USMNT 22-23 grades: How did American players perform abroad?


The 2022-23 European domestic season is over. With the club campaign finished, players jump on flights bound for all corners of the globe, returning home for a summer of recovery or, if selected, international football.

Players in the frame for the U.S. men’s national team will have plenty of opportunity to play for their country, with the Concacaf Nations League finals and Gold Cup both beginning in June. Which of them will be primed to perform, though, and who will require an arm around the shoulder after a trying season with their club?

ESPN whittled down a list of 26 Europe-based American players (26 being the number allowed in an international squad) and asked Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Bill Connelly, Cesar Hernandez and Arch Bell to assess each of their 2022-23 campaigns and assign them a letter grade. Behold: the Americans Abroad year-end grades.


2022-23 grade: D+

Their story of 2022-23: The 2022-23 campaign has to go down as a disappointment for Aaronson, both in terms of Leeds’ relegation and his personal performances. The season started so promisingly for the U.S. midfielder, especially when he robbed Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy to score the opener in a 3-0 win. That was back in August … and it proved to be the only goal Aaronson managed to score all season. He tallied just three assists as well, highlighting a lack of end product.

Although he was a consistent starter for most of the campaign, he saw his minutes diminish by the end of the season, with his last five appearances coming as a substitute. The upheaval in the manager’s chair — the club went from Jesse Marsch to Javi Gracia to Sam Allardyce — certainly did Aaronson no favors, either.

Outlook for 2023-24: ESPN can confirm a report in The Athletic that Aaronson has a relegation release clause in his contract, so it’s unknown just where he will land next season, although remaining in the English Championship wouldn’t be the worst thing. Aaronson is tailor-made for a pressing system, which will likely be a significant factor in terms of where he ends up. — Jeff Carlisle

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Tyler Adams | 24 | Midfielder | Leeds United

2022-23 grade: B

Their story of 2022-23: The season set up really well for Adams: He got a move to the Premier League (Leeds United) to play for a coach (Marsch) who had been an advocate for him at multiple stops in his career. The possibility for a breakout season on the biggest of stages was there, all with the opportunity to captain the United States at the World Cup in the middle of the season.

In many ways, that happened. He was a key player for Leeds and, at times, earned praise for his ability to put out fires in the middle of the park. The problem, of course, is that a single fire engine can’t put out a forest fire and two managers were axed before Leeds were relegated back to the Championship (Adams missed the final three months with a hamstring injury).

Outlook for 2023-24: Adams, who was one of the USMNT’s best players in Qatar, is reportedly on the radar of several large clubs and nearly guaranteed a move to stay in a top-flight league. — Kyle Bonagura

2022-23 grade: A+

Their story of 2022-23: This is how every loan is supposed to work. After scoring two goals in 209 total minutes for Arsenal in recent seasons, and after an only moderately successful short-term spell with Middlesbrough, Balogun went to Reims and ignited in 2022-23, scoring 21 goals with two assists from 37 chances created on an excellent counterattacking squad.

As the top young scorer in Ligue 1, the 21-year old’s stock skyrocketed, and the dual-national ended up the subject of an almost college-football-like recruiting battle, eventually committing to the U.S. over England and Nigeria.

Outlook for 2023-24: Whether he now fights for a spot at Arsenal or moves away via transfer (one that would command far more money than it would have a year ago), Balogun will likely feature prominently somewhere in Europe’s big five leagues, just as he takes over as the No. 1 American scoring threat internationally. — Bill Connelly

2022-23 grade: B

Their story of 2022-23: Things went well for Cannon in 2022-23 as he surpassed the 2,000-minute mark in league play, following a slight dip to 1,718 minutes in 2021-22, with 26 starts in 30 appearances. One negative in the FC Dallas alum’s game was that he was sent off twice.

Outlook for 2023-24: Traditionally a right-back, Cannon was played slightly out of position more as a right-sided center-back for most of the season and even as a right-wing-back. The hope for next season is that he’ll return to more of his usual right-back spot. — Arch Bell

2022-23 grade: A+

Their story of 2022-23: What more could you ask of the 25-year-old central defender? He was selected in the 2022-23 Scottish Premiership Team of the Year, was vital in Celtic’s run to this season’s league title and also occasionally stepped up as captain when needed.

Outlook for 2023-24: The only doubt regarding him is whether he’ll recover in time for the start of next season after suffering a knee injury in late April. — Cesar Hernandez

2022-23 grade: D-

Their story of 2022-23: After starting 40 LaLiga matches the previous two seasons for Barcelona at ages 19 and 20, Dest’s career has taken a sharp reversal. Dest was loaned to AC Milan following preseason with Barca and failed to make an impact in Serie A, starting just two matches and playing 329 minutes in the league. He did, however, have a solid showing at the World Cup, and his role with the national team has been more or less unaffected by the lack of stability at the club level.

Outlook for 2023-24: The most important thing now is that he finds a club where he can play regularly. His ceiling remains very high and with the right situation, he can get things back on track. — Kyle Bonagura

2022-23 grade: B-

Their story of 2022-23: When De la Torre moved to Celta Vigo this past July, it was seen as something of a gamble as he moved to a new league and a new country just prior to the World Cup. The U.S. midfielder started out slowly, making just five appearances — none of them starts — prior to his departure for Qatar, as a hamstring injury slowed his progress.

Post-World Cup, though, De la Torre’s fortunes improved. By the end of the season he was a regular in the side, making 28 league appearances (16 of them starts), usually as a left-sided midfielder in manager Carlos Carvalhal’s 4-4-2. His insertion into the lineup coincided with Celta’s rise out of the relegation battle and into the middle of the LaLiga table, but a terrible run at the end of the year saw the club struggling to avoid the drop. Celta ultimately survived, and in the process, De la Torre showed off his prowess as more of a link man than a pure attacking midfielder, connecting on 86.6% of his passes but averaging just 0.63 key passes per 90 minutes.

Outlook for 2023-24: With his inaugural season in Spain now behind him, he’s in position to establish himself more firmly in the Celta side. — Jeff Carlisle

2022-23 grade: A-

Their story of 2022-23: A key figure in Luton Town’s fairy-tale promotion into the Premier League, despite not needing to do much during May’s playoff final. Despite a few questionable moments in the Championship, the 27-year-old found a way to collect an impressive 20 clean sheets.

Outlook for 2023-24: On loan from Nottingham Forest, his future remains unclear, as someone who can thrive in the English second division but also has room for improvement with his interventions in the box. — Cesar Hernandez

2022-23 grade: D-

Their story of 2022-23: It was a lost season of sorts for the 24-year old. After combining four goals with 31 chances created and a 79% pass completion rate in 1,968 total minutes for Juventus in 2021-22, the FC Dallas product fell out of favor with manager Massimiliano Allegri and made a midseason loan move to Leeds United, whose primary transfer strategy of late seems to have been “We need more Americans!”

The season ended with McKennie getting jeered by Leeds fans. It wasn’t his fault that the team fell apart down the stretch — they panic-fired manager Marsch in February, replaced him with a stylistic opposite (Javi Gracia), then replaced him with Allardyce in early May — but his presence didn’t help matters. And in all competitions in 2022-23, he ended up with far more minutes (3,038 in all) but less offensive production (three goals, 24 chances created, 70% pass completion rate) and defensive disruption.

Outlook for 2023-24: With Leeds relegated, McKennie heads back to Juventus, but it appears unlikely he will stay there. Wherever he lands, his production will require a rebound. — Bill Connelly

2022-23 grade: A

Their story of 2022-23: This has been McKenzie’s breakout season in Europe. After Genk transferred Jhon Lucumi to Bologna, McKenzie became the regular starter (35 starts in 35 appearances) and leader of the team’s defense with his aerial ability and ball recovery. He even became a scoring threat with four goals in the final two months of the season, aiding in their title chase even though they fell just short on the Belgian season’s final day.

Outlook for 2023-24: Another season like this and he’ll be playing for a bigger club. — Arch Bell

2022-23 grade: C+

Their story of 2022-23: It’s been a difficult campaign for Musah, even as he has spent more time in his preferred central midfield position. Musah is a player who thrives when there is belief in him from his manager, but Valencia had three different head coaches this season (including interims) and were stuck in a relegation battle for most of the year. There were multiple formation switches as well, which at times meant Musah was shunted to his less preferred position on the wing.

Through all of that, Musah was a consistent presence for most of the campaign, though he was on the subs’ bench the past few weeks. His ability on the defensive side of the ball stood out, with his tackle percentage of 60.3% third best among LaLiga midfielders with more than 900 minutes this season. He didn’t fare as well on the ball.

Outlook for 2023-24: Musah is only 20, and as such is still viewed as a player with immense upside, meaning a departure away from the Mestalla could very well happen. — Jeff Carlisle

2022-23 grade: B-

Their story of 2022-23: The good news: Palmer-Brown was a locked-in starter for Troyes in Ligue 1, starting 35 matches and playing more than 3,000 minutes. The bad: Troyes was relegated after a conceding a league-worst 81 goals.

Outlook for 2023-24: He signed a deal that keeps him with Troyes through the 2023-24 season, but it’s possible he considers a move to another top-flight league. — Kyle Bonagura

2022-23 grade: C-

Their story of 2022-23: As part of an inspiring Union Berlin squad that clinched a first-ever UEFA Champions League invitation, there’s no denying Pefok’s role in the overall process. Individually though, he had a subdued end to the season. After kicking off his 2022-23 run with three goals and two assists in his first five games, injury issues and a lack of form has led to an ongoing goalless run since February.

Outlook for 2023-24: More is expected of the 27-year-old. He has to increase his goal-scoring numbers. — Cesar Hernandez

2022-23 grade: A-

Their story of 2022-23: Like Balogun, Pepi enjoyed a lovely loan spell in 2022-23, and really, it only paled in comparison to Balogun’s. Loaned from FC Augsburg to Groningen in the Eredivisie, Pepi scored 13 goals in all competitions, with three assists and 32 chances created. He remained an active presser, and after struggling to create space for himself in the box at Augsburg, he thrived in the Netherlands.

Outlook for 2023-24: He couldn’t prevent Groningen from suffering relegation, but transfer rumors now tie him to clubs such as PSV Eindhoven and others much further up the Dutch table. His stock is rebounding. — Bill Connelly

2022-23 grade: D

Their story of 2022-23: Very little went right for Pulisic during the 2022-23 club season. A knee injury sidelined him for two months in January, just after he had reestablished himself in the starting lineup following the World Cup. By the time he returned, Chelsea’s spending spree meant it was difficult to get back into the side, making just two league starts and seven league appearances overall since March 1. Not even the return of Frank Lampard as caretaker manager, who had given Pulisic plenty of opportunities during his previous stint as Chelsea boss, was enough to get the American back in the team.

As a consequence, all of Pulisic’s numbers per 90 minutes were down, be it touches (45.98), goals (0.1), expected goals (0.14), shots (1.75) and shots on target percentage (27%).

Outlook for 2023-24: Now Pulisic’s time at Stamford Bridge seems certain to end, assuming Chelsea’s valuation can be met. A realistic transfer fee would fall somewhere between $15m and $20m. We’ll see if Chelsea ultimately agree. — Jeff Carlisle

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2022-23 grade: A-

Their story of 2022-23: “If you were 24 instead of 34, you’d be playing for me.” Those were the words spoken by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola to Ream after a City-Fulham match earlier this year.

It sums up what was an outstanding year for the veteran defender that was cruelly cut short by an arm fracture in April. Ream made 33 starts in the Premier League, helping Fulham to a comfortable midtable finish, and exceeded expectations in going up against some of the world’s best attacking players.

Outlook for 2023-24: The 35-year-old is recovering from injury and will be a year older, so it will be difficult to match what was a wonderful renaissance this season. — Arch Bell

2022-23 grade: B

Their story of 2022-23: Let’s toss the World Cup debacle to the side. Nothing about the Reyna experience was positive for anyone.

That doesn’t change the fact that he has more upside than any player in the U.S. player pool and has the talent to become the best American player ever. With Borussia Dortmund, as the Black and Yellows chased the Bundesliga title until the season’s dying minutes, there were flashes of what he can be.

Although he started just four matches in the league, he featured in 22, scoring a career-best seven goals with two assists. That goal production outpaced the 2020-21 season, when he started 23 matches and played more than three times the amount of minutes. His lack of opportunity was more a product of playing on a team that was playing well; the competition for minutes was difficult.

Outlook for 2023-24: Two keys for next year: a bigger role and staying healthy. Ideally, that comes at Dortmund, but if a change of scenery is required, then that should be considered. — Kyle Bonagura

2022-23 grade: C

Their story of 2022-23: A hit-or-miss season for the 23-year-old who hasn’t reached his potential. Richards should feel proud of some of his performances — especially against Manchester United in January — but those appearances came to a paltry total of only nine.

Outlook for 2023-24: If he can stay fit and avoid the injury issues that heavily impacted his role in late 2022, Richards should be able to claim more appearances in 2023-24. — Cesar Hernandez

2022-23 grade: A-

Their story of 2022-23: After becoming one of the best left-backs in the English second division last season — and a stalwart for his national team — Robinson moved up with Fulham to the Premier League in 2022-23 and more than held his own. Only three EPL full-backs combined at least 235 ball recoveries with at least 20 chances created this season: Newcastle United‘s Kieran Trippier, Liverpool‘s Trent Alexander-Arnold and the 25-year old Robinson. That’s awfully good company.

Outlook for 2023-24: After years of yo-yoing between the first- and second division, Fulham finished a surprising 10th this season. Robinson was a major reason. His contract expires in 2024, so in the coming months we’ll find out if he remains a building block at Craven Cottage, or if spring transfer rumors — both Newcastle United and Manchester City were allegedly interested — turn out to be true. — Bill Connelly

2022-23 grade: B

Their story of 2022-23: Sargent led Norwich City in scoring this season in the English Championship with 13 goals, but it was a disappointing midtable finish for the Canaries. He made 40 appearances overall, accruing more than 3,000 minutes, and did well in frontline defending, but found himself playing more on the wing, rather than as center-forward.

Outlook for 2023-24: With Teemu Pukki departing the club, Sargent stands to start 2023-24 as Norwich’s No. 9, which will play more to his strengths. — Arch Bell

2022-23 grade: B

Their story of 2022-23: Scally was a mainstay in the Gladbach starting XI until the final month of the season, when he played just a minute in the final five games, ending with 25 starts and 28 appearances, slightly falling short of being a wire-to-wire starter. He continues to improve defensively, allowing him to play in a more conventional right-back role. His aerial game and ball retention are on the rise, and for a player so young, he is technically quite adept.

Outlook for 2023-24: Scally could stand to improve on his progressive passing and tackling as he looks to the next Bundesliga season. If he does that and returns to being a regular starter in 2023-24, the offers from elsewhere will start flooding in. — Arch Bell

2022-23 grade: B

Their story of 2022-23: The good news, more than anything else, is that Steffen got plenty of minutes. On loan from Manchester City, the goalkeeper amassed more than 40 Championship appearances for a Middlesbrough side that made it to the semifinal round of the promotional playoffs. That said, with an underwhelming mark of minus-1.14 goals prevented (via TruMedia/StatsPerform), more could have been done this season.

Outlook for 2023-24: Looking ahead, his focus will now be on recovering after a recent knee surgery that will reportedly keep him out for three to four months. — Cesar Hernandez

2022-23 grade: B+

Their story of 2022-23: Another wonderfully successful loan spell for a young American. The 21-year-old spent a few seasons attempting to crack Bayern Munich‘s deep rotation of attacking midfielders, but after making seven appearances for the German giants last season, he went to Rangers on loan and thrived, combining 10 goals and four assists for what was the second-best team in Scotland.

Outlook for 2023-24: Rangers have been pushing to make his acquisition permanent, but leadership turmoil at Bayern might mean he has to wait a bit longer to find out next year’s home. — Bill Connelly

2022-23 grade: A

Their story of 2022-23: This was a case of a loan working out spectacularly well. Trusty was an ever-present force in City’s backline, making 44 league appearances, mostly as a left-sided center-back in a back-three system. He capped off his season by being named Birmingham’s Player of the Year, as voted by the club’s supporters.

Outlook for 2023-24: While Trusty will need to clean up his passing (68.7% completion), his tackling and prowess on set pieces served him well, and likely will continue to do so in another season on loan away from Arsenal. — Jeff Carlisle

Matt Turner | 28 | Goalkeeper | Arsenal

2022-23 grade: B+

Their story of 2022-23: For a guy who not so long ago was a long shot to be a professional soccer player, the fact that he just finished a season as an Arsenal player and started for the United States at the World Cup is simply incredible. An all-time great story of development. On the other hand, the opportunities to play in games at Arsenal were limited, and while that doesn’t mean he hasn’t improved — his ability to play with his feet, for example, is significantly better than it was a year ago — it’s not a perfect situation.

Outlook for 2023-24: He’s good enough to serve as the No. 1 in the Premier League. The question is, 12 months after moving to north London, whether he’s willing to bet on himself and make another move to prove it. — Kyle Bonagura

2022-23 grade: A-

Their story of 2022-23: After several seasons spent bouncing around northern Europe with little success, Wright has blossomed in the Turkish Super Lig.

Outlook for 2023-24: After bagging 31 goals in all competitions in the past two seasons with Antalyaspor, including 16 this season, he looks set to move on to bigger challenges. — Jeff Carlisle



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