DAVID SMITH - Friday, August 12, 2016
The last few days saw several young Americans across Europe making positive strides with first-team debuts or strong performances.
Most of the attention for young Yanks was dominated by the news of Julian Green earning a spot on the mighty FC Bayern's first-team roster for the upcoming season, however a number of other Americans made noteworthy gains.
Luca de la Torre start for Fulham
Fulham academy player Luca de la Torre, who recently made a promising debut run with the US U20 squad in the NTC invitational, was selected to start in Fulham's 3-0 League Cup win over Leyton Orient on Tuesday.
This was the midfielder's first-team debut with the team, barely two years after joining Fulham's academy as a 16 year-old in 2014. The San Diego native, who joined several other academy products in making their debuts on Tuesday, lined up on the right side of the midfield and only left the game in the final seconds of regulation.
While not directly involved in any of the team's three goals, the fact that head coach Slaviša Jokanović shows a strong willingness to turn to the team's youth is a strong indicator that the American is almost certain to earn more field-time amidst the team's busy schedule encompassing 44 league games and two cup competitions.
Jordan Siebatcheu a bright spot for Reims
On mainland Europe, Washington DC-born French-American striker Jordan Siebatcheu earned his first start of the season, scoring a goal in the process, in Stade de Reims' French League Cup game against Bob Bradley's le Havre.
His goal was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise chaotic 5-2 home loss, but was a quality crack from distance that saw the 20 year-old striker demonstrate a fine sense of tactical positioning, ball control and shot placement.
He has so far only appeared as a late substitute in the most recent of Reims' league games. Still, the talented striker, who made 25 appearances and scored three goals for the team in Ligue 1 play last season before their relegation, will undoubtedly figure increasingly into the team's plans as they aim for promotion back to France's top flight.
Whether this will lead him to the US national team is another question, since his eligibility for both France and Cameroon will create an increasingly competitive fight for his services as he shows more promise.
Jann George trending upwards for Regensburg
Looking to Germany, Regensburg German-American forward Jann George is off to a flying start in the team's 3rd Liga campaign. While still early in the season, he has started as a right-sided attacking midfielder in all three of the team's games, and has repaid his coach's faith with a return of two goals and an assist so far.
George has been a highly-touted talent amongst American circles since his youth years in the FC Nürnberg academy. While his career seemed to stall with largely unsuccessful stints at 1860 Munich and Greuther Fürth, he is finally showing firm signs of maturing as a player and settling into an upward trajectory now in his second season at Regensburg.
He did play in 27 games for the team last season as they were promoted from the fourth-tier Regionalliga, but his modest return of only three goals hardly gave any indication that he would be a starter, much less find his current streak of form, for the team a division higher in the pyramid.
At 24 years old, he has no more opportunities to make inroads into the US system via youth teams, and has a long, difficult road from the German third tier to the senior national team. Nevertheless, this is the best sign so far that he could carve out a future as an established professional at any level.
James Murphy quick to debut for Owls
Not even one month after signing a contract with English Championship club Sheffield Wednesday, 18 year-old US youth national teamer James Murphy made his debut appearance for The Owls with a 34-minute substitute appearance in their 2-1 League Cup loss at Cambridge United.
Similarly to de la Torre, Murphy's appearance came alongside a number of youth team players from the team's organization, but his rapid ascent to a first team debut is a strong indicator that the midfielder could soon figure into the first team plans in their just-started league season.
Joel Sonora on edge of Stuttgart squad
Finally, American youth team regular Joel Sonora appears to be edging towards his first-ever appearance with VfB Stuttgart's first team.
The Roten just began their 2nd Bundesliga season - a mighty fall for a team that challenged the FC Bayern hegemony atop the Bundesliga as recently as 2007 - last weekend, and included the 19 year-old Texan on the bench.
This comes after a pre-season where he trained with the first team and was a regular contributor in several of their warm-up games.
While he did not end up playing in their season-opening 2-1 win over St. Pauli on Monday, and did not make the squad for their second game at Düsseldorf, this is a clear indication that he slowly inching his way into the first-team plans.