Alfonso Davies

North American players in Europe: the best eleven, from Davies to Wingo | Soccer

AWith the European calendar officially shifting into pre-season for the 2022-23 season (and well into the never-ending transfer season, sometimes the best season), we’re taking a final look at the 2021-22 campaign for Americans and Canadians Abroad.

Here’s a Best XI of the Americans and Canadians in Europe from the 2021-22 season.

Goalkeepers: Josh Cohen, Maccabi Haifa

The most accomplished American goalkeeper in Europe is one who’s not on the national team’s radar. Josh Cohen, a star for Maccabi Haifa in Israel, capped off another season of winning titles this year. He was even named the league’s player of the year two seasons ago.

Maybe Cohen will get a glimpse with the national team at a post World Cup camp?

To be considered: Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade; Zack Steffen, Manchester City

Borjan won the Serbian SuperLiga again as a starter for Red Star, while Steffen was part of another dominant Manchester City side, although he was firmly the back-up. He is close to joining Middlesbrough on loan.

Right-back: Henry Wingo, Ferencváros

Hungarian giants Ferencváros won another league title last season and competed in the Europa League. Often their direct defense attorney was American Henry Wingo.

Always a nice reminder that development is not linear and there are countless successful career paths. There was also some interest from MLS clubs in bringing him back this summer.

Considered: Sergino Dest, Barcelona; Reggie Cannon, Boavista

Sergiño Dest almost automatically gets an honorable mention, but in the past he’s been an obvious choice if he’s simply into Barcelona’s squad. But the roller coaster ride of whether or not Barcelona scapegoated him week in and week out was enough to keep him away.

Centre-Back: Tim Ream, Fulham

Fulham yo-yo returned straight to the Premier League with Tim Ream, who often wore the captain’s armband, taking the lead. He started all 46 games in the physically demanding Championship and led Fulham to the title.

Not bad for the 34-year-old. He has now made 256 appearances with Fulham.

Considering: Steven Vitoria, Moreirense; Chris Richards, Hoffenheim

Richards has struggled with some injuries again this year and is returning to Bayern Munich after his loan spell at Hoffenheim, although he will most likely be leaving. Vitoria, 35, is a free agent after his contract with Moreirense expired and has played 18 games 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 and scored a crucial goal against Rangers late in the season to secure the title.

Carter-Vickers has (finally) found a permanent home after years on loan from Tottenham and Celtic officially signed the American this summer when his loan expired.

The following are taken into account: John Brooks, Wolfsburg; Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes

Despite the polarizing discourse surrounding Brooks and his current (lack of) USMNT status, he played 31 games with Wolfsburg. But they are apparently not convinced either and decided a long time ago to let him walk when his contract expires this summer. He is currently without a club.

Left-back: Alphonso Davies, FC Bayern Munich

Alphonso Davies, still widely regarded as the best player in the Concacaf, missed some time this year but was as always elite when he was on the field for Bayern Munich.

For left-backs in the top five leagues, Davies ranks in the 90th percentile and above in almost every major attacking and defensive category. He advances the ball, creates shots and completes dribbles with insane speed. Despite being limited to 22 BuLi appearances, he’s still the king.

Considering: Antonee Robinson, Fulham; Sam Adekugbe, Hatayspor

Robinson had a wonderful season with Fulham, the starting left-back for their title-winning side, adding 2g/4a in the process.

Alfonso Davies
For left-backs in the top five leagues, Alphonso Davies ranks in the 90th percentile and above in almost every major attacking and defensive category. Photo: Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Bongarts/Getty Images

Defensive Midfielder: Stephen Eustaquio, FC Porto

Canadian metronome Stephen Eustaquio started the season with Pacos in Portugal and joined FC Porto in January, where he lifted his first league and domestic cup.

Let’s see if he can break into the Porto XI more regularly in 2022-23.

Eligible: Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig; Atiba Hutchinson, Besiktas

I’m convinced Hutchinson could play until he’s 48 if he wanted to. Adams never gained a regular role with Leipzig and is close to a move to Leeds United.

Box-to-Box Midfielders: Weston McKennie, Juventus

Before breaking a foot in February, Weston McKennie was in the form of his life for club and country. He was a regular in Juve midfield and a leader in the USMNT.

The broken foot limited him to 21 Serie A games but McKennie has recovered on day one and is ready for preseason. Expectations are high this year.

Considered: Luca de la Torre, Heracles; Gianluca Busio, Venice

De la Torre (and Yunus Musah) didn’t perform quite as well as McKennie at Juventus (and perhaps showed their best form for the USMNT). Busio made 29 appearances in Serie A but failed to avoid relegation.

Attacking midfield: Brenden Aaronson, RB Salzburg

Brenden Aaronson, a leading figure in another title-winning season for RB Salzburg, had 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 more at elite level. Philadelphia Union athletic director Ernst Tanner called him “the perfect substitute” as he was in the 99th percentile of pressure for his Champions League position and he was also in the 99th percentile of distance covered.

Aaronson has since made a $30m transfer to Leeds United where the tactic should once again highlight his best qualities.

In conversation: Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund

The traditional number 10 is an easy position for Americans and Canadians in Europe this year, in large part because unfortunately Reyna just hasn’t played enough this year due to various injuries.

Brenden Aaronson
Brenden Aaronson, centre, from FC Red Bull Salzburg has meanwhile made a $30m transfer to Leeds United. Photo: Jasmin Walter/FC Red Bull Salzburg/Getty Images

Forward: Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys

BSC Young Boys finished a disappointing third place in Switzerland but Jordan Pefok clinched the league’s Golden Boot with 22 goals (and four assists).

Pefok joined Union Berlin this summer, where he continues to rise in a career that originally began in France’s second division at Reims.

Considering: Tim Weah, Little; Tajon Buchanan, Club Brugge

Weah enjoyed his best season yet with Lille (3g/5a), Buchanan had some strong moments in the first half of the season with Brugge.

Forward: Cyle Larin, Besiktas

This year hasn’t been Cyle Larin’s most productive in terms of goals, but the Canadian talisman nonetheless managed an impressive seven-goal tally while dominating the Concacaf on international duty.

Larin signed for Club Brugge on a free transfer after his contract with Beşiktaş expired this summer, joining CanMNT team-mate Buchanan.

To be considered: Christian Pulisic, Chelsea; Liam Millar, FC Basel

Pulisic was in Chelsea’s starting XI and (mostly) absent this year and played all over the pitch. Millar had a respectable 7g/2a in his first season in the Swiss league.

Forward: Jonathan David, Lille

The start of the year in France was electrifying for Jonathan David and although he ended with goal celebrations becoming less frequent, he still ended up scoring 15 goals in 32 starts. He was destined to move big bucks elsewhere this summer.

Considered: Haji Wright, Antalyaspor; Christian Ramirez, Aberdeen

Wright’s rise in Turkey’s top flight, with 14 goals in less than 2,000 minutes, landed him in the national team. Although he calmed down in the second half of the season, Ramirez finished the race for the Golden Boot in Scotland just three goals down.

Coach: Jesse Marsch, Leeds

The start of the European season was tough. Marsch was sacked very quickly by RB Leipzig… but the way he bailed out a burned-out, injury-plagued, sinking Leeds ship for Premier League safety makes him the obvious choice here.

Considered: Pellegrino Matarazzo, Stuttgart

Really the only other option and there’s a real argument he should be ahead of Marsch, having spent the whole season at Stuttgart and narrowly avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga.

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