Following a rough spell for American soccer players in Europe, Christmas came early for U.S. men’s national team fans last weekend as Tyler Adams, the most important USMNT player not named Christian Pulisic, made his long-awaited return from injury for Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig.
It’s great news for both Adams and U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, who will be hoping to recall the 20-year-old for the first time in a year the next time he convenes his full-strength squad, in March. And it was enough to overshadow a less-encouraging development with Pulisic, who saw his run of consecutive starts for Chelsea end at 12 in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
In the final USMNT Stock Watch of 2019, here’s a look at where Adams, Pulisic and five other national team veterans stand with their European clubs — and what that means for the U.S. heading into the new year.
USMNT players trending up
D/M Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (Germany)
In his first appearance in seven months following groin and toe injuries, Adams went 87 minutes at right back in Leipzig’s 3-1 victory over Augsburg.
Takeaway: Adams’ layoff was significantly longer than expected, and the lack of any apparent progress had become a huge worry for the USMNT coaching staff and supporters alike. The U.S. missed the hard-running New Yorker mightily during July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final loss to Mexico, in El Tri’s 3-0 rout in the rematch two months later, and in October’s historic 2-0 Nations League defeat in Canada. Whether Berhalter deploys him at fullback or as a ball-winning defensive midfielder, having a healthy Adams available in 2020 will add needed leadership and quality to Berhalter’s roster.
M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
After sitting out last week’s loss to Augsburg because of yellow card accumulation, Morales returned to the heart of Fortuna’s lineup and, along with U.S. teammate Zack Steffen (four saves), helped his relegation-threatened side climb out of the Bundesliga’s drop zone with a huge 2-1 win over Union Berlin in the last match before the winter break.
Takeaway: There’s a central midfield job up for grabs if Berhalter resumes his experiment with Adams at right back, which he certainly might if Adams remains in that spot with his club. Morales continues to show that he has the experience and defensive bite to fill the void, even if MLS standout Jackson Yueill got the nod (and performed well) in the final two U.S. matches of the year.
D Sergiño Dest, Ajax (Netherlands)
A knock kept him out last week, but Dest returned to Ajax’s starting 11 for the Dutch leaders’ 6-1 trouncing of Den Haag.
Takeaway: Dest has been in and out of manager Erik ten Hag’s lineup; Sunday marked the dual-national’s fourth start since October. Still, playing well in the final game before the Eredivisie’s month long hiatus can’t hurt his chances when the season resumes Jan. 19.
USMNT players trending down
D Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England)
Pulisic’s run of a dozen straight starts came to an end Sunday as the American headliner failed to appear in a Premier League match for the first time since September.
Takeaway: Don’t fret, USMNT fans. Nobody is immune to squad rotation at a club like Chelsea, and Pulisic should get plenty of opportunities to reclaim his starting spot over the next two weeks, with the Blues scheduled to play four games over that span. It is crystal clear now, however, that only consistent production in form of goals and assists will keep Pulisic in Frank Lampard’s lineup going forward.
D/M Weston McKennie, Schalke (Germany)
Takeaway: The good news is he avoided surgery. McKennie had also been among German-American manager David Wagner’s core players during the first half of the season, starting the majority of the club’s games. There’s no reason to think he won’t walk back into the lineup when heathy and well in advance of March’s international break.
D/M DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (England)
The 26-year-old lost his starting wingback job after suffering a hip injury last month. He’s been healthy for the Magpies last two matches, but played just one minute off the bench in Sunday’s win over Crystal Palace.
Takeaway: As is the case with Pulisic, the Premier League’s jam-packed “festive” season works in the Seattle native’s favor. With Newcastle playing two games less than 48 hours apart later this week beginning with Thursday’s trip to Manchester United, Yedlin will almost certainly start either at Old Trafford or at home against Everton on Saturday.
G Ethan Horvath, Club Brugge (Belgium)
The arrival of former Liverpool backstop Simon Mignolet, a Belgian national teamer, has relegated Horvath to just two league starts during the first half of 2019-20.
Takeaway: Look for Horvath to be on the move when the transfer window opens next month. At least one MLS club has inquired about him, although a European destination is a more likely landing spot for the 24-year-old UEFA Champions League vet.