January Camp Aside, This Was Actually A Really Great Month For The USMNT

Let’s take a moment to recognize how big the January transfer window was for Americans abroad.

For the casual fan watching Europe, the 2019 January transfer window was by no means the most exciting in recent memory. In terms of what it meant for U.S. soccer, it was massive. 

More and more young Americans are heeding the words of one-time USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and heading to Europe. More and more European clubs are welcoming young Americans into the fold. 

While many of the January headlines went to the likes Chelsea buying Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams moving to RB Leipzig, a huge number of Americans — some as young as 17 — made moves abroad, including two to German giant Bayern Munich and a trio with Celtic in Scotland. 

It was a January to remember for fans of U.S. soccer, with 11 Americans moving to European clubs. (See full list of transfers below.)

The year started with the big news of Pulisic’s record-breaking move to Chelsea. The $73 million the London club paid Borussia Dortmund was nearly four times the previous record for an American, the $19.4 million Wolfsburg paid Hertha Berlin for John Brooks. 

Throughout the month, Americans made positive moves all over the place. One of the final moves included 17-year-old Taylor Booth, who moved from Real Salt Lake to Bayern Munich on Thursday

There were some who went in the opposite direction, like Caleb Stanko moving to MLS from Germany, but for the most part there was a wave of Americans going to Europe or finding a better spot in Europe. On deadline day, Celtic signed two U.S. college players in Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez, though both will be going out on loan back stateside. 

Here’s the complete list of American transfers in the January 2019 window. (Note: This list doesn’t include Americans who moved outside of Europe, such as Ike Opara’s big move from Sporting KC to Minnesota United.)

American Transfers January 2019 In Europe

  • Christian Pulisic, 20, Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea ($73M), back on loan to BVB
  • Timothy Weah, 18, PSG to Celtic (loan)
  • Tyler Adams, 19, New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig (free transfer)
  • Matt Miazga, 23, Nantes to Reading (on loan from Chelsea)
  • Keaton Parks, 21, Benfica B to NYCFC (loan)
  • Chris Richards, 18, FC Dallas to Bayern Munich ($1.5M)
  • Taylor Booth, 17, Real Salt Lake to Bayern Munich (undisclosed fee)
  • Matt Polster, 25, Chicago Fire to Rangers (undisclosed fee)
  • Khiry Shelton, 25, Sporting KC to SC Paderborn (free transfer)
  • Caleb Stanko, 25, SC Freiburg to FC Cincinnati ($230,000)
  • Ian Harkes, 23, D.C. United to Dundee United (free transfer)
  • Andrew Gutman, 22, Indiana University to Celtic (free transfer), on loan to Nashville SC
  • Manny Perez, 19, NC State University to Celtic (free transfer), on loan to North Carolina FC

After years of Americans choosing to stay at home in the comfort of MLS, the exodus abroad is in full force. Americans like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore returned because they could make more money in MLS, but that didn’t exactly help the U.S. in World Cup qualifying.

The average age of the 11 players who moved to European clubs is 20.8, with six unable to legally drink alcohol in the states. 

Already we’ve seen these moves pay off for a number of these players. Adams was impressive in his debut with RB Leipzig, the sister club of NYRB. Weah scored in his first two appearances with Celtic. Harkes, who made just eight league appearances with D.C. United in 2018, scored in his first Dundee debut, although a move to Scotland’s second division doesn’t seem like an upward trajectory. 

The Bayern Munich boys will need time to work their way into the senior squad (they’ll start in the academy with the U-19s and U-23s), but that certainly beats sitting on the bench in MLS. 

Booth’s a unique prospect on this list as he was able to gain a European passport to move abroad before the age of 18, putting him alongside Pulisic in that regard. Other Americans, like Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent, might be further along in their development had they had that opportunity. 

Meanwhile the USMNT, with Bradley and none of these Europe-based players, played a friendly against Panama in front of about 7,000 fans in a 63,000-seat stadium. Not that the January camp is completely useless, but it’s clear the best players are not staying in MLS.

Whether it’s at home or abroad, on loan or in a top division, young American soccer players need playing time to get better. MLS clubs, on the whole, do not give much playing time to youth players. So it’s a positive step for these 11 Americans to move overseas during this transfer window.

Of course, none of this is to say the U.S. is near the level of World Cup contenders right now. Compared to countries like Brazil and Argentina and just about any European nation, 11 transfers in Europe is nothing.

But it can't hurt. 

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