Games to Watch this Weekend
With FA Cup this weekend –not a ton of big games to watch this weekend – most of them will be next week. Of course Man United and Liverpool do battle again – after their disappointing 0-0 draw last week – this time in FA Cup Action on Sunday at 12 noon on ESPN+. We also get Genoa traveling to Juventus and American MF Weston McKinney (fresh off winning his first major trophy – the Italia Supercup Wed) on Sunday morning on ESPN2 at 6:30 am. (Set that recorder). Sunday also gives us a chance to see new 19 yo American forward Hoppe (scorer of 5 goals in 3 games) as Schalke will host Bayern Munich on Sunday at 9:30 am on ESPN+. Weekday action in the EPL next Wed has Everton vs Leicster City at 3 pm on NBCSN, and Tottenham vs Liverpool Thurs 3:15 pm on NBCSN. (see full schedule in the OBC)
US Ladies vs Colombia Tonight 7 pm ESPN2
The US ladies finally took the field again for the first time in forever. It was nice to have Rapino and Llyod back on the forward line as both had assists to Sam Mewis helping her to her first hat-trick for the US. In fact it was an all Mewis affair as her sister Kristie – came off the bench to score – giving the Mewis’s 4 goals on the night. Colombia certainly had a young squad and did not put up much of a fight – especially on the offensive end. But Colombian veteran GK Sepulveda was spectacular in holding what could have been 8-0 to just a 4-0 scoreline for the US. The ladies should face a stronger team tonight, Friday, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2. It was great to see Catarina Macario – the Brazilian who flipped to the US this week. Having come to the US at 12 and playing for Stanford for 3 season’s (where she was player of the year last year) she’s on her way to Lyon in France where she’s headed to one of the top teams in the world. She looked good and will certainly have an increasing role for this US team and could become its next superstar. I look forward to seeing her perhaps start Friday night in the middle as I suspect coach will play a lot of new players in this second game. Last time to enjoy before the She Believe’s Cup coming in late-Feb.
US Men – play next Sun 7 pm on FS1.
So maybe the US does have a new Hoppe after 19 year-old American forward Matthew Hoppe became the first American to score a hat trick in the German Bundesliga for Schalke in just his 5th game? Then the next game he scored again, the following game again – that’s 5 goals in 3 games and ties him for the goal lead in Jan with Bayern’s World Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski. I think its time for a call up to the US team for him like soon!! Interesting to see Seattle and US winger Jordan Morris is evidently going on loan to Swansea who is in the running for advancement in the Championship in England (2nd division). I would like to think with starters now at Chelsea, Juventus, and Barcelona that someone in the EPL or Germany would take a flyer on one of the best wingers on the US National team. Perhaps he can help Swansea get back in the EPL – and at least be seen by bigger European teams. Cool story here on American’s in Europe. The US Men and U23s are still training and will face Trinidad and Tabago on Sunday, Jan 31 at 7 pm on FS1.
FA Cup on ESPN+
The FA Cup is back and Chorley from the 6th division will host EPL squad Wolverhampton TODAY at 2:45 pm on ESPN plus. Other giant killer games include Crawley Town of the 4th division traveling to Bournemouth at 10 am on Saturday and 4th tier Cheltenham Town hosting the mighty Manchester City assumably with US GK Zach Steffan in Goal at 12:30 Sat. and 4th Tier Wycombe Wanderers hosting Tottenham on Monday at 2:45 pm. Of course the big game is Man United vs Liverpool at 12 noon on ESPN+ Sunday. Me I will be rooting for the little guys vs the EPL squads – Yes Gotta love the FA Cup!
GAMES ON TV
(American’s in parenthesis)
Fri, Jan 22
2:45 ESPN+ Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup
2:30 pm ESPN+ Dortmund (Reyna) vs M’Gladbach
3 pm beIN Sport PSG vs Montipellier
7 pm ESPN2 USA Ladies vs Colombia
Sat, Jan 23
(FA Cup Games on ESPN+)
7:15 ESPN+ Southampton vs Arsenal FA Cup
10 am ESPN+ Bournemouth vs Crawley Town
10 am ESPN+ Swansea City (Morris soon?) vs Nottingham Forest
9:30 am ESPN+ Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)
12:30 pm ESPN+ Cheltenham Town vs Man City
3 pm Peacock Aston Villa vs New Castle United (Yedlin)
3 pm beIn Sport Alaves vs Real Madrid
Sun, Jan 24
6:30 am ESPN2 Juve vs Bologna
7 am EPSN+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Luton Town FA Cup
9:30 am ESPN+ Schalke (Hoope) vs Bayern Munich
12 noon ESPN+ Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup
3 pm EPSN+ Everton vs Sheffield Wednesday
3 pm beIn Sport Atletico Madrid vs Valencia
Mon, Jan 25
2:45 ESPN+ Wycombe Wanderers vs Tottenham FA Cup
Tues, Jan 26
2:45 pm ESPN2 or + Inter Milan vs AC Milan Coppa Italia
Weds, Jan 27
1 pm NBCSN Chelsea (Pulisic ) vs Wolverhampton
2:45 pm ESPN2 or + SPAL vs Juventus – Coppa Italia
3:!5 pm NBCSN Everton vs Leicester City
Thurs Jan 28
3 pm NBCSN Tottenham vs Liverpool
Sun, Jan 31
7 pm FS1 US Men vs Trinidad and Tobago
Trinity Rodman is ready to make her own Rodman legacy in pro soccer Kathleen McNamee
SSFC Spotlight: Matthew Hoppe an overnight sensation in Schalke By Brendan Joseph S&S
How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help dESPN
FA Cup: How to watch Manchester United – Liverpool, 15 other ties
Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten home run ended by Burnley
Surging Man City to be without De Bruyne for 4-6 weeks
Why Chelsea aren’t Giving up on Lampard Yet
What’s wrong with Liverpool? Maybe not as much as you think
Title-chasing Leicester suffer Vardy blow
Borussia Dortmund face a critical month, yet another rebuild. How did they fall behind? 5hStephan Uersfeld and Tom Hamilton
USWNT could win Olympic gold if they can balance experience with next generation – Julie Foudy ESPNFC
:46 PM ET. Thankfully, eventually, we found a way.
I can’t even imagine how many times in 2020, the current national team must have yelled, building character! or, perhaps, something more colorful. With the pandemic came the shut-down of leagues and, then, the shut-down of sports, the closure of fields, parks, gyms… all the things you need in your profession to help maintain your game. So the players did what any motivated athlete does… they figured out a way to make it work, safely. They went overseas to play, they played in an NWSL bubble, they picked up games and training where they could.Thankfully, eventually, they found a way.If you need any further proof on if they passed the test of adjusting and adapting to 2020, look no further than their game in the Netherlands on Nov. 27 last year. It was a replay of the 2019 World Cup final and, it’s worth noting, against a very good Dutch team that had many players in professional leagues who had continued to keep playing (more consistently than the US, that’s for sure) in Europe after much of the continent brought sports back.I thought the U.S. team would understandably look rusty and tire quickly, having very few players who were fit enough to last 90 minutes. Instead, we saw the USWNT run the Dutch off the pitch. And now, as 2021 greets us with a huge Faustian laugh (wait, that is not how it was scripted), the big question — WHERE IS THE TEAM? in the continuum of growth given the challenges of 2020 — has been answered.
The bigger question, in my opinion, leading into the Olympics in July is: how do you sprinkle in some youth into this veteran group? Or maybe you don’t. But I would argue that it’s the most important decision that coach Vlatko Andonovski has to weigh in these coming months.Carli Lloyd turns 39 at the start of the Olympics. Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn will turn 36 right before the Olympics. But it is not their ages that matter, of course; it’s always what accompanies the number in terms of the training environment and conditions they’re in.Carli Lloyd has missed much of 2020 from a playing perspective due to injury. Megan Rapinoe has also barely played in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, and as she said recently, “I was not ready for competitive games because I did not have a consistent training environment with teammates.” She spoke of “needing a longer runway”. And equally important, her body just needed a rest.There is a reason why no Women’s National Team has ever won the World Cup and then won the Olympics the very next year. It is super-tough turn. The players are exhausted. Maybe, dare I say, this Olympic delay allows for rest that actually makes the team better because two of their biggest superstars were allowed to physically & mentally recharge. Or, maybe not because the time off was too long. These next three months will tell us everything.Can Lloyd and Rapinoe come back after such a long layoff with the same force and game-changing ability? With only 18 players on an Olympic roster (compared to 23 for a World Cup), it’s hard to make the argument that you would take them at less than full fitness. And if you don’t take them, which young players can fill the void? Are these younger players ready for the big stage? How does that affect the dynamic of this team? So many questions to be answered.The great news is the fact there are some very talented young players who have the potential to break into that 18 player Olympic roster. Just to name a few…
– Catarina Macario, the Stanford superstar who moved from Brazil to the United States when she was 12 years old, was told on Jan. 13 that she is now eligible, as a U.S. citizen, to play for the United States of America.This is a player who scored at will at Stanford (she led the nation in goals and assists in 2019), led them to a national title in 2017 and 2019, and was twice the Mac Hermann Trophy winner for best collegiate soccer player. She will not conclude her senior season at Stanford as she just signed with Olympique Lyonnais in France.
– Sophia Smith, also from Stanford University, was drafted as the top pick by the NWSL’s Portland Thorns in 2020 and dominated the youth national teams. A broken ankle her freshman year at Stanford in 2018 slowed her career a beat, but Sophia made it known she was back and healthy after being named the 2019 College Cup MVP.
Also clearly in the mix of younger players still in college or fresh out …
– Emily Fox of UNC, who just got drafted as the #1 NWSL pick by expansion team, Racing Louisville
– Jaeline Howell, a junior from Florida State, who helped lead her FSU team to a national title in 2018
– Naomi Girma, a junior at Stanford, who was recently voted US Soccer Young Player of the Year
It’s a great problem to have if you are Coach Andonovski, but hard decisions await. Buckle up!
USWNT vs Colombia, 2021 friendly: What we learned
The United States Women’s National Team opened 2021 the way they played throughout 2020: breezing to victory. Their 4-0 victory over Colombia at Exploria Stadium last night was an expected result for the best team on the planet, but it was how they played (and a standout performance on the Colombian side) that gave us something to take and hopefully see how they improve when the two teams meet again on Friday.
The Mewii are on fire.
The last 5 goals for the USWNT have gone like this: Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Kristie Mewis. Samantha Mewis followed up her incredible 2020 campaign, where she was U.S. Soccer’s Women’s Player of the Year, by nabbing a hat trick against Colombia. It was a natural and perfect hat trick, scoring the first goal with her left, the second with her head, and the third with her right foot (We here don’t care that the 3rd was via penalty). Mewis has somehow improved from the final part of 2020, where for Manchester City and the USWNT she has starred.However, the other person on the team that has been on fire lately has been Kristie Mewis, who came on as a substitute last night to score the 4th and final goal of the night. Since she was called up to the USWNT for their friendly against The Netherlands back in November, she’s been terrific off the bench. She scored the 2nd goal against the Dutch, starting the Mewii connection of power.In a year that’s super important to determine who will be a part of the 18 players and 2 alternates that head to Tokyo for the Olympics this summer, Kristie Mewis has given every reason why she should be on that plane. And, the love between the two has, in a way, made them both play loose on the field. It’s a joy to watch, and I hope we get a lot more of both Kristie and Samantha on the field in 2021.
The high pressure is suffocating and exciting.
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said before the match that the team intended to play with a high pressure, and golly did they do just that. Samantha Mewis scoring inside the first 5 minutes of the match was a testament to the relentless high pressure that the team had on both offense and defense. It was suffocating to Colombia’s attack, and their defense couldn’t handle the pressure. It also made it so the American defense and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher needed other ways to entertain themselves for the vast majority of the match.The U.S. outshot Colombia 22-0 (11 on target). The USWNT controlled possession 64% of the time, and the only reason it wasn’t higher was because they were taking all those shots. They had 80% pass accuracy while limiting Colombia to only 62% pass accuracy. The pressure never let up, and it created a ton of scoring chances for the Americans. They could be crisper in the attacking third with those shots, and they probably can’t be as aggressive against a better team. Still, it’s clear that the team will be effective at putting incredible pressure on a defense with success.
Sandra Sepúlveda was the player of the match.
No offense to Samantha Mewis, but Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepúlveda was the MVP of the entire match. She made some incredible saves on the night to keep her team in it as long as possible, and he was dazzling on the night. The relentless pressure that the USWNT placed on Colombia made Sepúlveda incredibly busy on the night. She had 7 saves in total, and her play caused more shots to go just wide or over the bar that didn’t necessarily count in the save column.The USWNT wasn’t as sharp on the offensive end as they could have been, but their frustration was assisted by Sepúlveda’s performance. She stood up to the high pressure relatively well compared to the rest of her teammates, and the USWNT will have to figure out how to finish against Sepúlveda should she remain in goal for the Colombians on Friday night.
We are right to be excited about Catarina Macario’s debut.
The most exciting moment of the evening, outside of the goals, was the debut of Catarina Macario. Macario debuted at the start of the second half, coming on as a substitute for Megan Rapinoe. She was employed as the 11, which is something that Vlatko Andonovski admitted was not a part of his game plan. A knock picked up by Sophia Smith in warmups caused Andonovski to switch up his plans and place Macario in that spot. But, you could see why everyone has been highly anticipating the debut of the first naturalized American to play for the USWNT.Her creativity at times leaves you breathless, as if you know she’s about to do something special. She may not have scored, but you can see the talent and the potential in her, and she belonged on the field. We will see how she continues to integrate with the team on the field, but it’s clear already that she could become the next superstar for the best team on the planet.The next match for the USWNT will be a rematch against Colombia on Friday. Coverage begins at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2.
Sam Mewis’ hat trick, Catarina Macario’s debut highlight USWNT’s 4-0 win over Colombia
by The Associated Press, Updated: January 19, 2021
ORLANDO, Fla. — Having collected her first career hat trick, the celebration continued for Samantha Mewis as she cheered on her big sister Kristie.
Samantha Mewis scored three goals and Kristie added another to give the United States a 4-0 exhibition victory over short-handed Colombia on Monday.
“I’m just so proud of Kristie. I think it’s so cool to watch her success here and to have her here,” said Samantha Mewis, the reigning U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. “I feel so lucky that we both get to be here and it’s just been so much fun.”
The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 33 matches. The defending World Cup champions have a 49-game undefeated streak on home soil.
The teams were set to play at Exploria Stadium again on Friday.Rapinoe served up a perfectly placed cross to Samantha Mewis in front of the goal in the fourth minute. The younger Mewis, who plays for Manchester City of the FA Women’s Super League, scored again in the 33rd minute. She converted a penalty kick early in the second half to complete the hat trick before subbing out.
Kristie Mewis, who came in as a sub in the second half, scored in the 86th minute. It was her third international goal.
The television broadcast caught Samantha’s enthusiastic applause in the stands after her sister’s goal. Kristie has earned call-ups to the national team recently following her standout play for the Houston Dash.
“It’s the first game of 2021, we wanted to start the year off on the right foot. We definitely had been preparing hard for this game so it feels good to come away with a win as a team,” Samantha said. “Then to have some individual success and then to see Kristie score a goal as well, it was just so much fun and I really am just so proud of her.”
Catarina Macario came off the bench for the second half, making her first appearance for the national team. Macario, who was born in Brazil, became a U.S. citizen last fall and recently received approval from FIFA to play for the Americans.
Macario decided to forgo her senior season at Stanford and sign with French powerhouse Lyon.
Catarina Macario, left, made her long-awaited U.S. national team debut.
Colombia was without three players — midfielders Daniela Montoya, Diana Carolina Ospina and defender Carolina Arias — who were in isolation because of COVID-19 tracing protocols. A fourth player, midfielder Ana Gabriela Huertas, had inconclusive test results and was ruled out of the match. Those players could be available on Friday.
“I thought we did a good job but at the same time I want to give credit to the Colombian players for doing a great job in the one-v-one duels,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “When we were putting pressures on individual duels I thought that was the only area we could have done a little bit better.” Andonovski announced before the game that defender Becky Sauerbrunn would take over as team captain. In recent years, the captain’s armband was passed among a group of veterans, including Rapinoe and Lloyd.Andonovski, who replaced Jill Ellis after she stepped down following the 2019 World Cup victory, is 12-0-0 as the U.S coach.
How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help
Joe Scally is one of three young Americans to make the move from the U.S. to Europe this January. Brenden Aaronson went from the Philadelphia Union to FC Salzburg, his former teammate Mark McKenzie signed for Genk, and Scally completed his move to Borussia Monchengladbach having signed for them just over a year ago. Scally packed five suitcases for his move from New York to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. He had everything covered, from his XBox One to clothes for all seasons, along with various keepsakes, but he forgot one key item: pancake mix. Meanwhile, McKenzie is still trying to work out how to get his prodigious shoe collection (100 pairs and counting) over to Belgium.
United States youth international right-back Scally signed for Borussia Monchengladbach from New York City FC more than a year ago, in December 2019, but he had to wait until this month to join them following his 18th birthday on New Year’s Eve. On Jan. 3, he waited until the last possible moment to wave goodbye to his family and girlfriend at the departure gates of John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens and flew to Monchengladbach to complete the move that had been a year in the making.Scally had never lived away from home before — he discovered early on that he could master eggs for breakfast, but struggled to put together lunch and dinner. His current specialty is sausage and pasta, cooked in an air fryer. “I throw in some sauce as well,” he told ESPN.For now, Scally is living on the Borussia Monchengladbach campus, which houses their stadium and training ground. They have four apartments in the on-site hotel for new players; from there, the club’s player liaison officers will help them find permanent accommodation. Scally plans to live alone, but find somewhere in the city center big enough to welcome his family and partner once COVID-19 lockdown regulations are eased.
Mark McKenzie was introduced as a Genk player last week after joining from the Philadelphia Union. YORICK JANSENS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images
An hour away across the Belgian border to the west, McKenzie is settling into life at Genk. He FaceTimed his family as he picked out his apartment and has picked up a car — a Mercedes C-Class. “It’s definitely a step up from my old Honda Accord,” McKenzie told ESPN. He has a photographic memory, meaning he’s comfortable in navigating his new home city, but he still leans on his team manager Wout Maris for some essential local knowledge.
“I’m trying to understand the rules of driving out here and what those are, I think that’s been the biggest adjustment in trying to navigate the speed,” McKenzie says. “Wout was very explicit in stating they have speed sensors everywhere! Watch your speed so you don’t get hit with tickets.”
For Scally, the move to Gladbach was a long time coming. As he played out his final season at NYCFC with his transfer confirmed, his teammates called him “Monchengladbach” in training.
“My focus was on NYCFC, but at the back of my mind I had a little thing, like there was a bigger year coming,” Scally told ESPN. His training plan was tweaked slightly to align it closer with Gladbach’s — he’d do more hang cleans in the gym. And as the months until his move ticked away, he kept in close contact with one of his best friends: Giovanni Reyna at Borussia Dortmund.
“I’ve been talking to him a lot about the living, the play, all this type of stuff,” Scally says. “Especially now as I’m only an hour away from him, I’m able to see him so it makes it a lot easier. He told me in the beginning it’ll be hard, but it gets better … and it’s great.”
Americans in Europe
ESPN highlights the biggest stories around United States stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players, and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.
Scally has enjoyed the adjustment period, telling ESPN that introduction to life at Gladbach has been “very, very welcoming. The players have taken me under their wing and helped me a lot.” He’s spoken most to Oscar Wendt, the Sweden defender who’s friends with NYCFC full-back Anton Tinnerholm, and 18-year-old midfielder Rocco Reitz. Then comes the training: it’s a higher intensity than what he’s used to, but he’s relishing the chance to get stuck in.
Over at Gent in the Belgian First Division A, center-back McKenzie has found that the intensity of training naturally forces him to take his game to the next level. “I’m trying to ultimately push myself, but also push my teammates, make their jobs, make their lives harder,” McKenzie says. “The thing here is, the processing has to be fast, you’ve got to know what you’ve got to do before you get the ball. Your awareness, where you’re at on the pitch.
“As center-backs, the runs and the interchange between the attackers, and the positions, I think in all those areas, the tempo and the intensity has climbed up a notch.”
Scally has two immediate things on his to-do list. First, he needs to learn German. “It’s tough… I’m starting lessons as I need to learn the language. Most of the guys on the team speak English so it hasn’t been hard but the coach, when he does practice, speaks in German.” And second? He needs to source a different video game console. “Everyone here has PlayStation… the guys on the team were like, ‘We don’t play XBox.’ It’s all FIFA, Fortnite, Call of Duty … I’m good at FIFA.”
Scally is just one of 50 U.S.-qualified players in Germany‘s top three divisions and has followed the path many others have taken from the States to the Continent, or from other countries, to settle in the Bundesliga. At German side TSG Hoffenheim, 16- to 18-year-olds can choose between boarding school and host families. “We like pairing them with host families as it helps them stay grounded and adjust,” says Hoffenheim’s head of international operations, Tony Mamodaly. “But every player is different. Some guys are 16 and are like 25, and others are 22 and have never cooked in their life before.”
Scally turned 18 on New Year’s Eve and was able to complete his move from NYCFC to Borussia Monchengladbach, where he’s already settling in nicely. Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Once the player goes through into the senior setup — or for those new arrivals signed as first-team players — the club has two player liaison officers available alongside the team manager, including one who’s there for the Brazilian players they sign.
“They take care of apartments, logistics and help them settle in,” Mamodaly says. “They give [new signings] recommendations on the best areas to live and also take care of their health insurance. One of the most important things is communication: We want them to be part of the team so they need to speak the language.” Hoffenheim have in-house teachers and a collaboration with Anpfiff ins Leben — an organization that helps young people prepare for the future, both professionally and personally — to help the players adjust.
“We try to help the kids develop as athletes, but also human beings and use sports as a tool to access life,” Mamodaly says.
Hoffenheim are also home to 16-year-old Las Vegas-born midfielder Lucas Tamarez, as well as 19-year-old winger Quincy Butler from Sacramento, California. “We really try to be there for our guys 24/7,” Mamodaly says. In the words of our team manager, we can give them the wings but they need to learn to fly themselves.”
Scally’s still waiting for his cooking to round out, but he’s settled into life at Gladbach, with a steady routine of training and then FaceTiming his family and girlfriend every day. He’s loving life in Germany and is looking forward to his debut, but he’s missing his pancakes. “I can’t find the mix anywhere,” Scally says. “I asked Gio about it and he actually made the same mistake, so he brought it back from home. So I need to find that.”
And while McKenzie has a few pairs of his 100-strong shoe collection with him, he’s trying to work out how to get the rest over. “It’s definitely going to be quite interesting in trying to get my precious cargo from home sent out here,” McKenzie says. “But I got a few of my ‘gem’ pieces with me, just to make my next place feel a little bit like home.” — Tom Hamilton, with additional reporting by Jeff Carlisle and Stephan Uersfeld
A few minutes with … Brenden Aaronson
Aaronson moved to Salzburg with arguably the most hype of any MLS player moving overseas since Alphonso Davies left the Vancouver Whitecaps for Bayern Munich, where he’s gone on to become one of the best left-backs in the world, if not the best. There’s no doubt about it: There is a large contingent of fans in the U.S. more interested than ever in the Austrian Bundesliga.
So, fresh off scoring on his Salzburg debut in a 6-0 friendly win over second-division side Vorwarts Steyr, Aaronson sat down with ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar to talk about his move to Europe.
Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad
Matthew Hoppe, Schalke 04 — On the rise: Hoppe’s breakout has been a curious one. The 19-year-old Californian had never been a particularly proficient scorer in Schalke’s junior ranks, to the point that some at the club were unsure whether he’d make it at senior level, sources told ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld, but he had a reputation for his hunger and his ferocious training. Injuries in the forward line gave him his shot, and in addition to the height and speed he brings to Schalke’s front line, Hoppe has demonstrated clinical finishing to net four goals in six Bundesliga appearances.
Now that he’s a known quantity, he won’t be able to take opponents by surprise anymore, increasing the pressure on his shoulders, which will only grow following the arrival of club-legend striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Yunus Musah, Valencia — Trending down: After lighting up La Liga in the opening months of the 2020-21 season, Musah has fallen back to earth. But as he is just 18 years old, “falling back to earth” is only relative to his prodigious beginnings — starting just two of Valencia’s past eight games. According to ESPN’s Sid Lowe, that has little to do with any regression from the New York-born midfielder and everything to do with the return to form and fitness of Goncalo Guedes and Denis Cheryshev, along with the emergence of Thierry Correia pushing Daniel Wass back into midfield.
The circumstances of a thinned squad gave Musah the platform to take off, and the circumstances of teammates now fit and in form has taken it away — for the time being, anyway.
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United — On the rise: In the first three months of Newcastle’s season, Yedlin had played just 180 minutes, all in the Carabao Cup. In 10 games since the start of December, he’s started six and come off the bench in two more. Steve Bruce seems to be taking a right-back-by-committee approach this season, but at present, the former Seattle Sounders FC standout has the hot hand. Ultimately he may still leave the club when his contract expires this summer — this run of form will only increase the number of interested parties — but his departure may no longer be the foregone conclusion it once appeared to be if he keeps getting minutes for the mid-table Magpies.
Julian Green, Greuther Furth — On the rise: When fit, Green has always been a starter for Furth, but this season has seen him hit new heights, with sources telling ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld that the team’s shift from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 — which has meant Green moving from a wing position to a No. 8 role — and fully grasping manager Stefan Leitl’s methods in his second season in charge of the 2. Bundesliga club firmly in the race for promotion.
Green, who made his U.S. debut six-and-a-half years ago, is still only 25 — and has never given up hope of returning to the national team.
Scouting report: Owen Otasowie
One year and a week after making his senior debut for Wolves in a 4-0 Europa League win against Besiktas, the 20-year-old made his full Premier League appearance against Burnley on Dec. 21. Although he was taken off by Nuno Espirito Santo after an hour, Otasowie displayed some good runs, showed off his deft first touch and was not short of confidence.On the evidence of the night at Turf Moor, the American may still need some matches to deal with the pace of the traffic in the centre of a Premier League midfield, as he was caught in possession on a number of occasions. But since then, Otasowie has been given a few more minutes coming off the bench: in fact, he could’ve marked the new year as an unlikely hero had he managed to direct his injury time header under the bar against Brighton right before the final whistle in the 3-3 draw.
The New York City-born midfielder, who collected his first USMNT cap with a late substitute appearance against Wales in November, is easily recognised by his imposing physique and neat ball control. Whether he’ll end up as a holding midfielder or a box-to-box No. 8 is still a subject of discussion, but he clearly has the characteristics to make a career in both roles: he usually has a measured and precise passing game, takes up intelligent positions and is hard to knock off the ball when he sets off on forward runs, though he’s still prone to overdo this aspect, and can end up running into blind alleys. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen