American Exports: Gauging the first-team prospects of up-and-coming young Yanks
AMSTERDAM – It's time again for our periodic trip around Europe to check in on some of the young Americans busting tail in the reserves to reach the first team.
The most famous American trying to work his way into a first team overseas is Bayern Munich attack prodigy Julian Green (above). After bagging 15 goals in his first 15 reserve matches, mostly from the center forward position, the Tampa-born teen has gone without a goal for five games.
However, it was also five games ago that Green was switched back to his natural wing position on the left, and he has notched four assists since the change. At this point, though, Bayern's Bundesliga play probably bears more watching than the youngster's when considering when he can make a breakthrough.
The Bavarians hold a 20-point tabletop lead with 10 games to play, meaning they would clinch the league crown by winning their next four games. And that means Green, who has already earned a Champions League debut this term, could enjoy his Bundesliga bow in or around their April 5 trip to Augsburg.
When we last looked in on Borussia Mönchengladbach II forward Mario Rodriguez, he was still in search of his first goal for the team. How things have changed: The 19-year-old has hit four times in the last five games to bust into the starting lineup.
Scoreless through his first 15 appearances of the season, Rodriguez opened his account by hopping off the bench to temporarily give his side the lead in what eventually ended as a 2-2 draw at Viktoria Köln on February 6.
Now having started three straight 'Gladbach II games for the first time, the US Under-20 international has bagged three goals from the last two. A second-half brace by Rodriguez put away a big 4-1 victory over nearby rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf II on February 28, and then he deposited the winner at Alemannia Aachen this past Saturday.
Used as a center back when he donned the captain's armband at last year's FIFA U-20 World Cup, Stanko is the regular defensive midfielder with his club. He's also acted as their skipper this season and is increasingly participating in first-team training.
Still, it is unclear whether he can hope for a Bundesliga debut this term. Freiburg sit next to last in the table, which suggests young players will need to wait. Then again, there is the team's woeful defensive record, which could lead one to believe they need some fresh help.
Too Lletget to Quit
Over in England's U-21 Premier League, West Ham United reserve playmaker Sebastian Lletget is still patiently waiting on his Upton Park debut. The California native made his first team breakthrough in an FA Cup loss back in January, but has returned to being a patient understudy.
It may not help that the second team has hit a rough patch of late, scoring just twice in losing four of five. Though Lletget's early-season production has waned, it is not from a lack of trying. In each of their last two matches, the 21-year-old managed to both whistle a shot inches wide of frame and watch a tempting setup go without the proper finish.
In the same general time frame, West Ham scored nine goals in winning four of five EPL games to reach a mid-table position. For now, at least, Lletget's wait continues.
The Comeback Kid
Just over a year after suffering a nightmare leg break in the waning seconds of an U-21 Premier League match, Liverpool handyman apprentice Marc Pelosi is nearing a return to action.
The 19-year-old – who has worked left back, left wing and central midfield for the young Reds – re-joined his team in training two weeks ago. Though he is not yet on the full program, some around Anfield Road are quietly beginning to wonder if he might turn up in the selection before the team closes up shop for the season on April 7.
Either way, sources close to the club have hinted to MLSsoccer.com that Pelosi could be loaned out next season, when they expect him to be all the way back physically.
Can he also regain the depth-chart momentum that saw him added to Liverpool's Europa League registration list before the injury? Stay tuned.