With the United States two weeks removed from victories against Trinidad & Tobago (4-0) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (6-0) in World Cup qualifying, let’s examine how the U.S.’ top players are performing ahead of their friendlies against Cuba (October 7), and New Zealand (October 11).
Bobby Wood, Hamburger SV
Hawaiian-born striker Bobby Wood has experienced an almost seamless transition into Germany’s top league. Wood has scored two goals in four Bundesliga matches this season – good for ninth in the Bundesliga and first on Hamburger SV. However, Hamburg, who are typically a mid-table club, currently find themselves in the Bundesliga relegation zone at 16th place early in the season.
Bobby Wood seems to be the only bright spot for this club thus far into the season, as the U.S. striker is their only player to have scored a goal in the Bundesliga this campaign. Unfortunately for Hamburger SV, their next game comes against league leaders Bayern Munich, who will be looking to win their fifth straight game in the Bundesliga.
Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
Out with an irregular heartbeat since early August, the U.S.’ all-time leading goal scorer has not seen played a professional match in over a month. Dempsey did, however, return to light practice last week after undergoing a medical procedure earlier in the month.
No timetable has been set for the striker’s return, but it doesn’t appear to be too long until he’s back banging in goals for both club and country. Dempsey’s return to practice is good news for the United States, as it wasn’t too long ago that many pundits believed the 33 year old’s career was over.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will likely keep Dempsey off the roster against Cuba and New Zealand in October, but the striker should be healthy enough to make the roster in time for rival Mexico on November 11.
Jozy Altidore, Toronto F.C.
Jozy Altidore has seen his U.S. stock fall as of late, having been injured during the Copa América and mostly underperforming for his domestic club Toronto FC.
However, since returning from injury in mid-July, the former Sunderland striker has been on fire. Altidore has scored eight goals in ten matches with Toronto – the most in the MLS during that period. With Altidore’s impressive run, Toronto has risen to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, and looks primed for a deep playoff run in an admittedly weak Eastern Conference.
Altidore has also transferred his domestic form to the National Team, scoring in both games against Trinidad & Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. If Altidore can continue his great form, the U.S. should have no troubles dispatching both Cuba and New Zealand.
Julian Green, Bayern Munich
After an incredible preseason for top German club Bayern Munich, Julian Green has fallen back to earth. In each of Bayern Munich’s four games this season – all wins – Green has been an unused substitute, watching his team outscore their opponents 14-1. Bayern Munich looks to, once again, fly through the Bundesliga season.
Sitting behind word class strikers Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, the U.S. forward Green may want to look elsewhere for playing time in the near future. Bayern Munich is a top-five club in the world, featuring many of Europe’s (and South America’s) best players.
If the 21-year-old is to improve and make his way into the U.S. first team on a consistent basis, he needs consistent playing time. Green probably won’t find that with Bayern Munich. Bayern’s next game is against Bobby Wood’s 16th place Hamburger SV squad, where Green may have as good of a chance as any to see the pitch as a late game substitute.
Michael Bradley, Toronto F.C.
Central midfielder Michael Bradley had his best game of the MLS season on Sunday, registering both a goal and an assist in a 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls. Bradley’s performance for the U.S. team has been under scrutiny as of late, largely underperforming against both Colombia and Argentina in the Copa América.
With Toronto F.C., however, Bradley has excelled, guiding his team to a 13-8-8 record. With the help of 2015 MVP Sebastian Giovinco and fellow U.S. international Jozy Altidore, Toronto looks likely to enter the playoffs as the number one seed.
Toronto plays the fourth placed Philadelphia Union on September 24, as they’ll look to contain U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya.
Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund
18-year-old wonder kid Christian Pulisic has continued his great form from a season ago, scoring one goal and adding three assists in only three games played thus far into the Bundesliga season. Pulisic, who was the talk of a potential transfer to Premier League side Liverpool, looks to have made the right decision in staying with Thomas Tuchel and Borussia Dortmund.
With the superstars like Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the roster, Pulisic doesn’t always start each Bundesliga game, sometimes coming on as a late game substitute. However, when the midfielder does get his chance, he almost always delivers with a goal and/or an assist.
Borussia Dortmund currently find themselves third in the Bundesliga Table with nine points; they play ninth placed SC Freiburg on September 23.
Sacha Kljestan, New York Red Bulls
Before his appearances against Trinidad & Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the National Team, Sacha Kljestan hadn’t put on a U.S. shirt since 2014. The 31-year-old 2016 MLS All-Star did not make the 2010 or 2014 World Cup roster either, and hadn’t scored for the United States since 2010. For two years, Sacha Kljestan had thought his U.S. career was over.
However, with the New York Red Bulls this season, the central midfielder has experienced a rebirth in his career, tallying five goals and a league-high 16 assists while leading the New York Red Bulls to a second place spot in the Eastern Conference.
Because of his stellar domestic performances, Kljesten was called up to the National Team against Trinidad & Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Kljestan would score in both games, perhaps cementing himself in future U.S. National Team rosters. The New York Red Bulls play the Montreal Impact on September 24, as they look to close the gap on first placed Toronto ahead of the MLS playoffs.
Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Fabian Johnson scored his first goal of the Bundesliga season on Wednesday, playing as a wide midfielder against newly promoted RB Leipzig. The score finished 1-1, with Johnson’s goal being the key equalizer in the 84th minute.
Johnson, who typically plays left back for the U.S. National Team, has found recent success playing in a more advanced role on the left side of the field for his German club, demonstrating a knack for finding the goal while simultaneously tracking back to defend on occasion.
Fabian Johnson has one goal and one assist so far in the Bundesliga campaign, and will look to improve on his six goal output from a season ago.
Borussia Mönchengladbach currently sit 8th in the Bundesliga with a 2-1-1 record, they face 15th placed Ingolstadt on September 24.
Geoff Cameron, Stoke City
Geoff Cameron and Stoke City are struggling this season. With only one point secured in five games this season, the established English side sit last in the Premier League table. Stoke’s lone point came on the Premier League’s opening weekend – August 13th. Since then, Stoke City have lost four straight games, most recently to Crystal Palace on September 18.
As a defender, Center back Geoff Cameron is certainly party to blame for Stoke’s sluggish start. The Potters have conceded 11 goals in his four starts this season, the most in the Premier League during that span.
However, the Stoke City attack also looks completely inept this season, finding the back of the net only three times in five games (last in the league). Cameron has played well for the United States National Team as of late, it will be interesting to see if his club form impacts his performance with the U.S.
Stoke City plays 10th placed West Brom on September 24, seeking their first Premier League win since May 15.
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
Right back DeAndre Yedlin started his first game with Championship side Newcastle United on Saturday, defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. 2-0 in the Football League Cup Third round. The pacey fullback is still adjusting to his new squad, having been transferred from Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur during the summer transfer window. Yedlin has appeared in three games as a substitute for Newcastle in the League Championship; all wins.
It looks to be only a matter of time until Yedlin usurps Vurnon Anita as Newcastle’s first choice right back, as the U.S. defender has much more potential than the 27-year-old Dutch defender.
Newcastle United, who were relegated from the Premier League last season, currently sit third in the Football League Championship, looking to get back to England’s top flight for the 2017 season. Up next for Newcastle is 18th placed Aston Villa, who were also relegated from the Premier League last year.
John Anthony Brooks, Hertha BSC
John Brooks recently suffered an undisclosed injury while playing with club Hertha BSC in the Bundesliga. The talented center back has only played two games thus far for his club – two wins – and likely won’t return to the pitch until October 1 against Hamburger SV.
Hertha’s first loss of the season came yesterday against Bayern Munich without Brooks, but the Berlin based club has started the 2016 season strong. Hertha BSC is currently tied for third in the Bundesliga table with Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht, 12 spots higher than the 2015 campaign. If Hertha BSC are to continue their excellent season, they will need their starting center back to be healthy.
As far as the National Team is concerned, Brooks should be ready to go when the United States plays Cuba on October 7.
Brooks won’t be playing, but Hertha BSC’s next game comes against Eintracht on September 24, as the two look to further advance themselves up the Bundesliga table.
Brad Guzan, Middlesbrough
After eight seasons with newly relegated Aston Villa, U.S. number one goalkeeper Brad Guzan is still adjusting to life at his new club Middlesborough in the Premier League. Guzan has started in two of Middlesbrough’s five games this season – a win and a draw, while only allowing one goal in that span.
The 32-year-old goalkeeper has played well when called upon this season, but fellow summer arrival Victor Valdés is quickly becoming the go-to goalkeeper for Middlesbrough’s Premier League matches. Valdés, now 34 years old, was FC Barcelona’s starting goalkeeper for nearly a decade, making 387 appearances for one of the world’s best clubs.
With Valdés in goal, however, Middlesbrough has yet to win a game, losing to Everton and Crystal Palace most recently.
As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see which of the established goalkeepers gets more time between the sticks.
Middlesbrough takes on third placed Tottenham Hotspur on September 24 – an unlikely victory for the newly promoted Premier League club.
Tim Howard, Colorado Rapids
Veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard is on the way out of his illustrious career, having transferred from Premier League club Everton to the Colorado Rapids in the summer. In what may be his last season as a professional goalkeeper, Howard has performed admirably, leading the Rapids to a third place spot in the Western Conference. On September 10, against league leaders FC Dallas, Howard made a season high seven saves in a convincing 1-0 win.
Colorado currently find themselves five points off the lead in the Western Conference, but they have played two less games than both FC Dallas and LA Galaxy, leaving plenty of room to finish the season in first place.
The Rapids take on the eighth placed Vancouver Whitecaps on September 24, looking to extend their shutout streak to three games.