As it always has been (and sometimes it seems that it always will be) that the only big hole in the US men’s international team is the top one, a center forward. You will never want to be in a place where you wonder if there is a way to make Jozy Altidore rejuvenate by 10 years. After all, it is Jozy Altidore. But such were the options. Alex Morgan five years younger? We are here, and it is dark, cold and lonely.
The last battle for that particular jersey took a turn yesterday, as did both of them Ricardo Pepi And Daryl DikeHe has reportedly hit transfers to head overseas permanently. It’s no shock to Pepi, who burst onto the national team scene in the fall with his performances against Honduras and Jamaica, but he’s been more functional than inspirational ever since.
However, at just 18, and now heading to Germany to play for Augsburg for $ 20 million – the second-highest ever in the MLS and second-highest for an American – it’s hard to quell the excitement that the meteoric rise of Pepi since last spring has spawned. Pepi became a regular for FC Dallas just last season and scored 13 goals for what was a rather poor side. Again, there is a lot to mold from a still very rough shape given its age, but the complete package is there somewhere. Pepi has the goal, what he needs is team play. He still struggles to create and connect attacks when he’s not finishing them.
However, one can’t help but wonder if Augusta is the right setting for Pepi, at least right now. This is something of the corollary of Josh Sargent, the player Pepi practically kicked off the US squad and Dike hopes to do. Moving to a struggling club is not always the best stage for a striker, where chances are slim and most of the time is spent chasing the ball. Augsburg is just above the relegation zone in the Bundesliga, and is one of the most rotten attacking teams in the league (third for last for expected goals, next to last for shots per game, third from last for shots on goal per game). For starters, Augsburg hardly ever presses high, another strong point of Pepi’s game. There’s no question Augsburg needs some juice up top, but Pepi will have to master by making the most of the scraps he gets as far as the possibilities go.
Dike has not been able to decipher the USMNT qualifying roster and has not yet appeared in a qualifying match. But as Pepi has shown, you can go from outside the tool shed to the dining room in no time at all, given the scarcity of choices that Greg Berhalter has as a center forward. And he’s started the last four games of the Gold Cup, so he’s finally in orbit.
Dike will move to West Brom in the English league, the second division. There, he will play for the same manager who brought him on loan at Barnsley last year, Valérian Ismaël. So we know he will have every opportunity.
And while it may seem wrong to say that Dike has the same ability to impress in a second division as Pepi heads for one of the top five leagues, Dike is headed for a team that plays well. Although unfortunately for him, he may run into some of the same problems with The Baggies. As they sit right in the middle of the promotion playoff points in the table (4th place), they can’t even handle a piss in a brewery when it comes to scoring. They have just 30 goals in 24 games. However, the difference is that West Brom doesn’t even need help to get the chances, he just needs someone to finish them. They generate the second most shots and shots on target per game in the division, they just don’t have a striker who can hit a bull in the ass with a banjo aside from Karlan Grant. And it has a goal since the beginning of November.
Dike scored nine league goals last season in just 19 games for Barnsley, though he scored 70 percent of the shots he put on goal then. However, the amount of shots he put on goal did not diminish when he returned to MLS and Orlando, so if he can handle anything like his shot last spring, he could just get West Brom back into the Premier League. And it won’t take long to relaunch a striker in the USMNT framework.
Overall, it’s always a good thing when multiple USMNT players are exported to Europe as well The certainty of Pepi’s $ 20 million price tag catches the eye. If the US is ever going to make noise, it will have to solve this problem sooner or later. Hopefully this is yet another step in the direction of doing so.