One of the most anticipated grouping of seasons for American talent playing abroad is off to a rousing start.
Headliner Christian Pulisic may still not be back in action for Chelsea, after a setback in his injury recovery kept him out of the club's opener vs. Brighton and subsequent defeat to Liverpool, but some of his most talented countrymen fared quite well to kick off their respective league campaigns.
With key contributions from U.S. internationals at Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Champions League semifinalist RB Leipzig–and with another stuck in a transfer war between Barcelona and Bayern Munich–there's no better time to be plugged into the goings on for Americans abroad.
Here are some of the highlights from the weekend:
Reyna does little to quiet hype
Plenty is expected from 17-year-old Gio Reyna this season–from peers, coaches and from Reyna himself–and he obliged with his first Bundesliga goal as part of Dortmund's 3-0 romp over Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. In doing so he became the second-youngest American to score in the German top flight, with Reyna 100 days older than Pulisic when he scored his first league goal for Dortmund.
Reyna also drew a penalty, which was converted by Erling Haaland, and the Norwegian doubled (and tripled) down on his go-to nickname for Reyna, "The American Dream," in a postgame interview that displayed the buddy-buddy sitcom potential of the dynamic, young duo if the whole soccer thing doesn't work out. By the looks of it, though, it'll work out just fine.
The plaudits came from across Germany, where a league foe but future international teammate also weighed in on Reyna's play, which included a perfect 29-for-29 passing performance.
"It's unbelievable. His age says it all," said RB Leipzig's Tyler Adams (more on him below), who's just 21 himself. "For him to be breaking into such a strong team, such a strong attacking team, it's kudos to him. He's doing an unbelievable job right now, has a great head on his shoulders, comes from a great family as well, a talented family. We have big ambitions for him and know that he is going to help the national team in the future."
McKennie plays–and plays well–for Juve
Those who figured Weston McKennie's move to Juventus would take time to assess, given that he surely wouldn't jump right into the Italian giant's lineup, may have underestimated the player.
The 21-year-old Texas native didn't just make his debut on Sunday, he played exceptionally well in the 3-0 win over Sampdoria–the same club Juve beat early last month to put the finishing touches on a ninth straight Serie A title. The road to No. 10 started impressively, and McKennie was in the center of it from the opening whistle to the final one. It was the rebound from his saved shot off a quick corner kick reaction that resulted in Juventus's second goal, he nearly scored on another couple of occasions and he passed at a 61-for-69 clip on the day, more than holding his own on his opening exam.
Andrea Pirlo, a winner in his managerial debut, said McKennie "did well," though he did single out a mistake from the player, who surely can benefit from the advice of a former player who operated masterfully in the same part of the field. Achieving consistency, in terms of playing time and performance, is the bigger-picture aim, but McKennie and those invested in his success should surely be pleased from the first returns.
Adams thrives in RB Leipzig's opener
Tyler Adams received plenty of praise for his Champions League quarterfinal-winning goal, but his game-to-game performance should not be judged on whether he scores. He's a tempo-setter and midfield disruptor by nature, and he played those roles to perfection in RB Leipzig's 3-1 win over Mainz.
Adams, fresh off his man-of-the-match performance in Leipzig's DFB-Pokal first-round win, tied for a team-high with four tackles, connected on 78 of his 82 pass attempts (95.1%), including a perfect 4-for-4 on long balls in his 90-minute showing.
His 2019-20 was clouded by injury troubles, and even with his Champions League heroics, he wasn't a definite starter under Julian Nagelsmann when healthy. There's plenty for Adams to play from a personal standpoint for this season, and his opener was a statement of intent.
Dest comes off the bench amid transfer rumors
Sergiño Dest is reportedly the apple of both Barcelona and Bayern Munich's eye, and he was largely kept out of harm's way in Ajax's 3-0 win over RKC Waalwijk on Sunday. He did enter as a 79th-minute substitute for Daley Blind, but with Ajax reportedly set to make between $23-30 million on his pending sale–and with the player himself likely consumed with the prospects of a move to one of those two clubs–you could understand the hesitancy to risk injury or a lack of focus.
The latest reports suggest that Barcelona is on the cusp of selling Nelson Semedo to Wolves, which would open up funds and a role to lure Dest to Camp Nou. Bayern remains engaged as well, with a genuine duel over the USA's dual-national fullback ensuing this week.
Struggles for Sargent, Werder Bremen
It wasn't all good news for U.S. players abroad. Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen experienced some familiar struggles as league play resumed. Sargent had scored in last weekend's domestic cup win, and he's been getting talked up as a key cog for his club, but the side that narrowly avoided relegation last season was the one that showed up in a 4-1 defeat to Hertha Berlin.
Sargent did start and go the distance, but he wasn't able to do much with his limited touches, putting just one shot on target and misplacing half of his 18 passes. Perhaps his side's next match, which comes against a Schalke side that was ripped to shreds, 8-0, by Bayern Munich's ruthless approach, is the antidote.
Cannon makes his Boavista debut
Reggie Cannon's European adventure is officially underway after his preseason goal for Boavista warmed him up for his official debut. It came in a 3-3 draw vs. Nacional, one in which Cannon connected on 23 of his 24 pass attempts but was also part of a defensive effort that conceded a stoppage-time equalizer, turning three points into one.
Steffen back in training with Man City
There's plenty of focus on how Zack Steffen fare this season, given that his playing time–barring an injury or suspension to entrenched starter Ederson–at Manchester City is likely to be limited to cup matches and spot duty. First things first, though: be healthy enough to play.
After a knee injury derailed the last few months of his loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf last season, Steffen is back in training with Man City and was in uniform for Monday's Premier League season opener vs. Wolves. It's entirely possible he takes to the field to make his debut vs. Bournemouth on Thursday, when Man City opens its quest for a fourth straight League Cup title. Pep Guardiola has traditionally turned to backup goalkeepers in domestic cups, and that should be expected to continue given the constrained fixture list this season.
As talented as some of the players further up the field are, the U.S. needs a consistent presence in the back to keep things organized and to bail out the team when necessary, and Steffen is the frontrunner to take on that role. He and the U.S., appear to be betting on the education he can receive at Man City outweighing the potential for greater playing time opportunities elsewhere.