Americans Abroad Preview: Agudelo and Johannsson clash in battle of young U.S. forwards

Juan Agudelo will look to impress Jurgen Klinsmann when he and FC Utrecht take on Aron Johannsson and AZ in this weekend's marquee match featuring Americans in Europe.
If Juan Agudelo is hoping to impress U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann enough to earn a call up for next month’s friendly against Ukraine, this weekend could offer one of his best opportunities.

Agudelo and FC Utrecht take on Aron Johannsson and AZ in a Dutch league clash on Saturday that could help Agudelo show how he stacks up next to one of the forwards considered a lock to make the U.S. World Cup team.

Agudelo has enjoyed early success at Utrecht, grabbing a starting role just one match into his arrival in the Netherlands, but FC Utrecht has been struggling, with a five-match winless streak pushing the club close to the relegation zone. For AZ, the battle for a top four place in the Eredivisie appears lost, but the ‘Cheese Farmers’ can still look to secure Europa League qualification by securing a top eight place, which ensures a berth in the Eredivisie’s Europa League playoff.

Jozy Altidore and Sunderland will look to shake off last week’s disappointing loss to Hull City, while also taking a step closer to a potential second cup final of the year when they take on Southampton in FA Cup action on Saturday. The Black Cats have slid back into the relegation zone in league play, and must look to rebound against a Southampton side unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions. Sunderland had its own eight-match unbeaten run ended by Hull City last weekend.

Several other Americans will be competing in FA Cup action this weekend, including Tim Howard, who will look to lead Everton past Swansea City on Sunday. Eric Lichaj’s Nottingham Forest faces Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday as well, though Lichaj is an injury question for the match. Oguchi Onyewu is sidelined with an injury as well, thus forcing him to miss Sheffield Wednesday’s FA Cup meeting with Charlton Athletic.

In League Championship action, Will Packwood and Birmingham City will take on teenage midfielder Duane Holmes and Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Packwood has re-established himself as a starting central defender for Birmingham, and should be considered a potential candidate for a call up from Klinsmann given the rash of injuries to the defender pool.

Danny Williams and Reading FC will look to maintain their hold on a top six place in the League Championship with a win against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday. QPR sits in third place at the moment, but could be vulnerable after a recent two-match winless skid.

For Tim Ream and Bolton, a victory against Millwall on Saturday could help ease some of the pressure caused by a recent run of four losses in five matches that has dropped the Trotters to within five points of the relegation zone. Ream be looking to impress as he makes his own case for a March call from Klinsmann.

Brek Shea and Barnsley could take a major step toward climbing out of the relegation zone with a win on Saturday against Doncaster Rovers. Barnsley sits five points out of the relegation zone, just behind Doncaster, making a victory this weekend a precious opportunity to close considerable ground.

In the Bundesliga, Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim meet VfB Stuttgart in a clash of teams trying to avoid sliding into a relegation scrap. Hoffenheim is five points clear of the relegation zone after a recent win and draw, while Stuttgart is mired in a five-match losing streak that has the club just two points away from having to play for its Bundesliga survival in a relegation playoff match.

John Brooks will look to make his return to action for Hertha Berlin against VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday. Brooks has been sidelined for a month with a knee injury, but could be back in uniform this weekend.

In Bundesliga 2, Andrew Wooten will try to build on his first goal of the season when FSV Frankfurt takes on Dynamo Dresden. A pair of U.S. national team prospects clash on Friday when Alfredo Morales and FC Ingolstadt take on Bobby Wood and 1860 Munich.

In France’s Ligue 1, Alejandro Bedoya and Nantes will look to half a five-match winless slide by beating Nice in a battle of mid-table teams. With qualification for European competition now looking like a lost cause, Nantes will be looking to secure a place in the top half of the table, which would be no small feat for a team that was only just promoted to Ligue 1 last summer.

In Mexico, Herculez Gomez faces his former club, Santos Laguna on Friday night when the Club Tijuana contingent of Americans travel to Torreon. The Xolos have alternated wins and losses to start the Clausura campaign, but they’ll be looking to make it two wins in a row by beating a Santos side that could be fatigued after a mid-week Copa Libertadores match.

Jose Torres and UANL Tigres have endured a terrible start to the Clausura, going winless in the first five matches. They will look to halt that slide against Jaguares de Chiapas on Saturday.

Puebla’s start hasn’t been much better, but Michael Orozco and DaMarcus Beasley will look to turn things around when they face unbeaten Cruz Azul on Saturday.