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Here’s the Best XI of Americans and Canadians in Europe from the 2021-22 campaign.
American Football Players in Europe
Coach: Jesse Marsch, Leeds
Jesse Marsch and Leeds are the two coaching American football in Europe. The beginning of the European season was tough. Marsch was let go by RB Leipzig very quickly … but the way in which he rescued a burnt-out, injury-riddled, sinking Leeds ship for Premier League safety makes him the obvious choice here.
Under consideration: Pellegrino Matarazzo, Stuttgart
Really the only other option and there’s a real argument he should be ahead of Marsch for spending the whole season with Stuttgart and narrowly avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga.
Goalkeeper: Josh Cohen, Maccabi Haifa
The most accomplished American goalkeeper in Europe is one not on the national team’s radar. Josh Cohen, a star for Maccabi Haifa in Israel, wrapped up another title-winning season this year. He was even named Player of the Year for the league two seasons ago.
Perhaps Cohen will get a look with the national team in a post-World Cup camp?
Under consideration: Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade; Zack Steffen, Manchester City
Borjan won the Serbian SuperLiga as the starter for Red Star again, while Steffen was part of another dominating Manchester City side, though was firmly the backup. He is on the verge of 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 starting right back was American Henry Wingo.
Always a nice reminder that development isn’t linear and there are myriad successful career paths. This summer there had been some interest from MLS clubs to bring him back, too.
Under consideration: Sergino Dest, Barcelona; Reggie Cannon, Boavista
Sergiño Dest gets an honorable mention almost by default, but in the past, simply being on Barcelona’s roster would make him an obvious choice. But the rollercoaster of whether or not Barcelona was scapegoating him on a week-to-week basis was enough to keep him out.
Center back: Tim Ream, Fulham
Fulham yo-yo’d straight back up into the Premier League, with Tim Ream, who often wore the captain’s armband, leading the way. He started all 46 games in the physically demanding Championship, guiding Fulham to the title.
Not bad for the 34-year-old. He has now made 256 appearances with Fulham.
Under consideration: Steven Vitoria, Moreirense; Chris Richards, Hoffenheim
Richards battled some injuries again this year and returns to Bayern Munich after his loan to Hoffenheim, though he seems extremely likely to leave again. Vitoria, 35, is a free agent after his contract with Moreirense expired, making 18 appearances this year.
Center 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 he was available for and scored a crucial goal against Rangers late in the season to help seal the title.
Carter-Vickers (finally) found a permanent home after years of being loaned out by Tottenham, with Celtic officially signing the American this summer after his loan expired.
Under consideration: John Brooks, Wolfsburg; Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes
For all of the polarizing discourse around Brooks and his current (lack of) USMNT status, he made 31 appearances with Wolfsburg. But they apparently aren’t convinced either, deciding long ago to let him walk when his contract expired this summer. He’s currently without a club.
Left back: Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich
Still widely regarded as the best player in Concacaf, Alphonso Davies missed some time this year but was elite as usual when on the field for Bayern Munich.
For left-backs in the top five leagues, Davies ranks in the 90th percentile and above in almost all major attacking and defensive categories. He progresses the ball, creates shots, and completes dribbles at an insane rate. Even though he was limited to 22 BuLi appearances, he’s still the king.
Under consideration: 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.
Defensive midfielder: Stephen Eustaquio, FC Porto
Canadian metronome Stephen Eustaquio started the season at Pacos in Portugal and made a January move to FC Porto, where he picked up his first league title and first domestic cup.
Let’s see if he can break into the Porto XI with more regularity in 2022-23.
Under consideration: Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig; Atiba Hutchinson, Besiktas
I’m convinced Hutchinson could play until he’s 48 if he wanted to. Adams never won a regular starting role with Leipzig and is close to a move to Leeds United.
Box-to-box midfielder: Weston McKennie, Juventus
Before picking up a broken foot in February, Weston McKennie was in the form of his life for club and country. He was a regular in the Juve midfield and a leading figure with the USMNT.
The broken foot limited him to 21 Serie A appearances, but McKennie is already recovered and ready for preseason on day one. Expectations are high this year.
Under consideration: Luca de la Torre, Heracles; Gianluca Busio, Venezia
De la Torre (and Yunus Musah) didn’t perform at quite the stage like McKennie at Juventus (and perhaps showed their best form for the USMNT). Busio made 29 Serie A appearances, but couldn’t avoid relegation.
Attacking midfielder: Brenden Aaronson, RB Salzburg
A leading figure in another title-winning season for RB Salzburg, Brenden Aaronson had another stellar season in Europe.
His traditional stats won’t raise eyebrows for a No. 10 (4g/5a), but the 21-year-old does so much else at an elite level. Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner called him “the perfect transition player”, as he was in the 99th percentile in pressures for his position in the Champions League and he was in the 99th percentile in distance covered, too.
Aaronson has since made a $30m transfer to Leeds United, where the tactics once again should highlight his best qualities.
Under consideration: Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund
Traditional No 10’s is a light position for Americans and Canadians in Europe this year, in large part because Reyna, unfortunately, just didn’t play enough due to various injuries this year.
Forward: Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys
BSC Young Boys finished a disappointing third place in Switzerland, but Jordan Pefok picked up the league’s Golden Boot with 22 goals (and four assists).
Pefok moved to Union Berlin this summer, as he continues to move upward in his career that originally took off in the French second tier with Reims.
Under consideration: Tim Weah, Lille; Tajon Buchanan, Club Brugge
Weah enjoyed his best season with Lille to date (3g/5a), and Buchanan had some strong moments in his first half-season with Brugge.
Forward: Cyle Larin, Beşiktaş
This year wasn’t the most productive for Cyle Larin in terms of goals, but the Canadian talisman still notched a respectable seven-goal tally while dominating Concacaf when on international duty.
Larin just signed for Club Brugge on a free transfer after his Beşiktaş contract expired this summer, joining CanMNT teammate Buchanan.
Under consideration: Christian Pulisic, Chelsea; Liam Millar, FC Basel
Pulisic was in and (mostly) out of the Chelsea starting XI this year and played all around the pitch. Millar had a respectable 7g/2a in his debut Swiss league campaign.
Forward: Jonathan David, Lille
The start to the year in France for Jonathan David was electric, and even though it ended with goal celebrations becoming less frequent, he still ended up with 15 goals over 32 starts. He has been destined for a big-money move elsewhere this summer.
Under consideration: Haji Wright, Antalyaspor; Christian ramirez, Aberdeen
Wright’s explosion in the Turkish top flight with 14 goals in less than 2,000 minutes put him into the national team. Though he cooled down in the second half of the season, Ramirez finished just three goals off the Golden Boot race in Scotland.