Americans Abroad: Brooks makes Wolfsburg return

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The defender made his long awaited Bundesliga debut for his new club after missing the first three months of the season with injury

After an agonizing wait, John Brooks has finally made his Bundesliga debut with Wolfsburg.

The 24-year-old center back, who made a €17 million move to the club from Hertha Berlin in the summer, had yet to actually make his first appearance in the league for Wolfsburg, having been sidelined for three months after suffering a thigh injury in the DFB Pokal in August.

Not only was Brooks kept from the Bundesliga, but also from World Cup qualifying for the United States. With the defensive woes the U.S. suffered in September and October, the center back's presence was sorely missed.

However, he made his return to the bench for Wolfsburg's 1-0 win over Hannover in the Pokal last Wednesday, though he did not play. Brooks then returned to the XI against Schalke on Saturday, making his league debut for the club in a 1-1 draw.

Brooks went the full 90 and was active, making 12 tackles in the draw. And he was excited to be back on the field after a long layoff, celebrating his return on Instagram.

 

Back where I belong, I never felt so strong. 💪🏽🎶 Good and well deserved point. 🐺 #JayB #wallofbrooks #s04wob

A post shared by John Anthony Brooks official (@j_brooks25) on

“Back where I belong, I never felt so strong,” Brooks said on Instagram. “Good and well deserved point.”

Sitting in 14th place and winless in eight, the return of one of Wolfsburg's big summer signings is welcome news for the club. And Brooks will finally get the opportunity to prove himself worthy of his large price tag as he aims to make a strong impression at his new club.


HORVATH DROPPED BY BRUGGE


Ethan Horvath had started every game for Club Brugge this season. But that all changed this weekend after a 2-0 loss to Genk midweek.

Horvath was rooted to the spot on a free-kick goal that opened the scoring for Genk. While the kick bent in nicely, it’s arguable he should have done much better. It’s an area that Horvath has previously said he needs to work on.

And now it appears he may have to do it in training, rather than games as Brugge’s manager Ivan Lenko has declared the goalkeeper spot an open competition.

"There has been a lot of pressure on Horvath lately,” Lenko said in quotes published in Nieuwsblad. “Some saves he did well, other attempts were not. There have been some individual mistakes lately. So it was time to give Guillaume Hubert a chance. He was doing well in training. But that does not mean anything for the coming weeks. At this moment there is no fixed number one with us."

Horvath did not start Brugge’s 4-1 win Sint-Truiden with the 23-year-old Hubert making two saves. Post-game, Lenko called it a tough decision to bench Horvath.

“We have two young goalkeepers who need to work hard and still have to make progress. It was not an easy decision, but as a coach you should also make difficult decisions.”

With Brugge winning, it would not be a surprise if Hubert kept his spot in the XI. The good news for Horvath is that he’s not the first young keeper to lose his place. The club valued him enough last year to buy him, and has given him every game this year until this point. If he can improve his command of the area on set pieces, Horvath should eventually be able to reclaim his spot.


MIAZGA STRUGGLES AGAINST LOZANO


Felipe Caicedo Matt Miazga Lazio Vitesse

Matt Miazga has come on very strong for much of the season at Vitesse while continuing his loan from Chelsea. However, Sunday’s outing against PSV will be one the defender will want to forget. And to make matters worse, Miazga’s struggles came against a potential international rival.

PSV, led by Mexico international Hirving Lozano, blitzed past host Vitesse by a 4-2 scoreline. Lozano bagged a brace and added an assist in the contest.

On the first goal, Miazga lost Lozano as he ran in behind to receive a pass and slot home the opener. On the second, Miazga could have potentially stepped out to close down Jurgen Locadia, who blasted home his shot from distance.

While the goalkeeper could take part of the blame on that goal, the fourth was very much on Miazga as a low cross got caught up in his feet. Not only did Miazga then fall over, but the ball ended up at Lozano’s feet and the Mexico international did not miss. Meanwhile, Miazga was credited with an error leading to a goal.

It was an ugly night for Miazga after what may have been one of his best games of the season in a 4-0 win over SC Heerenveen the week before.

The defender may get his next chance in European competition as Vitesse hosts Zulte Waregem in Europa League play Thursday. The Eredivisie side looks unlikely to make it out of the group stage however, as they have just one point, eight behind group leaders Lazio and five behind second place Nice.


YOUNG AMERICANS MAKE DEBUTS


The younger members of the U.S. player pool are the focus these days after the team's stunning World Cup qualifying failure. Fans may be keeping an eye on some of the youngsters in the European youth ranks, wondering when they may secure playing time. For a pair of Americans, that opportunity came in the last week.

Luca de la Torre, 19, has featured for Fulham’s U-23 side and has gotten three games in the League Cup last season, but had yet to make an appearance with the senior team in the Championship. That changed this weekend as he came on for a brief cameo in the Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Bolton, entering in the 89th minute. U.S. international Tim Ream went the full 90 in the draw.

Meanwhile in Spain, Shaq Moore had been making the bench for La Liga side Levante over the past month, but had yet to make his full debut. Moore took care of that in the Copa Del Rey this week, as he went 90 minutes Thursday in a 2-0 first leg win over Girona.

The performance earned Moore a substitute appearance Sunday in a 2-2 draw against Eibar for his first La Liga outing.

"I am [getting on] very well with the team,” Moore said in quotes published on eldesmarque.com after the Girona win. “I was waiting for this moment, I wanted to seize the opportunity.”

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It seems like his head coach is very high on him as well.

“He's a very nice guy, he's very good. He's a very young man with a good mentality and he's been taking part with us since last year,” Levante head coach Juan Muniz said. “He's come out and he's realized that the pace is not the same and suffered. But he is a boy who will provide many good moments to the club.”

As with any young player, ups and downs are to be expected. But Moore appears to be making the right impression, and could find himself as the rare American to play consistently in La Liga.

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