American Exports: Are Julian Green and Sebastian Lletget ready for Europe's biggest stages?
AMSTERDAM – The headline European seasons have yet to start, but that doesn't mean we're short on news and notes regarding Americans playing overseas.
When Lucas Biglia departed for Lazio a couple of weeks ago, it opened up two important jobs with two-time defending Belgian champs Anderlecht. Sacha Kljestan appears in line to claim one of them.
No, he won't be the next captain, a possibility floated late last season. That honor went to Guillaume Gillet.
However, it was Kljestan sent to the spot for a penalty kick during Tuesday's 3-1 friendly loss at Hamburg. With last term's secondary kick-taker Gillet on the field, the US international accounted for the Mauves' only goal, temporarily tying the game with ease.
In case you're wondering, Kljestan took two penalties for the club back in 2011, bagging one.
Meanwhile, over in England's Championship, Bolton defender Tim Ream could be turning up in a new – and yet, really old – position. Manager Dougie Freedman has been giving the 25-year-old time at left back, where he turned in a solid showing in Tuesday's friendly defeat at Rotherham.
Freedman says the decision to start Ream at left back at the New York Stadium was a gamble that may pay off in the long-run, with his versatility potentially saving the club the need to acquire a left back down the line.
"It's an experiment," the boss told Bolton News. "Tim Ream is a center-half, let's make that very clear – but if I can have a center-half that can cover left back then the chairman is happy because that saves him a bit of money."
Despite the coach's amusing honesty, Ream says he'd happily go back to the future if it meant gaining a starting role.
"I played there quite a lot for my youth clubs and university sides, so it's a position I know fairly well," Ream said. "I haven't played there in four years, so it's a little bit of an adjustment.
"You want to play wherever you can best help the team. If the left back spot is where I can help, either starting or by pushing Marc [Tierney] to his fullest, then so be it."
MOVIN' ON UP
Another American defender checking out new places is Hertha Berlin's John Anthony Brooks. Some observers worried the youngster would see a decrease in playing time, especially if reinforcements arrived, but the starting job still seems to be his with the Bundesliga kickoff fast approaching.
Hertha inked the lanky but mobile Brooks to a fresh four-year deal in June, showing great faith in his ability. Even better, the new center back on Hertha's roster, Sebastian Langkamp has arrived to provide a better partner for Brooks, rather than replace him.
Brooks is expected to get his first slice of Bundesliga life when Hertha hosts Eintracht Frankfurt on August 10.
THE FRESH FACES
Borussia Mönchengladbach were 1-0 friendly victims on Saturday at Ingolstadt, where summer catch Alfredo Morales appears to have nailed down a starting role with the second-division club.
In the victory, the US handyman took up the right defensive midfielder slot in Ingolstadt's 3-5-2 set. Not simply content to shut down the Bundesliga side, Morales could have notched two assists with better finishing from teammates.
Turning to the English second tier, defender Eric Lichaj may be having similar success at Nottingham Forest. The free agent signing has started Forest's last three preseason matches, two at right back and the other on the opposite flank.
Another factor to be considered, though, is the fact that promotion hunters Forest also picked up veteran Chile right back Gonzalo Jara this week.
A pair of young Americans on the books of big names have been turning the heads of technical staffs this preseason, spiking the fever of anticipation for their senior team debuts.
Fresh from becoming just the seventh team to win a European Cup/Champions League treble, Bayern Munich were treated to an impressive preseason display by surprise U-20 World Cup provisional winger Julian Green.
The 18-year-old Tampa native, who is also eligible to represent Germany, scored seven times during preseason camp before being shipped down to Bayern II. What was his initial response to the expected move? Two goals in the reserve team's season opener.
While a great many hot prospects have failed to break into Bayern's first team in recent years, that dynamic may be changing under manager Pep Guardiola. Well versed at integrating youngsters at Barcelona, he's been taking extra care with the current crop of talents.
"It is great fun and an honor to get the chance to work with a coach of Pep Guardiola's name and experience," Green recently told Sport360°. "Everything is new, the tactic training is quite different and he talks a lot with every player individually."
Meanwhile, over at West Ham United, US youth international playmaker Sebastian Lletget has been drawing rave reviews for his preseason play. The London outfit is traditionally among the top English clubs in moving players up from the youth ranks and the 20-year-old's turn may be coming up.
Fresh from a standout display in their preseason win over Colchester, Lletget was named in the traveling squad for West Ham's tour of Germany. Ever humble, the midfielder expressed his excitement and gratitude for working with the first team.
"Credit to all the players because they really put a good shift in and it was unbelievable for me to play in front of the fans in a big crowd," Lletget told the club website following the Colchester victory. "I really work hard every day for these moments and thankfully a bit of my ability came out. I am just really glad I got the chance."
Greg Seltzer covers Americans based in Europe for MLSsoccer.com.