USMNT Weekly Youth Update: Weah starts the Lille season opener

Lille OSC v AS Roma - Friendly match Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

The 19-year-old starts but struggles in his Lille debut

Another week is in the books as the European leagues trickle back into their seasons. This week saw the return of German football with Bundesliga teams playing in the DFB Pokal as well as Ligue 1 and the EPL returning. For any new readers, the rating at the end of each update reflects how much I believe he should be called up to the senior national team at the next opportunity (1-nowhere near ready; 10-absolutely call him up and start him). Here’s what’s this week.

France

Timothy Weah - Winger/Striker, Lille OSC

Weah earned the start in Lille’s season-opening 2-1 victory over FC Nantes. Weah was rarely involved and largely invisible, but he did have one notable moment where he played an outstanding through ball and probably should have had an assist.

With the match tied at a goal each, Weah was taken off after 69 minutes for new signing Yusuf Yazici. Yazici instantly looked like an upgrade and will undoubtedly threaten Weah’s spot. He needs to make more of an impact if he wants to stay in the lineup. Rating: 9

Germany

Josh Sargent - Striker, Werder Bremen

Sargent got the start in Bremen’s dominant 6-1 victory over Atlas Delmenhorst. It was just his second career first team start and it was his first DFB Pokal match. Individually, the 19-year-old had a day to forget where he was rarely involved and hardly even touched the ball. He was subbed off a couple minutes after having his only real scoring chance saved (it was hit right at the keeper). Sargent has to seize his opportunities when he gets them. Hopefully he will keep getting them this season. Rating: 9

Ulysses Llanez - Winger, VFL Wolfsburg

Llanez got off to a terrific start to his season. The LA Galaxy Academy product struck twice and provided an assist in a 5-1 victory in his U-19 Bundesliga debut on Sunday against FC St. Pauli’s U-19’s. Llanez impressed in a big way at the U-20 World Cup and should push through to Wolfsburg’s first team if he can continue to improve and grow. Every year it seems like there’s even more Americans playing at this level and that couldn’t be more true this year. Many young Americans will be facing off in the U-19 Bundesliga and trying to push through to their first teams. Hopefully several will be able to do so. Rating: 3

Lennard Maloney - Centerback, Union Berlin

Maloney will not be with Union Berlin’s first team for the upcoming campaign following their promotion to the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old is in the process of finding a club to pick him up for a loan this season and has already trialed with Rot-Weiss Essen of the German Regionalliga (the fourth tier). Some had hoped that he could make a Bundesliga debut at some point this year, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards or anywhere close to it. Rating: 1

Giona Leibold - Winger, Wehen Wiesbaden

Leibold is slowly trying to push his way further into Wehen’s first team. Following their promotion to the 2. Bundesliga, Leibold has been included in first team training this summer and early in the season, but he has yet to be included in a matchday squad. Leibold will have to really convince his coaches to give him looks, because he could find playing time hard to come by with them likely fighting to avoid relegation. Rating: 1

Netherlands

Sergiño Dest - Fullback, AFC Ajax

Following Dest’s start in the Cruyff Shield a couple weeks ago, Dest has been relegated to the bench with Nicolás Tagliafico returning from his break following the Copa America. However, the 18-year-old made his Eredivisie debut on Saturday when he replaced a wincing Noussair Mazraoui in the 53rd minute against FC Emmen. With Ajax already leading 2-0, Dest was solid and helped Ajax slam the door on their overmatched opponents (fun fact-2015 U-20 World Cup veteran Desevio Payne appeared late in this match for his first league appearance in nearly 2 years). Dest continues to work his way further into the Ajax setup. Hopefully he can keep it up. Ajax have a crucial second leg against PAOK FC on Tuesday after drawing the opening leg 2-2 this past Tuesday with Dest watching from the bench. If Mazraoui can’t go, Dest may be looking at a huge opportunity to prove his worth. Rating: 9

Joshua Pynadath - Winger, AFC Ajax

Pynadath has moved up to Ajax’s U-19 team this season. The 17-year-old has outstanding dribbling ability, but he’s had a quiet couple of years while he’s been battling injuries. Now he is moving up to a higher level and will need to show he’s up for it. He’s had a really solid preseason, featuring often and consistently being involved in goals and scoring chances. We’ll see if he can prove he can stay healthy and make his case for inclusion on the U-17 World Cup team. Rating: 1

United States

Brandon Servania - Central Midfielder, FC Dallas

Servania had a night to remember on Saturday. With FC Dallas level with Minnesota United 3-3, the 20-year-old came off the bench in the 75th minute and made a huge impact. In the 85th minute, Servania scored his first career MLS goal when he made a late run at the back post to score what would be the game-winner.

He wasn’t done yet. Late in stoppage time, Servania finished off a tremendous run by Paxton Pomykal by slotting home the nice cutback pass (this was Pomykal’s second assist of the season).

Servania has seen his minutes increase significantly since returning from the U-20 World Cup and has been impressive. He needs to keep pushing to become a regular starter. Rating: 4

Mason Toye - Striker, Minnesota United

Mason Toye got the start for Minnesota in their US Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday against the Portland Timbers. In the 64th minute with the match level at a goal apiece, Toye scored the eventual game-winner when he beat the defense over the top and beat the keeper with a lovely chipped finish.

Toye has been on a pretty nice stretch for Minnesota of late, having produced five goals and 2 assists in his last 516 minutes in all competitions. Minnesota will take on Atlanta United in the US Open Cup final. On Saturday, Toye came off the bench against FC Dallas and his notable contribution was spitting on Reggie Cannon. Hopefully this is a learning experience for the 20-year-old. Rating: 4

Andrew Carleton - Attacking Midfielder, Atlanta United

Carleton made a rare appearance on Wednesday night when he came off the bench early in the second half. Atlanta finished it off through Emerson Hyndman’s late goal to put them up 2-0. However, Carleton failed to make much of an impact with his opportunity. The 19-year-old has had a pretty disastrous season, only appearing six times with one start in all competitions for the first team. On top of that, there’s been questions of his maturity and professionalism. All this points to a disappointing campaign. Carleton needs to push himself to reach the next level. Talent isn’t enough. Rating: 2

Akil Watts - Right Back, Louisville City FC

Watts has moved on from RCD Mallorca and joined USL side Louisville City. The 19-year-old 2017 U-17 World Cup veteran failed to convince Mallorca’s academy that he had what it took to break into a La Liga club following their promotion to the Spanish top flight. We’ll see if he can make the most of his new opportunity in the USL. Rating: 1

One final thought:

A couple weeks ago, US Soccer announced that it was splitting the U-19 Development Academy into two tiers. In the top tier, the “Red Group”, you will find each of the 22 MLS academy’s representative along with 14 others. In the second tier, the “Blue Group”, among the 44 teams you will find many of the pay-to-play clubs that have been instrumental in developing some of the best talent in the US (see the full list below). These clubs claim they were “relegated” without any previous notice. First of all, it’s complete nonsense that some of these clubs were forced into the second tier. Crossfire Premier (the youth club that developed DeAndre Yedlin) has a good record against MLS competition. Clearly they’re doing something right. PA Classics (Christian Pulisic’s youth club) was demoted. BW Gottschee (Timothy Weah’s club before briefly playing in New York Red Bulls Academy) was demoted. Weston FC who has developed a ton of good players was demoted. IMG Academy was demoted. If US Soccer wants to move these clubs into two or more tiers, allow them to have promotion and relegation to determine who should play at the “higher” level. MLS shouldn’t just be able to say who comes and goes. There’s too many areas out there that are beyond MLS’ reach for this to be the case and many MLS teams don’t even take their academies seriously. Why should they be allowed to play in the top tier if that’s the case? It’s a ridiculous decision.

As always, hit the comment section to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about. Thank you for reading!