The last few days of the European transfer window brought numerous deals for US men’s national team players. The last chance for players to change clubs ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it was tense. Most European windows close on September 1.
These moves will dictate whether or not some players make the World Cup roster. Let’s get into it. First, with former FC Dallas rising star Ricardo Pepi and that wide-open No. 9 depth chart for the USMNT (which is getting much, much more competitive).
Loan to Groningen from Augsburg
Life in Germany hasn’t been a dream for Ricardo Pepi after his historic $20 million transfer from FC Dallas to Augsburg in the winter. The wonder kid has yet to score for Augsburg – in fact, he hasn’t scored for anybody since October. It hasn’t been easy.
Pepi slowly fell down the depth chart at Augsburg after his arrival and it continued to start the 2022-23 season, so all parties decided it’d be best for the player to move on loan to Groningen in the Dutch top flight.
The move for Pepi should be a good one. He’ll be a key starter in a league known to be advantageous to strikers and attacking play.
This is still the beginning of Pepi’s career, a slow start at Augsburg won’t derail the train. He’s still only 19! Already with 10 caps for the USMNT, including a legendary debut in World Cup qualifying against Honduras, the future remains bright.
Goals and form at Groningen will do wonders for his chances to be in Qatar for the World Cup. It’s up to him to make it count over the next few months.
Center forward is wide open for the USMNT, but all of Pepi’s competition for roster spots are in form. FC Cincinnati's Brandon Vazquez, Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok and Josh Sargent are all scoring goals. Former FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreria is too, I just didn’t mention him in that grouping because I think he’s already a lock for the roster.
Jozy Altidore had his best-ever scoring season in the Netherlands. There are infinite examples to point to for strikers going to the Eredivisie, having a career season and moving on. Pepi hopes to be the next in that line.
Other late-window moves (or lack thereof)…
Loan to AC Milan from Barcelona
Sergiño Dest wasn’t in the plans at FC Barcelona, losing the trust of manager Xavi. On deadline day, he completed a move to AC Milan on loan. The reigning Italian champions have a purchase option in the deal.
Dest likely won’t be first choice at Milan – right back Davide Calabria is the club captain, a 25-year-old Italian international who has started at least 25 league games each of the last four seasons for Milan – but should be in a better spot than not playing at all at Barcelona.
The 21-year-old should get chances in the league and in the UEFA Champions League. Milan have plenty of games, Calabria won’t play all 50 or however many they end up playing. Dest’s ability to play right or left back, plus his outstanding technical ability, should open pathways for minutes.
Signed with Benfica as a free agent
Last chance saloon for John Brooks or has that ship sailed? Well, regardless of his much-debated international future, the defender (finally) has a new club: SL Benfica.
Brooks had a deal agreed with LaLiga’s Mallorca and even traveled for a medical… but changed his mind when Benfica came calling and bailed on the Mallorca agreement. He joins a Benfica side dealing with a couple injuries at center back.
The move gives the 29-year-old a chance at Champions League soccer again. Brooks had previously spent his entire pro career in Germany, with Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg. He’s off to a new adventure in Portugal now.
Staying at Chelsea
As for a player who didn’t get a transfer, USMNT star Christian Pulisic is staying at Chelsea.
The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio reported that Pulisic wanted to leave for playing time. He has yet to start a Premier League game for the club in this young season, further cementing his place down Thomas Tuchel’s depth chart. The club signed Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang this summer, further adding competition for attacking places.
Newcastle were reportedly interested, apparently AC Milan were too. For now, he stays at Chelsea and will hope to fight back into the starting XI ahead of the World Cup.