The last sunrise of 2022 came up in Belgium this morning, although nobody saw it through the grey sky and the drizzle. But as the curtain closes on the old year, a new one will dawn tomorrow and hopefully the sun will be visible.
The Yanks in Belgium have had mixed fortunes thus far this season and for Mark McKenzie, it hasn’t been half bad.
Except for the last result, a shock defeat at the hands of Kortrijk, they haven’t dropped points in the league since early September and now find themselves seven points ahead of USG in the top spot.
The defender from New York and his Smurfs not only have a good chance at dethroning Club Brugge, the reigning champions, but are having a pretty good Belgian Cup run as well.
It took a 95th-minute strike to break the deadlock against Anderlecht just after the World Cup break and now they’ll go up against Royal Antwerp in a couple weeks in a quarter final clash. Who knows, Genk could actually “do the double” this season.
Not too far behind McKenzie and his team is Sam Vines and Royal Antwerp. Unfortunately the Colorado Springs defender, who has one goal to his name this season, will be out of action for another few weeks due to a fractured tibia. He’ll unfortunately miss the aforementioned cup quarter final contest against Gent but will hope to take part in the semi-finals if all goes well for the Great Old.
On the league front, Antwerp started the season brilliantly and spent many weeks in the top spot. Recent results had gone against them however but not so much so that they are struggling. In fact they are sitting in third place although ten points out of the top spot. This isn’t very traumatic however because when the play-offs begin, the top four team will cut their total points in half in order to make it more interesting.
The defending champions, Club Brugge, have two Americans on their books although neither Owen Otasowie nor 19-year-old Mauricio Cuevas are not exactly waiting in the wings to join the first team. When they play, both suit up for Club NXT, which is the Brugge reserve side. Otasowie’s status is always baffling, something out of a daytime soap opera, but he did play once for the first team at the beginning of the season and has since made four appearances for NXT, although he has yet to find the back of the net.
Cuevas, on the other hand, is a prospect for the future and the young defender has already put in a dozen appearances, starting nine times. If all goes well, the Los Angelinos should find himself moving up into the first team sometime next season. Club is sitting in fourth place, just a few points up on Gent for that coveted fourth play-off spot, while NXT sits in sixth. They however cannot be promoted regardless of where they finish.
Having played last season for KV Kortrijk, AS Roma loaned loaned Bryan Reynolds to another Pro League team this season. The Texan currently plays in the back four for Westerlo, where he has cemented his spot in the starting lineup after spending a few games on the bench. The best that can happen for Reynolds is that Jose Mourinho decides that the kid does have a future in the Italian capital and keeps him when next season starts. Westerlo is currently in seventh place so they do have a shot at making the top play-off group but it will not be easy for them.
There is another Yank on the team and he is Griffin Yow. The DC United product came across the pond to join the Belgian outfit at the beginning of this season. He has yet to see any first team action as he earns his keep in the reserves.
Twenty-two year old Jorge Hernandez joined Mechelen in the summer and has worked his way onto the field of play making nine appearances off the bench but only 114 total minutes for the 14th-place club. They are dangerously close to the relegation zone so at this point success for them would be staying in the Pro League when the season ends. For the LA Galaxy youth, working his way into a starting position would also spell success.
Tyler Wolff is still on the books of second division SK Beveren who are currently in second place and hoping to return to the Pro League but the young man has made just five appearances totaling 35 minutes, so returning to Atlanta United in the new year is probably what will happen to him.
Teenager Moses Nyeman also joined Beveren in the summer but the youngster has yet to kick on ball for the first team.
Yanks Abroad’s man on the ground in Belgium will continue to bring you all the action right up to the play-offs and will hopefully thrown in a few Press Box Reports and interviews with the American boys before the summer rolls around.