North American players in Europe: the best XI, from Davies to Wingo | Soccer
As the European calendar officially moves to pre-season for the 2022-23 season (well into the endless transfer season, sometimes the best season), let’s take a final look at the 2021-22 campaign for the Americans and Canadians abroad.
Here’s a best XI of Americans and Canadians in Europe from the 2021-22 campaign.
Goalkeeper: Josh Cohen, Maccabi Haifa
The most accomplished American keeper in Europe is not on the national team’s radar. Josh Cohen, a Maccabi Haifa star in Israel, wrapped up another winning season this year. He was even named the league’s Player of the Year two seasons ago.
Maybe Cohen will have a look with the national team in a post-World Cup camp?
Under consideration: Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade; Zack SteffenManchester City
Borjan again won the Serbian SuperLiga as a starter for Red Star, while Steffen was part of another dominant Manchester City side but was firmly the substitute. He is set to join Middlesbrough on loan.
Right-back: Henry Wingo, Ferencváros
Hungarian giants Ferencváros won another league title last season and entered the Europa League. Often their starting right-back was American Henry Wingo.
Always a good reminder that development is not linear and there are a myriad of successful career paths. This summer, MLS clubs had also shown interest in bringing him back.
Under consideration: Sergino Dest, Barcelona; Reggie Cannon, Boavista
Sergiño Dest gets an honorable mention almost by default, but in the past just being on Barcelona’s list would make him an obvious choice. But the roller coaster of whether Barcelona scapegoat or not from week to week was enough to keep him out.
Centre-back: Tim Ream, Fulham
Fulham returned straight to the Premier League, with Tim Ream, who often wore the captain’s armband, in the lead. He started all 46 games in the physically demanding Championship, guiding Fulham to the title.
Not bad for the 34-year-old. He has now made 256 appearances for Fulham.
Under consideration: Steven Vitoria, Moreirense; Chris Richards, Hoffenheim
Richards has battled a few injuries again this year and is returning to Bayern Munich after his loan spell at Hoffenheim, although he looks extremely likely to return. Vitoria, 35, is a free agent after his contract with Moreirense expired, making 18 appearances this year.
Centre-back: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic
Another title winner, Cameron Carter-Vickers was a defensive anchor for Celtic as they won the league. He started all but one game he was available for and scored a crucial goal against Rangers late in the season to help seal the title.
Carter-Vickers has (finally) found a permanent home after years on loan from Tottenham, with Celtic officially signing the American this summer after his loan expired.
Under consideration: John Brooks, Wolfsburg; Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes
Despite all the polarizing talk around Brooks and his current status (absence from) USMNT, he has made 31 appearances with Wolfsburg. But they are apparently not convinced either, having decided long ago to let him walk when his contract expired this summer. He is currently without a club.
Left-back: Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich
Still widely regarded as Concacaf’s best player, Alphonso Davies has missed some time this year but was elite as usual when on the pitch for Bayern Munich.
For left-backs in the top five leagues, Davies ranks in the 90th percentile and above in nearly every major offensive and defensive category. He advances the ball, creates shots and completes dribbles at breakneck speed. Even though he was limited to 22 appearances in BuLi, he is still the king.
Under consideration: Antonee Robinson, Fulham; Sam Adekugbe, Hatayspor
Robinson had a wonderful season with Fulham, the left-back starting for his title-winning side, adding 2g/4a in the process.
Defensive midfielder: Stephen Eustaquio, FC Porto
Canadian metronome Stephen Eustaquio started the season at Pacos in Portugal and moved in January to FC Porto, where he won his first league title and his first national cup.
Let’s see if he can break into the Porto XI with more regularity in 2022-23.
Under consideration: Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig; Atiba Hutchinson, Besiktas
I am convinced that Hutchinson could play until 48 if he wanted to. Adams has never won a regular starting role with Leipzig and is set to move to Leeds United.
Box-to-box midfielder: Weston McKennie, Juventus
Before breaking his foot in February, Weston McKennie was in the shape of his life for club and country. He was a regular in Juve’s midfield and a leading figure in the USMNT.
The broken foot limited him to 21 Serie A appearances but McKennie is already recovered and ready for pre-season from day one. Expectations are high this year.
Under consideration: Luca de la Torre, Heracles; Gianluca Busio, Venice
De la Torre (and Yunus Musah) didn’t perform on stage like McKennie did at Juventus (and may have shown their best form for the USMNT). Busio made 29 Serie A appearances but couldn’t avoid relegation.
Attacking midfielder: Brenden Aaronson, RB Salzburg
A leading figure in another title-winning season for RB Salzburg, Brenden Aaronson has enjoyed another outstanding season in Europe.
His traditional stats won’t raise eyebrows for a No.10 (4g/5a), but the 21-year-old does so much else at elite level. Philadelphia Union athletic director Ernst Tanner called him “the perfect transition player” as he was in the 99th percentile of pressure for his Champions League position and he was also in the 99th percentile in distance traveled.
Aaronson has since completed a $30m move to Leeds United, where the tactic should once again showcase his best qualities.
Under consideration: Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund
The traditional No. 10s are a lightweight position for the Americans and Canadians in Europe this year, largely because Reyna, unfortunately, just hasn’t played enough due to various injuries this year.
Attacker: Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys
BSC Young Boys finished a disappointing third in Switzerland, but Jordan Pefok clinched the league’s Golden Boot with 22 goals (and four assists).
Pefok moved to Union Berlin this summer as he continues to progress in his career which initially took off in the French second division with Reims.
Under consideration: Tim Weah, Lille; Tajon Buchanan, Club Brugge
Weah had his best season with Lille to date (3g/5y), Buchanan had some highlights in his first half-season with Brugge.
Attacker: Cyle Larin, Besiktas
This year hasn’t been the most productive for Cyle Larin in terms of goalscoring, but the Canadian talisman still netted a respectable seven goals while dominating Concacaf while on international duty.
Larin has just signed for Club Brugge on a free transfer after his Beşiktaş contract expired this summer, joining fellow CanMNT teammate Buchanan.
Under consideration: Christian Pulisic, Chelsea; Liam Millar, FC Basel
Pulisic was in and (mostly) out of Chelsea’s starting XI this year and played all around the pitch. Millar had a respectable 7g/2a in his debut campaign in the Swiss league.
Attacker: Jonathan David, Lille
The start to the year in France for Jonathan David has been electric, and although it ended with less and less frequent goal celebrations, he still finished with 15 goals in 32 starts. He is destined for a big move elsewhere this summer.
Under consideration: Haji Wright, Antalyaspor; Christian Ramirez, Aberdeen
Wright’s explosion in the Turkish top flight with 14 goals in under 2,000 minutes landed him in the national team. Although he calmed down in the second half of the season, Ramirez finished just three goals away from the Golden Boot race in Scotland.
Coach: Jesse Marsch, Leeds
The start of the European season was difficult. Marsch was let go by RB Leipzig very quickly… but the way he rescued a burnt-out, injury-riddled and sinking Leeds ship for Premier League safety makes him the obvious choice here.
Under study: Pellegrino Matarazzo, Stuttgart
Really the only other option and there is a real argument that he should be ahead of Marsch for spending the whole season with Stuttgart and narrowly avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga.