Premier League football before. He made his debut on January 18, coming in as a substitute against Brighton, then made three more cameo appearances as Villa avoided relegation by one point. So even if the number of Americans in the Premier League declines, there might be a new one to watch out for.
The marathon championship schedule begins on Friday as Middlesbrough visits Watford, and a few familiar American faces will begin their seasons this weekend. Duane Holmes, an astute midfielder who made two friendlies in the United States last year, was a Derby County regular in 2019-2020 before struggling with injuries towards the end of the season. The Rams host Reading on Saturday.
Geoff Cameron remains at Queens Park Rangers (where he was named club captain), although he is not part of the national team. And New York Red Bulls academy product Matthew Olosunde, a defender who originally signed with Manchester United, is now at Rotherham United and was a regular at the club, promoted by League One. The Millers begin their championship campaign on Saturday at Wycombe Wanderers.
Lynden Gooch, 24, scored 10 goals in 33 appearances for Sunderland last season, but may still be on Berhalter’s radar.