Can an American Youth Product help Roma?

In the current international window, the US men’s team fielded a squad of almost completely young and up-and-coming talent. The team played well and most of the youngsters showed promise. Do any deserve a look from AS Roma?

I thought I’d write this mostly because I’m bored and we still have some time before the winter window, but also because I think we have a reasonable American contingent here on CDT who might also follow the men’s team. I’m sure other countries are also stocked with young talent, but I don’t follow any of them, so I’ll stick with the US squad.

So, the question is: with new American owners, does it make sense to tap into a rising young American star? This could make sense for several reasons:

  1. The United States is a market worth targeting. Serie A in general is increasing in popularity and respect. As US fans think about following a team outside EPL, a player rising through the USMNT ranks could attract some to AS Roma.
  2. The United States youth talent, for the first time, is legit. There could be some gems worth polishing.
  3. The recent squad is young – most are under 25, so they could have room for growth matched with lower salaries and lower immediate expectations.
  4. Most of these names are already plying their trade in Europe. They have a smaller "leap" to make to the bigger stage (in fact, many already have done so). On the other hand, many are at big clubs so they also may be too expensive or unavailable.

While many of us who follow the USMNT have deserved reservations that this most recent youth-oriented and Euro-oriented squad will quickly be infused with older MLS "talent" and we will revert to our old ways, this article is about the youth and whether any individual players make sense for AS Roma. Whether the US can capitalize on the rising talent is up for debate on another blog.

This recent squad clocked in at an overall average age of 21.4 years. Removing Tim Ream (33 years old) it drops to 20.9 years old.

I don’t think anyone would look at Wales and Panama as strong competition, but after watching both games, the youth players certainly didn’t look out of their element. So, are any worth further investigation?

Here are my thoughts. For those of you familiar, do any strike you as "potentials" for AS Roma?

GoalkeepersZach Steffan (25) was the only one to play. In my mind, he is serviceable but not top quality. Of course, Manchester City recently acquired him, so who am I to judge. Either way, he isn’t likely to come to Roma.

Centerbacks – the team has an established centerback in John Brooks (27 - Wolfsburg) and rising star Chris Richards (20 - Bayern II) but Brooks isn’t a step up for us and I doubt Richards would move away from Bayern right now.

Right BackSergino Dest (20) looked amazing. I wish we would have gone after him a year ago, but Barcelona acquired him from Ajax for 21 million. With four appearances and 2 starts, he might have a path to seeing regular minutes at Barca.

Alternatively, Reggie Cannon (22 – Boavista) put in a good shift at right back. He doesn’t look to have the upside of Dest but plays in Portugal and could want to make a step up. But is he really an upgrade over what we have?

Left Back – the only official left back on the squad was Antonee Robinson (23 – Fulham). The fan base seems to be split on him and I’m not totally convinced but he looks dangerous going forward. Perhaps he could be a good option in Roma’s 3-man defense setup? Of course, our need is on the right-side.

Midfield – the USMNT midfield seems to be stacked with potential, many of which are worth scouting but most aren’t likely to be available or affordable. Tyler Adams (21 – Leipzig) has been steadily improving at Leipzig and, in my opinion, could be an upgrade to Diawara. Tyler played in a defensive midfield role, controlling the middle while letting McKennie and Musah alternate in attack. I really like Adams and would love to see him in Roma colors next to Veretout and Pellegini, allowing both those players to range forward.

Weston McKennie (22) has already found his way to Serie A to Juventus and looks to be transitioning well. Yunus Musah (17) appears to have a big upside given his solid play as a 17-year old. He isn’t committed to the US just yet, so the marketability may be in question, but he appears to be a talent. Unfortunately, he is at Valencia and may not be looking to move.

The rest of the midfield includes a crop of younger players at smaller teams – Ledezma (20) at PSV Eindhoven’s U21s. Johnny Cardoso (19) at Internacional in Brazil and Otasowie (19 – Wolverhampton U23) who didn’t see any minutes.

Forwards – the official squad included Christian Pulisic (forgetaboutit) who missed out due to a knock and Josh Sargent (20 – Werder Bremen) who also missed out due to local COVID restrictions.

One of the top players in the past two games was Gio Reyna, the 18-year old who is getting regular starting minutes with Borrussia Dortmund. He is likely too expensive to pry away, but how about Nicholas Gioacchini (20)? I’d never heard of the guy, but he showed some real grinta and seems to have a nose for getting into the right places to score. With a one-game sample size, it is hard to tell but he does have Italian heritage (I think?) and plays at Caen at France’s 2nd division, so perhaps he is worth a look.

Other forwards of note were Konrad de la Fuente (19 – Barcelona), Sebastian Soto (20 – Telstar), Uly Llanez (19 – Heerenveen NED) and Tim Weah (20 – Lille). All showed some potential. It may be unlikely to pull Konrad from Barca given that he just arrived and US forwards have a way of looking good against CONCACAF competition but then disappointing with their clubs. Weah may be worth a look though. Fast, good skills and a great pedigree. He could be a young SES type player if he continues to develop. I believe he has ties to France, so acquiring him may be difficult.

Josh Sargent (20 – Werder Bremen) didn’t play but deserves a mention. He has been hit-or-miss with Bremen but so has their entire team. Josh plays like a big man up-front, similar to Dzeko’s style. Further scouting could find him to be a good, low cost, understudy.

Overall, it looks like the youth product from the US has a lot of potential. Whether it will be fulfilled or not is anyone’s guess. Unfortunately, if you look at the clubs associated with most of these names, it appears as if this roster has been picked-over. AS Roma might need to wait for a few to get disillusioned when their big move to a top team results in sitting on the bench (like Perez) but given the potential and the marketing benefits, I hope the new DS takes a closer look at some of these guys.

What do you guys think?