We recently discussed how American soccer players have featured less and less in top European leagues over the course of the last several seasons as MLS has become a stronger force financially. Since MLS has now seen the value in having core US Men’s National Team (USMNT) footballers playing in North America for marketing purposes, they have been willing to spend the type of money they have for years on foreign stars on domestic talent. This has led to an outflow of top American players from the elite European leagues back to MLS.
Thus here’s our list of the top 5 American soccer players currently playing in Europe. Note that the list doesn’t include goalkeepers.
1- Fabian Johnson
The Borussia Monchengladbach winger has proven to be a versatile performer for the United States over the course of the last several years, often playing out of position. Johnson has quite often been called upon to play on the backline for the defensively-challenged United States Men’s National Team, but his greatest utility for his German club has been to provide width in attacking areas, creative instincts and goal-scoring capability.
Johnson came through the German youth team setup. Given his consistently strong play and versatility, it is quite possible that had he chosen Germany over the United States he would be a regular for Die Mannschaft. Johnson started every game at right back for the United States in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and that currently is the position that Joachim Löw has the biggest need heading into the Euro 2016 tournament in France.
In an era when few US Men’s National Team contributors are plying their trade at a high level abroad, Johnson is a very notable exception.
2- John Brooks
Brooks with the USMNT has been a much-maligned center half who seemingly bore the brunt of the blame for the United States failure at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. However, it is often forgotten that Brooks just turned 23 and this season at Hertha Berlin, who sit a surprising 3rd in the Bundesliga, he has been one of the most influential players.
Hertha just re-signed Brooks to a contract extension through 2019, but if his outstanding play continues, given the premium placed on central defenders at big clubs, he might very well move for a lucrative transfer fee. Chances are if he does move from Hertha, it will be for what is the highest transfer fee ever paid for an American international.
3- Alejandro Bedoya
Bedoya, one of the most consistent performers for the USMNT in recent years, has quietly had another standout season at French side Nantes. Currently sitting just three points from a spot in the UEFA Champions League, Nantes has an opportunity to qualify for the richest tournament in European soccer. Bedoya has been consistent this season, contributing two goals and two assists while providing more defensive work than might be expected.
Last summer, it was rumored Bedoya would be the next USMNT regular to return stateside to MLS. As one of the few US players to have played college soccer and never signed in MLS, Bedoya would do well in the league. But he still has much to offer many clubs in top European leagues and has demonstrated his positive influence in Ligue 1.
4- Geoff Cameron
Cameron went to Europe at a late age, 27, but acclimated incredibly well to Stoke City. Playing his first season (2012-13) under Tony Pulis, Cameron was able to adjust to the management change with Mark Hughes and successfully demonstrated his versatility. He has played semi-regularly in four different positions for the club.
During the Potters strong run over the festive period, Cameron slotted into a holding midfield role and played brilliantly, shielding the back four while linking up well with the likes of Bojan Krkić and Xherdan Shaqiri during Stoke’s strong run.
5- Danny Williams
It’s rare to pick a player that is in the second division, but Williams has become an incredible two-way player at the English Championship level.
Williams moved to Reading right after they were relegated from the Premier League in 2013 and, after battling injuries. he has made himself a reliable performer for the Royals. Williams brings bite to the midfield but also has expanded his game to include long-range shots from outside the area and late runs to complement the attack. He is among the leading midfield scorers in the Championship this season.
Two for the near future:
1- Christian Pulisic
The Pennsylvania native is such a prodigious talent that Borussia Dortmund signed him to a contract at the age of 17. Pulisic has impressed Thomas Tuchel enough that he was fast-tracked for the first team and the recent injury crisis at the Westfalenstadion gave him a spot on the subs bench. Making his debut in the second half of last week’s 2-0 victory over Ingolstadt, Pulisic impressed with his movement and touches in wide areas. This past Saturday, Pulisic featured again, playing at times in a striker position in a 0-0 draw with Brooks and Hertha Berlin.
2- Matt Miazga
The newly minted Chelsea signing is a player that combined excellent technical skill with uncanny tactical awareness, especially for an American. The 20-year-old will likely need to become more physical in order to be a successful regular for the Blues but he’s good enough to play in the Premier League even if it isn’t long-term for a club of Chelsea’s stature.
With Kurt Zouma’s injury, Miazga might get his Chelsea chance sooner rather than later. Let us hope he makes the most of it.
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