“I think it’s important to note that some recent transfers from MLS came too early. Think about Bryan Reynolds, who went to Roma. Or George Bello. There’s an argument to be made that he could have stayed in MLS and dominated the league and then moved. So there’s a number of guys who I’m concerned are leaving too early,” Berhalter recently told.
On the surface, Dike moving from Orlando City to West Brom seemed like a weird move but one that could be good for him due to playing under his old coach at Barnsley, Valerian Ismael. Dike would have a familiar face that knows what he was good at. At the time, the Baggies were also in a good position to make the promotion playoffs for a spot in the Premier League.
Right now things aren’t looking great for Dike as he looks to return to full strength, but he’s only 22 and could turn a strong preseason into a spot in the lineup as a key man for West Brom. Grade: D
After making only two appearances for the club, Dike sustained a hamstring injury versus Peterborough that would see him miss nine league matches. Ismael was fired after only winning 12 of his 31 matches in charge, and the team was in turmoil. Steve Bruce took over but the hole was dug too deep to make the promotion playoffs.
USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter has even questioned whether some players would have been better served staying in MLS rather than attempting to establish themselves in Europe.
Taking a look at those words, he has a point. So in spirit, let’s take a look at some of the moves made between January 2021 and January 2022 to see if what Berhalter is speaking about held up. All moves are graded on an A to F scale, taking into account not only how the players did but also if the move helped get them a better transfer down the road.
Just making the cut due to being a January 2021 move, Aaronson’s transfer to RB Salzburg could become one of the new development standards for young Americans. Get a move to a strong team that has a track record of youth development, integrate into the side, play in Champions League and then move to a bigger club. Aaronson had the benefit of moving to Salzburg under Jesse Marsch for six months, but his hard work and soccer brain ensured that he would do everything necessary to become the best version of himself.
Leaving Salzburg winning the Austrian double two years running and making the round of 16 in Champions League, it’s been quite the journey. Scoring nine goals and assisting nine more in 46 league appearances for the club may not seem like much in a high-scoring league like Austria, but when Aaronson has become more of an eight since leaving the Philadelphia Union, they become a lot more impressive.
Earning a move to Leeds United, Aaronson will now have a chance to grow even more, while having a new experience and being united with Marsch before the World Cup. He couldn’t be in a much better position right now, and it began with starting with the right move to Europe. Grade: A Sargent’s move is a weird one. After scoring two goals in the 2. Bundesliga, it seemed like he was set for a breakout season that he desperately needed. But after a move to Norwich City, his struggles mirrored those of the Canaries who would be relegated from the Premier League. Considering Norwich went through two coaches during the season and Sargent missed eight matches with an ankle injury, he got a considerable amount of playing time logging over 1500 minutes.
The issue is that in that time, Sargent only scored two goals, assisting one more, and both goals scored were in the same game. He played both as a forward in a front two and a right winger but wasn’t particularly effective in either role. Now in the Championship, the hope is that Sargent can get consistent playing time in the second division to build his confidence, but when he was already on the road to getting that at Bremen, was the Norwich City move worth it? Grade: F Scally only had seven appearances to his name for New York City FC before making the move to Germany, but one of the perks of playing within City Football Group is that the eyes of the world are on you no matter what level you play at. It took a little for Scally to break into the first team playing with Gladbach’s second team, but during the 2021-22 season, Scally became integral to the setup.
Playing right back, left back and both outside midfield positions as well, Scally was a bright spot in a dark Gladbach season, registering one goal and two assists. His versatility led to USMNT fans calling for Berhalter to integrate him into the national team during World Cup qualifying and while that didn’t happen, he took part in the summer camp and seems to be passing Bello on the depth chart. Grade: B Pepi’s struggles are well chronicled. With teams like Atletico Madrid and Wolfsburg circling, Pepi went to relegation-threatened Augsburg. Looking to save a team from relegation is an amount of pressure for any forward, but even more so at only 18. While Augsburg secured another season of Bundesliga soccer, Pepi will need a strong preseason to break into the starting lineup. The hope is that after joining in January during a tough time with the club, having a rest over the summer will help Pepi put last season in the rearview mirror.
Heading to Augsburg, Pepi was almost a lock to lead the line for the United States at the World Cup but playing less than 500 minutes with no goals or assists has seen Jesus Ferreira pass him on the depth chart. These struggles also spilled over to national team play. At only 19, there is certainly time for Pepi to rebound but he may need a loan to the 2. Bundesliga. He has not scored a goal since October. Grade: F