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Sunday, May 19, 2024

USMNT Player Tracker: Battles of the Booths, De la Torre magic and Trusty trauma

Sibling rivalry, Spanish magic and English drubbings all play a part in this week’s USMNT Player Tracker.

Each Monday we will be bringing you updates on how the USMNT players and aspirants plying their trade in various leagues around Europe fared over the weekend.

With the Copa America this year, and a home soil World Cup looming ever larger on the horizon, we’re keeping tabs on how they are performing.

Issue of the weekend

Taylor Booth might not have had a little brother.

As a baby, the future USMNT forward cried so much — he was eventually diagnosed as suffering from torticollis, a painful neck condition, which required five months of therapy — that his mother, Kelli, almost decided against having another child.

She changed her mind, though and, on Sunday, Taylor’s younger brother Zach lined up against him in a Dutch top-flight match in which both Utah natives scored.

Taylor’s impressive hat-trick for Utrecht, after Zach had given relegation-fighting FC Volendam an early lead, ensured the older sibling walked off with the match ball and the bragging rights.

Taylor Booth celebrates with his team-mate, Oscar Fraulo (Ben Gal/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

But they embraced on the pitch afterwards and it was a proud occasion for their family — a game Taylor’s victorious club later dubbed ‘The Booth Battle’.

“To have family in the stadium and a result like that with three goals was definitely special,” said Taylor. “I knew the pressure was on (me) when Zach scored the opener. Feeling the pressure from him as the younger brother is something you don’t want as the older brother, but I knew I had to respond and show him who the boss was.

“He looked over at me when he scored and gave me a little smirk. When I made it 2-0 I made him a little ‘money’ sign for him to get his credit card ready for an expensive night. We’re going to go big tonight, for sure.”

The brothers honed their skills as kids playing in the basement of the family home, which father Chad — in attendance on Sunday with a half-and-half scarf wrapped round his neck given his allegiance to players at both clubs — converted into an indoor practice area.

Now Taylor, linked with Manchester United in the summer, and Zach, who is on loan at Volendam from Leicester City, are part of a crop of gifted young Americans making an impression in Europe.

Taylor, 22, a right winger who has two senior USMNT caps, came through the Real Salt Lake academy before joining Bayern Munich in 2020. He was sold to Utrecht, who are 11th in the table after Sunday’s win, in the summer of 2022.

Attacking midfielder Zach, 19, also started out at Real Salt Lake before being scouted by Leicester while playing for the United States’ Under-17s in a tournament in England. He signed for the Midlands club in 2020.

Taylor (left) and Zach Booth swap shirts after the corresponding game between Volendam and Utrecht in October (ANP via Getty Images)

Player of the weekend

It was a magical two minutes for Luca de la Torre in Osasuna on Sunday.

The USMNT midfielder recorded a quick-fire goal and assist midway through the first half as Celta Vigo enjoyed an emphatic away win in Pamplona.

De la Torre is having a fruitful spell under manager Rafa Benitez, with three goals and five assists in all competitions for the Spanish club so far this season.

The San Diego-born player has 20 appearances for his country and is proving one of the highlights at a Celta side who have otherwise rather struggled. Even after Sunday’s 3-0 win, they languish 16th in La Liga and only three points above the relegation zone.

But the 25-year-old’s quality has been consistent. Indeed, last month he scored an inspired backheel-flick goal in a Copa Del Rey win against Valencia — another fixture in which he created another goal for good measure.

De la Torre is enjoying a productive spell under Benitez (Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Quote of the weekend

Chris Richards did not have much to smile about after Crystal Palace’s 4-1 defeat at bitter rivals Brighton on Saturday, but he is optimistic about his role with the Premier League club this season.

After being converted into a temporary central midfielder by Roy Hodgson after Cheick Doucoure suffered a serious Achilles tendon injury, Richards has not ruled out a permanent shift into midfield.

“There are a lot of similarities between centre-back and central midfield, so I’ll never rule anything out,” he said. “If the gaffer sees me in that position long-term, then I’ll do whatever it takes to be on the pitch and to help this team get results.

“Especially in the modern game, and this season with the unfortunate amount of injuries we have, it’s about having players who are willing to adapt to whatever’s thrown at them.

Richards battles with Brighton’s Carlos Baleba (David Horton – CameraSport via Getty Images)

“If I can add certain aspects to my game, if I can show that I can play holding midfield, then it just adds another notch to my belt. And I think it shows not only the guys around me, but also the coaching staff, that they can trust me if they want to put me anywhere else on the pitch.

“Whether it’s the right understanding of the position… well, that’ll take time! But I know whatever position I’m in, I’ll give it 100 percent.”

Richards started in central midfield at the Amex stadium, only for an injury to captain Marc Guehi see him drop back into more familiar surroundings at centre-half. But, with a lengthy list of walking wounded, Palace may be grateful for Richards’ versatility in the months ahead.

How did other U.S. players get on?

Name: Auston Trusty
Club: Sheffield United
Position: Centre-back
Appearances: 20

It was a tough evening for Trusty as his Sheffield United team was thrashed 5-0 by Aston Villa at Bramall Lane, with one of the goals coming after a weak intervention by the Pennsylvanian.

Trusty, 25, was part of a much-changed back line, with new signing Mason Holgate joining him in a back three that struggled badly against a Leon Bailey-inspired Villa.

Trusty (left) tussles with Bailey for possession (Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Name: Joshua Sargent
Club: Norwich City
Position: Striker
Appearances: 12
Goals: 6

Sargent helped Norwich come from behind to beat his compatriot Haji Wright’s Coventry City on Saturday. That’s six goals in the Championship this season for the 23-year-old, with three of them coming since he recovered from the senior ankle injury that caused him to miss much of the season until December.

Name: Lynden Gooch
Club: Stoke City
Position: Left wing
Appearances: 24
Goals: 2

Another 5-0 thumping for an American in Europe, with Gooch’s Stoke embarrassed by a rampant Leicester City, the runaway leaders of the Championship, on Saturday.

Gooch, who started in a front three, managed only 18 touches in total and only one in the visitors’ box according before he was replaced on 57 minutes.

Gooch and Stoke endured a torrid afternoon against Leicester (Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Name: Johnny Cardoso
Club: Real Betis
Position: Midfielder
Appearances: 3

Another assured performance from Cardoso at the club he joined last month, as Betis drew 1-1 with Getafe.

“He played a good game and as the games go by he will improve his level,” said manager Manuel Pellegrini. “He is an important player for us and he has adapted very well to our football.“

Name: Jordan Pefok
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
Position: Striker
Appearances: 16
Goals: 6

Pefok provided an assist in what was otherwise a difficult afternoon at the Allianz Arena as the visitors were beaten 3-1 by Bayern Munich.

What’s coming up?

(All times Eastern)

Brenden Aaronson’s Union Berlin faces Mainz in the Bundesliga on Wednesday (12:30pm, ESPN+). Giovanni Reyna may gain more game time for new club Nottingham Forest in their FA Cup replay with Bristol City the same day (2:45pm).

Cameron Carter-Vickers is in action for Celtic against Hibernian in another Wednesday fixture (3pm, Paramount +). Folarin Balogun will also bid for more minutes on Thursday as Monaco face Rouen in the Coupe de France (2:45pm, Fox Soccer Plus).

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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