Five Guys: Alfredo Morales, Josh Sargent and the Americans with an opportunity to seize in 2018/19
From Alfredo Morales with newly promoted Düsseldorf to the untried Josh Sargent at Werder Bremen via Schalke’s midfield terrier Weston McKennie, a handful of Americans will have the opportunity to stake their claim in the Bundesliga next season – especially after a restful summer without the USA’s participation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
bundesliga.com takes a look at five Americans whose destiny is firmly in their hands come 2018/19.
It would be fair to say that Morales has unfinished business in the Bundesliga. The Berlin-born winger has made 59 top-flight appearances for Hertha Berlin and Ingolstadt, but a handful of those games came when Hertha were relegated in 2011/12, while the remainder came during Ingolstadt’s brief two-season spell in the Bundesliga between 2015 and 2017.
Now aged 28 and with plenty of experience behind him, Morales has an opportunity for another fair crack at the Bundesliga in a Fortuna Düsseldorf side that comes up as second-tier champions. “We’ve signed an experienced Bundesliga player,” believes coach Friedhelm Funkel. “Alfredo shown he has the quality for the Bundesliga and his mentality will help us from the word go.”
Bremen pulled off a major coup last September when they announced that highly promising forward Josh Sargent would sign professional terms with the club on his 18th birthday. That date in February of this year has been and gone and Sargent can now look forward to a full pre-season with the Bremen first team as he prepares for his first season as a pro.
And going straight into the first-team fold is certainly not beyond the Missouri native, given his burgeoning talent and coach Florian Kohfeldt’s satisfaction with his striking options. Alongside Max Kruse, fellow American Aron Johannsson, Ousmane Manneh and Justin Eilers, and after Ishak Belfodil departed for Hoffenheim, Sargent will have plenty of opportunity to impress.
The Texas native enjoyed a breakthrough season for the Royal Blues in 2017/18, benefitting greatly from Domenico Tedesco’s arrival from Aue last summer. Tedesco was convinced the 19-year-old had what it took to play in the first team and picked him regularly, with McKennie making 25 appearances in all competitions. With Max Meyer having left the club and Leon Goretzka joining Bayern Munich, McKennie’s mindset must surely be that he is first choice.
Experienced utility man Salif Sane has arrived from Hannover and 21-year-old Suat Serdar from Mainz, while Johannes Geis will return when his loan deal at Sevilla ends. Despite the competition for places, however, McKennie can feel confident of making a major contribution next term, both in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League.
Watch: McKennie, Schalke’s wonderkid
A player whose versatility makes him a coach’s dream, Toljan has nevertheless had a tough year in 2017/18. The campaign was anything but smooth sailing for BVB, with coach Peter Bosz leaving in December and Borussia finishing bottom of their UEFA Champions League group. Toljan was not picked for the 4-4 derby draw with Schalke, nor the 6-0 thrashing at Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker, and so will feel he has something to prove as he prepares for next season.
That added motivation could help Toljan play a prominent part for the club in 2018/19, especially given the opportunity to showcasw his talent in the Champions League once again. And though he has represented Germany at youth level, the USA could do far worse than entice the talented (and eligible) defender their way.
Right-sided defender Chandler has been a fixture in the Bundesliga for some years now, but that is not to say he cannot scale new heights. The 28-year-old endured an injury-interrupted 2017/18 campaign but returned to the side to make a major impact in wins over Hamburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig.
Perhaps most impressively, however, he adapted seamlessly to a new position – left wing-back – and fared so well that first-choice Netherlands left-back Jetro Willens was relegated to the bench. With his experience and newfound tactical flexibility, incoming boss Adi Hütter is sure to heavily lean upon Chandler next term, as the 2018 DFB Cup winners navigate the UEFA Europa League again.