USMNT Abroad, Week 2:

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This one could’ve been ugly. The week started out with the news that, after missing 2 days of training, Christian Pulisic had tested positive for COVID-19. With World Cup Qualifiers just under two weeks away, that news caused some serious worrying among USMNT fans. Luckily, it seems like he’ll be able to make it for at least 2 of those matches. It wasn’t all bad, though.

***Something important to note, this series only includes matches from the previous Tuesday (8/17) to the most recent Monday (8/23). There were some big performances in the last couple of days, but those will be included in next week’s edition, so stay tuned.

The Jedi asserts himself

For whatever reason, Antonee “Jedi” Robinson has yet to assert himself as the best option at left back for the national team. Well, that’s not entirely true. Robinson’s club performance has been the best of any of his fellow American left backs for a couple of years now. What remains to be seen, however, is if Robinson can carry his Fulham form onto the international stage. Robinson played twice this week, first in a 2-1 win away to Millwall, then a 2-0 win at home vs Hull.

Stats vs. Millwall (8/17): 90 minutes played, 50/64 passing (78%), 2/5 crosses, 4/9 long balls, 1 chance created, 5/11 duels, 0/2 dribbles, 2/2 tackles, 4 interceptions, 13 recoveries.

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 17: Antonee Robinson of Fulham runs with the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Fulham at The Den on August 17, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Jacques Feeney/Getty Images)

Robinson’s night was a solid yet unspectacular one, paling in comparison to what he would do just 4 days later. He continued to show off his ability to get up and down the left wing, supporting attacks while also staying defensively sound. By no means was it his best performance, but a solid shift to help Fulham take all 3 points is nothing to be ashamed of.

Stats vs. Hull (8/21): 90 minutes played, 51/58 passing (88%), 2/7 crosses, 10/12 long balls, 4 chances created, 3 key passes, 2 big chances created, 7/10 duels, 2 clearances, 2/2 dribbles, 1/2 tackles, 0 interceptions, 6 recoveries.

Robinson put in a more than stellar performance against Hull, notching his first Fulham assist in the process. Robinson was solid defensively and even better with the ball, showing off an expansive passing range and ability going forward. His assist was brilliant, perfectly weighting a ball in from the left to find Fabio Carvalho, who took the goal very nicely. Robinson appears to be the clear best left back in the pool, and will play a key part in World Cup Qualifying which starts next week.

The Medford Messi strikes gold

How quickly things can change.

August 21, 2020: Brenden Aaronson goes 89 minutes in a 0-0 draw vs the New England Revolution. August 17, 2021: Brenden Aaronson scores the winning goal in a Champions League qualifying final vs Brøndby IF.

After registering 0.68 non-penalty goals+assists per 90 last season, Aaronson had lacked a little bit of output with just 1 assist through 4 matches thus far. RB Salzburg hosted Brøndby IF in the first leg of the qualification tie, with the winner of the tie qualifying for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Despite starting on the bench, Aaronson did not disappoint.

Stats vs. Brøndby (8/17): 45 minutes played, 7/9 passing (78%), 1 key pass, 0/2 dribbles, 1/7 duels, 1 foul won, 4 shots, 1 goal.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – AUGUST 25: Brenden Aaronson of FC Red Bull Salzburg celebrates his team’s victory after the UEFA Champions League Play-Offs Leg Two match between Brondby IF and FC Red Bull Salzburg at on August 25, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Salzburg won the match 2-1. (Photo by Andreas Schaad – FC Red Bull Salzburg/FC Red Bull Salzburg via Getty Images)

His numbers weren’t the greatest on paper, but sometimes impact goes beyond the statsheet. Salzburg trailed 1-0 at the half. Aaronson replaced Nicolas Capaldo, and the game flipped on its head. In the 56th minute, Aaronson had his shot saved, but teammate Karim Adeyemi turned home the rebound to equalize. Just seconds before the clock crossed the 90:00 mark, Aaronson picked up a nice position, demanded the ball, and beat the keeper at his near post to take a 2-1 lead into the 2nd leg.

Had we been using OPTA standards, Aaronson also would’ve registered an assist (OPTA counts shots saved then scored by a teammate as an assist) to go along with his match-winning goal. All 4 of his shots were on target, as he posed a constant threat after coming on. It was massive performance for the former Philadelphia Union starlet as Salzburg look to qualify for the Champions League. He also went the full 90 minutes at the weekend vs SK Austria Klagenfurt in a 3-1 win.

Stats vs. Klagenfurt (8/21): 16/21 passing (76%), 1 cross, 2 key passes, 0/1 dribbles, 1/4 duels, 3 shots.

After looking at a few of Aaronson’s games via stats, its clear that his game isn’t always measured well by raw statistics like this. It was another solid performance, as he came within inches of adding another goal as he struck the woodwork with one of his shots. While it wasn’t quite as exciting as his performance earlier in the week, it was another good showing. Aaronson will likely be asked to start at least one of the upcoming qualifiers, and hopefully his club form can translate.

A mixed bag in the Bundesliga

After a disappointing Bundesliga opener for Leipzig, they needed a response to jump-start their season. Jesse Marsch and his team ran Stuttgart off the pitch in the 4-0 win as Tyler Adams put in a solid shift from his central midfield position. Adams completed 48/60 passes (80%), 2/4 long balls, 1/2 dribbles, won 3/7 duels, and added an interception. In typical Adams fashion, he didn’t jump off the screen, especially to the casual viewer. Instead, he quietly made the team tick, displaying his superior positioning and brain for the game. It was a nice bounce back for the team and for him.

It was a rough week for Gio Reyna and Dortmund. They lost 3-1 to Bayern in the German Super Cup before falling 2-1 to Freiburg at the weekend. Despite the losses, Reyna’s performances have remained relatively steady. He racked up an absurd 5 key passes against Freiburg, but the finishing just wasn’t there for Dortmund. He also won an impressive 16/23 duels over those two matches, and completed 5/6 dribbles. He’s consistently shown his gorgeous ability to glide past defenders at every opportunity, and his passing is so nearly there. If he can release the ball a fraction of a second sooner, he could easily find himself with double digit assists this season. While it wasn’t the best week, Gio still managed to flash the incredible ability he has.

DORTMUND, GERMANY – AUGUST 17: Dayot Upamecano (L) of FC Bayern München challenges Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund during the Supercup 2021 match between FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on August 17, 2021 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

What more is there to say about John Brooks. Solid and consistent. Wolfsburg came away 2-1 winners vs Hertha Berlin this weekend, as Brooks once again went the full 90. He did give away a penalty, handing Hertha a 1-0 lead in the 60th minute. Aside from the blunder, Brooks was his usual solid self. He completed 96% of his passes and 3/3 long balls, had 1 key pass, won 7/14 duels, completed both of his dribbles, and added an interception. Wolfsburg find themselves top of the Bundesliga through 2 matches, with just the 1 goal conceded. Our clear first-choice CB has done nothing to lose his place and should be a key contributor when qualifying starts.

Things can’t always be so fun and dandy. Joe Scally certainly learned that this weekend. After that incredible performance in the 1-1 draw vs Bayern, Scally and Gladbach were brought back down the Earth this weekend. They were thrashed 4-0 by Leverkusen, although xG suggest the match was far closer. Scally’s performance wasn’t all that bad from a statistical standpoint. He completed 83% of his passes, 3/4 long balls, 1/2 dribbles, added 1 key pass, won 5/12 duels, and completed 2/2 tackles. It wasn’t nearly as great as the opening day performance, but Scally shouldn’t receive much of the blame for the beat down Gladbach received. It will be interesting to see if Scally earns himself a call-up for these upcoming qualifiers.

Dest and the rest, once again

Sergiño Dest once again put in a solid performance as Barcelona drew 1-1 with Atletico Bilbao. Dest went 82 minutes, completing 90% of his passes, 3/4 long balls, 3/5 dribbles, winning 7/12 duels, and winning 2 fouls. With Emerson breathing down his neck for the right back spot, Dest once again put in a nice performance on both ends, flashing his attacking ability as he registered 0.31 expected assists to go along with his dribbling prowess, as well as being pretty sound defensively. He still has work to do on the defensive side of his game, but he’s far and away the best fullback for the US.

Tim Weah had a bit of a rough start to the season, but he put together a much better performance on Saturday as Lille drew 1-1 with Saint-Etienne. Weah started and went 81 minutes, completing 74% of his passes, 2/3 dribbles, adding in a key pass, winning 6/9 duels, and even showing off some defensive ability by completing 2/2 tackles and adding an interception. Weah figures to still be a likely feature for WCQ despite the surge of guys like Konrad. He’ll need to build on performances like this and hopefully get some goal contributions to gain some confidence.

It was quite an odd weekend for Konrad. He didn’t start, but his substitute appearance was cut short because of one of the wildest fan pitch invasions I’ve ever seen. Words can’t explain it, so I’ll link the video below. Prior to the incident Konrad managed 34 minutes, completing 3/4 passes and winning 1/2 duels. It was a quiet few minutes for Konrad, but his exceptional start to the season has certainly earned him a look from Gregg Berhalter.

Tanner Tessman made his Serie A debut, playing the final 27 minutes in Venezia’s 2-0 defeat to Napoli. He completed 80% of his passes and was 1/1 on dribbles. He also earned a yellow card. Certainly nothing mind-blowing on his debut, but it’s good to see him getting minutes early on.

Josh Sargent once again played 13 minutes in Norwich City’s 5-0 defeat to Manchester City. There were no real statistics of importance from the former Bremen man, but that’s to be expected when you come on down 4-0 against the defending champions.

Weston McKennie didn’t feature for Juventus as he was suspended due to yellow card accumulation from the end of last season. He should be back in the squad next time out.

Julian Green went the full 90 as Greuther Fürth drew to Arminia Bielefeld. Green put in a solid performance, creating 2 chances, registering 4 shots, and completing 83% of his passes. Green could see himself back in the nation team picture for qualifiers, 7 years on from that wonder goal against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup when he was just 19.

Former Wolves man Owen Otasowie has moved to Club Brugge, with the Belgian club paying around $4M for his services. An interesting move that hopefully nets him more minutes, Otasowie could even feature in the Champions League.

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