Of Clemens Lisa – NEW YORK, NY (May 16, 2022) US Soccer Players – The European domestic season is drawing to a close. The remaining weeks of May determine the league champions, the teams playing in European competition next season, and promotion and relegation. Once again, several Americans are involved in these key games.
American players doing business outside of the United States are nothing new. In fact, the numbers have increased in recent years, particularly on key teams and in starting roles. The 2021/22 season was no different. For example, Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea played in both domestic cup finals and won the Club World Cup.
While we won’t see Americans in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool on May 28, US players will be involved in a continental trophy. Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt will face James Sands’ Rangers in the Europa League final in Seville on Wednesday. Cole Bassett’s Feyenoord play in the Europa Conference League final on May 25.
Americans are not limited to the field. On the touchline, manager Jesse Marsch is trying to keep Leeds United in the Premier League after being signed in February. It was a bumpy road for Marsch, as it has been for many US managers in the Premier League.
Here’s how five USMNT players fared at the end of the European club season.
Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
Manchester City are yet to secure the Premier League title and are four points ahead of Liverpool in first place, who have one game left. That means Steffen could win a second consecutive Premier League title. Despite appearing in just one league game this season, the USMNT goaltender has played a total of nine games across all competitions.
With the goalkeepers there is the problem of starting, which is extremely difficult since the game takes precedence over stopping when it is necessary in this position. Steffen is usually the first choice for domestic cup competitions, a statement of the value the No2 goalkeeper has for one of the dominant clubs in the Premier League. In his nine games, 27-year-old Steffen has conceded a respectable 10 goals.
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
The Americans have developed successfully in the Bundesliga in recent years. Tyler Adams could very well be the most successful American in this league, regardless of personal stats or team wins. A key midfielder for RB Leipzig, Adams has earned his place in the hearts and minds of the home crowd.
The former New York Red Bulls star has made 24 league appearances this season, and RB Leipzig remains one of the best teams in Germany. They finished fourth in the Bundesliga this season, a testament to the hard work of 23-year-old Adams and his team-mates. In 2022/23 you can expect Europe’s biggest club competition.
James Sands (Rangers)
The Scottish league is not the focus of many US fans. It’s a shame because it’s a wonderful competition. It’s also a shame because it meant missing out on James Sands. Versatile in that he can play both as a defender and in midfield, Sands and his team-mates finished second in the Scottish Premiership this season behind rivals Celtic.
Individually, the 21-year-old Sands has made 13 appearances for Rangers in all competitions this season. He could win the Europa League this week, meaning he would add another trophy to his collection after helping New York City FC win the MLS Cup last year. The transition to Europe hasn’t been easy, but Sands has shown promise in just a few months.
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Another player leaving one of the New York MLS teams and finding success in Europe is former Red Bulls centre-back Tim Ream. Ream, 34, had a solid season and helped Fulham gain promotion to the Premier League.
Ream made 46 appearances in the league this season, adding one goal and two assists. He has proven once again that he can contribute to the success of this ultimate yo-yo team. He has also shown himself to be a grizzled veteran capable of playing well in one of the most competitive second division tournaments in the world and in the top light.
Jordan Pefok (boys)
Pefok alone could give the Swiss Super League more American fans. He scored 22 goals in 34 league games at club level in his USMNT debut last year. This total increases to 27 if you count all competitions. The blistering pace made him the top scorer of any American playing in Europe this season.
Some of Pefok’s goals were a miracle as he became one of the continent’s top scorers in 2021/22. Young Boys can’t finish lower than 3rd and no higher than 2nd this season after winning the title last year. If the player three goals behind him doesn’t fire up offense on the final day of the game, Pefok will become the Super League’s top scorer.
Clemente Lisi writes regularly for US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018.
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Photo by Martin Rickett – PA Wire via ZUMA Press – ISIPhotos.com