Opening week of the 2022-23 season is in the books, and by the time next weekend's action gets under way we'll be less than 100 days from the start of the World Cup in Qatar. Every performance truly matters now.
USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter has built a solid core of players over the qualifying cycle that'll comprise a majority of the 26-player squad, but there are still fierce competitions raging and open places for players who go on a tear through the first couple months of the season.
With all that in mind, here are three players whose stocks increased and two who are making us nervous.
Americans Abroad Soccer Power Rankings
3 Guys Trending Way, Way Up
#1. Jordan Pefok
Ricardo Pepi only got 15 minutes for Augsburg, Josh Sargent got 13 for Norwich and Haji Wright was unable to make a difference for Antalyaspor over 90 minutes against Galatasaray, so the winner of the USMNT No. 9 race on opening weekend — almost by default — was Pefok.
The 26-year-old made his competitive debut for Union Berlin in the DFB-Pokal last Monday and scored a memorable goal against Chemnitzer.
Jordan Pefok the acrobat. pic.twitter.com/LnQcl8YSg4— It's Called Soccer (@itscalldsoccer) August 1, 2022
On Saturday, he made his Bundesliga debut against Hertha and scored again. It's not much of a sample size, but if we're going with the hottest hand in Qatar, then Pefok is currently on the plane.
USMNT striker Jordan Pefok’s goal in his first bundesliga game of the season pic.twitter.com/Scj84pwhqh— USMNT (@USMNTTAKES) August 6, 2022
#2. Joe Scally
The 19-year-old lasted 84 minutes at right back in Gladbach's 3-1 Bundesliga win over Hoffenheim. The internet says he played well, and it's worth remembering that Scally also scored in the DFB-Pokal on July 31 against Oberachern. This might still be a World Cup too soon for the defender, but 2026 is looking better than ever.
Joe Scally's goal this morning: pic.twitter.com/z9JZP4wCPI— Justin Moran (@kickswish) July 31, 2022
#3. Brenden Aaronson
The style Leeds established under Marcelo Bielsa was one of relentless pressure, and the appointment of Jesse Marsch was a clear statement of continuing that philosophy. Americans have a long and proud history of "run fast, try hard," and Marsch went out this summer and recruited two of the USMNT's greatest purveyors of the style.
There's a reason why they call Tyler Adams "The Terminator" (he covered more ground than anyone else on PL Match Day 1), but Brenden Aaronson has that same tenacity, mixed with a heavy sprinkling of creativity and close control. The 21-year-old applied pressure 31 times to players receiving, carrying or passing the ball, which was also more than anyone else on opening weekend.
"Aaronson is relentless," Marsch said after the match. "He is nonstop. His work rate is incredible. I know him well and the thing I know about him is he is only going to get better."
This own goal sealed the deal for a Leeds’ victory!It’s still a goal by Brenden Aaronson in our hearts
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2022
Brenden Aaronson says he’s taking credit for Leeds’ winner
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 6, 2022
Aaronson played on the right-hand side of attack in Marsch's 4-2-3-1. We've recently seen him deployed a little further back by Berhalter in the right side of midfield in a 4-3-3.
2 Guys Playing Themselves Off The Plane
#1. Zack Steffen
Steffen started in goal for Middlesbrough on Saturday and conceded three against QPR. The 27-year-old made another high-profile error with his howlers in last season's FA Cup semifinal still fresh in the mind. This is definitely now a problem.
The man is pure comedy I'm telling you pic.twitter.com/a1uZodkeSg— vince (@v_sospiffy) August 6, 2022
#2. Daryl Dike
Dike tested the patience of West Brom faithful last year after his $10 million move yielded just two appearances and two separate injuries, but the 22-year-old got a full preseason this summer and made a 12-minute substitute appearance in the Baggies' opener on July 30.
Would he get the start on Match Day 2 against Watford on Monday night? No. Dike didn't make the squad because of a rumored thigh injury. He was already on the outside looking in, but Dike's hopes of making the World Cup squad might be over.
If you want to see when Americans abroad are playing and how you can watch, check out friend of The18 USMNT-Tracker.com.