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MLS exports: Zack Steffen's big moment for Dusseldorf, European debuts and more

As the 2019 MLS regular season winds down, a number of players who formerly plied their trade here are just getting going on their 2019-20 seasons overseas.

With another weekend in the books, here are some of the biggest storylines from MLS exports throughout Europe.

Steffen answers the call

Former Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen has yet to hit double-digit appearances with Fortuna Dusseldorf, but he's already made a notable impact on the Bundesliga side.

Steffen, who has twice been voted to the Bundesliga team of the week by German magazine Kicker, continued his impressive form by saving a penalty kick in the 64th minute of Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Freiburg. Steffen's stop came while the score was still level at 1-1, though a late game-winner from Luca Waldschmidt saw Die Flingeraner drop to 14th in the table.

While results prove elusive, Steffen has locked down the No. 1 spot during his loan spell away from Manchester City. Steffen, often the US men’s national team starter under Gregg Berhalter, his former manager in Columbus, officially moved from MLS on July 9.

Before heading to Dusseldorf, Steffen earned the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and Best XI honors in 2018. He emerged as the Crew’s starter in 2017, resurrecting his career stateside after struggling to break through at – you guessed it – Freiburg.

Newcastle boys

The early days of Steve Bruce’s tenure as Newcastle United manager have a pair of ex-MLS players caught up in a tumultuous start to the 2019-20 Premier League season. 

The Magpies are second from bottom, with five points from seven matches after Sunday’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Leicester City. Right back DeAndre Yedlin made his first appearance of the campaign, returning from injury to replace Miguel Almiron in the 74th minute.

Yedlin, who has been with Newcastle since a 2016 move from Tottenham Hotspur, was a mainstay in the lineup under former manager Rafa Benitez. The USMNT veteran and former Seattle Sounders' Homegrown Player, 26, has been recovering from a groin injury that required surgery.

Almiron, who was transferred to Newcastle from Atlanta United this past winter for an MLS record fee, has yet to find the scoresheet in 2019-20. Last year, he provided an immediate spark as Newcastle staved off a relegation threat.

Shelton’s Bundesliga debut

SC Paderborn 07 nearly pulled off the upset of Bayern Munich Saturday, though the recently-promoted side fell short, 3-2. While frustration settled in, it was a memorable day for Khiry Shelton, who spent the first four seasons of his professional career in MLS with New York City FC and Sporting Kansas City.

Shelton entered as a substitute in the 85th minute as Paderborn chased a late equalizer, though the goal proved elusive. The 26-year-old had signed in Germany on a free transfer this past January, making two appearances as Paderborn earned promotion from the 2. Bundesliga.

In MLS, Shelton had eight goals and 15 assists across 79 appearances that spanned the regular season and playoffs.

Durkin makes bench appearance

After making his Sint-Truidense V.V. debut midweek in the Belgian Cup, D.C. United loanee Chris Durkin made the bench for their Jupiler Pro League match Saturday against Genk.

Durkin, who played this past summer for the US at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, did not make an appearance in the 3-3 draw.

Before heading to Belgium, the Homegrown Player had made 13 appearances this MLS season for the Black-and-Red, scoring in an early-season match against the Colorado Rapids