Following the USMNT’s colossal failure against Trinidad & Tobago on that dark day during the last round of the World Cup qualifiers, caretaker coach Dave Sarachan has developed and integrated a new generation of players into the national fold as they look to take the reins to lead the country to success in the future. This new young generation is unique in the sense that it has more players plying their trade abroad in Europe than ever before, a few of them now grace the biggest stage in club football.. The UEFA Champions League. We will take a look at the Americans who look poised to get some game time and contribute to their team on the big stage.
The reigning American Soccer player of the year obviously looks to have the biggest impact with his respective club team, German powerhouses Borussia Dortmund. The newly turned 20 year old finds himself entering his 3rd year as a part of the first team and a key cog in the attack that is still struggling to replace prolific frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Pulisic’s effectiveness may have taken a slight dip towards the end of the 2017-18 Bundesliga season; however, his combination of play and blistering pace along with his attacking versatility should see his name as one of the first on head coach Favre’s team sheet. This will not be Pulisic’s introduction to the Champions League, having featured in 15 matches across the past 2 seasons. Failing to either score or assist in his 5 Champions League matches last term, he starred against a strong Real Madrid side and established his place in the starting XI of a strong European team. The American prodigy should see an ample amount of playing time in the UCL this season while it should not be expected he starts every game due to his Bundesliga contributions. With that being said, it should be heavily expected that Pulisic either starts or makes a strong impact off the bench when the team craves a creative presence. Pulisic will most likely have the biggest impact of any American in the Champions League this season and it will be no surprise if his performances once again draw the attention of Real Madrid and Liverpool who were vying for his signature over the summer
The Schalke 04 youngster has established himself as a reliable and defensive-minded presence in the heart of midfield since his breakthrough into the first team during the 2016-17 season that saw him make his league debut. The 20 year old is a rising star in the American national team that would have seen his name moreso in the shining lights of the media has Pulisic not existed or came to prominence during the same time. McKennie remains one of the most promising Americans to have come into the national fold following his strong exploits in Europe and with his first campaign in the Champions League coming up, McKennie is expected to play a key role in midfield. The combative midfielder will play a huge role as the reliable presence in the heart of midfield for the German side but can also adapt to being played in a slightly advanced role or out wide. He has even featured as part of a back 3 for the Bundesliga side, highlighting his useful versatility. Schalke 04 find themselves in what is considered to be the weakest group of the Champions League, featuring the likes of FC Porto, Lokomotiv Moscow and Turkish powerhouses Galatasaray. While no group is an easy group, McKennie and the rest of the Schalke 04 side should take the complete advantage of having avoided teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona. While Pulisic may have the most impact on his Champions League side, McKennie likely has the greatest chance of advancing on and becoming part of the short list of Americans to have played in the advanced stages of the competition.
Outside of the small group that includes Pulisic and McKennie who are major components of their respective first teams, Tim Weah will contribute to PSG in more of a bit-part role but nonetheless still very important. The 18 year old, son of 1995 Ballon D’or winner George Weah, practices fully with the first team, playing alongside superstars Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe every day. At such a young age, Tim Weah has made massive strides in his career to have started a Ligue 1 match alongside Neymar and Angel Di Maria and have a goal to his name with just 2 appearances so far this season. It’s simple, Tim Weah will not have a sizable impact in PSG’s Champions League campaign this season; however, any chance he gets will be taken head on with his sensational pace and ability to play anywhere along the attacking trident that PSG generally line up in. Weah will not always make the squad of 18 in Champions League matches but in games that he does he will be ready and active and most important eager to make his mark on the game and his career. At just 18 years of age USMNT fans should not worry at all about his squad player role at the moment; Weah is new to the team and will use his pace and poaching ability whenever he gets the chance to prove his worth as he ages and matures. To be on the books at such a prominent club seen as European powerhouses is relatively unheard of for American soccer fans… Weah is one for the future, no need to worry about his present, he will contribute and impress as time goes on.
Promising American youngsters Keaton Parks and Chris Richards who ply their trade for Benfica and Bayern Munich, respectively, have not been named in their teams Champions League squad and will not take part in the competition.
This year’s edition of the UEFA Champions League features promising American youngsters for one of the first times in the competition’s history… despite the World Cup qualification horror show, the USMNT is in good hands.