As the year draws to a close, the former Philadelphia Union homegrowns in Europe are making a name for themselves.
Brenden Aaronson helped Red Bull Salzburg advance to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage, Mark McKenzie is starting consistently at Genk, and Jack de Vries earned his first-team debut with Venezia FC.
With just a single loss in league play, Red Bull Salzburg continues to dominate the Austrian Bundesliga, which is expected for the club. But with their 1-0 win over Sevilla, Salzburg reached the knockout round in the Champions League for the first time in their history. Aaronson played a key role in the victory, hitting a pinpoint pass to Karim Adeyemi, who found Noah Okafor for the tap-in. Aaronson joins his USMNT teammates Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, and Tim Weah in the Champions League Round of 16, but Salzburg faces a tough test in German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
After struggling to find playing time, a series of events opened the door for Mark McKenzie. Carlos Cuesta picked up an injury in Genk’s Europa League match against West Ham; the club fired coach John van den Brom and hired Bernd Strock; and Cuesta tested positive for COVID-19 along with fellow center back Jhon Lucimi, taking them both out of the lineup. As a result, McKenzie has gone from fighting for a spot to playing the full 90 minutes (or 120 in the case of Genk’s Belgian Cup match against Club Brugge) in six of the last seven matches. He’s had several strong performances, particularly with his passing, though Genk remains stuck in the middle of the Jupiter League table.
Jack de Vries
19 year old American Jack De Vries makes his professional debut for Venezia pic.twitter.com/UFQGoJObBz— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 14, 2021
Jack de Vries’s recent scoring run in the Campionato Primavera 2, which included a hat trick versus Vicenza U19, did not go unnoticed. On December 14, de Vries made his Venezia first- team debut in their second-round Coppa Italia match against Ternana. He came on in the 76th minute and picked up a yellow card in the 79th during an otherwise quiet shift, as Venezia cruised to a 3-1 win over the Serie B side. With seven goals in the Primavera 2, de Vries is currently Venezia U19’s leading scorer.
Genk and the Venezia U19s are off and return in the middle of January. Red Bull Salzburg is on break until the Austrian Bundesliga picks back up in the beginning of February, and they host Bayern Munich on February 16 for the first leg of their Champions League matchup. Aaronson and McKenzie will also be looking to the next round of World Cup qualifying at the end of January, with the USMNT taking on El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras.
Auf Wiedersehen, tot ziens, arrivederci!