7 Europe-based Americans flying under your radar
Josh Gatt, Molde (@JoshuaGatt)
The story of Josh Gatt can best be described as a roller-coaster. Blessed with blistering speed, Gatt established himself in the Molde side before suffering three serious knee injuries, including one innocuous looking incident five minutes into his return in May last year.
Battling back time and again, his unbreakable spirit has been impressive to watch, with his perseverance rewarded this weekend with his first goal for Molde in over four years. Adding the definitive touch to a quick breakaway, it would seem Gatt has lost none of his speed, with his goal proving Molde were right to offer him a one-year extension while he was still rehabilitating. Online sources claim that contract will take him up until the end of the current year, meaning Gatt may have a difficult decision come January.
Former Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskajer is a big fan of Gatt, and continued development in Norway under his tutelage could be huge. However, after five years in Norway, Gatt may want a change of scenery. The 25-year-old had previously spoken of aspirations to one day play in the Bundesliga or the Premier League, and if he is able to secure a move to either the Championship or the 2.Bundesliga, it could start him on a path to top-flight success.
Brian Span, IFK Mariehamn (@CobiFresh)
There's a good chance you may have already read the story of Mariehamn and its unlikely title win in the Finnish Premier League. What may have escaped your eye was the team's midfield is being run by a former FC Dallas prospect, Brian Span. Although he was only officially with the Texas club for a year before being waived, he made a more lasting impression at Orlando City, then in USL Pro, playing over a dozen games for then head coach Adrian Heath.
The Somers, New York, native signed for Mariehamn in 2015 and helped the team to a sixth place finish last season. This season, Span was a mainstay in the team, playing over 30 games and netting two goals. That should help entice clubs to take a look at the University of Virginia product, with his Mariehamn contract coming to an end in December.
Bjorn Johnsen, Hearts (@BjornMaars)
The mention of dual-nationals is always a hot topic. Bjorn Johnsen will add more fuel to the fire. Born in New York City to a Norwegian father and American mother, Johnsen grew up in North Carolina before heading to his father's homeland to start his career.
There he joined the youth academy of Vålerenga before turning professional with Tonsberg. Still only 24-years-old, Johnsen has endured a nomadic existence, taking in spells with Antequera, Atletico Baleras, Louletano, Atletico CP and Litec Lovech. He joined Hearts earlier this year on a three-year-deal.
Forming part of a young squad that includes American midfielder Perry Kitchen, the forward netted just his second goal in nine games this weekend against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Big and powerful, there was tentative talk about Johnsen's international future during a purple patch at Litex, but that has since died down. The man himself seems unwilling to make a public declaration about his international future.
Caleb Stanko, FC Vaduz (@CStanko21)
It would be fair to say 2016 has been a big year for Caleb Stanko. The 23-year-old already had a handful of 2.Bundesliga appearances and can now add a senior U.S. cap to his resume after making his debut in September.
Contracted to SC Freiburg, the club have opted to take a patient approach by loaning him out to Swiss Super League side FC Vaduz. Stanko has been afforded playing time with the club based in neighboring Liechtenstein, but it has been a struggle. The team sits bottom of the league standings with 11 points and were no match for league power Young Boys this weekend, losing 5-0. The midfielder has started nine of the team's 13 league games, accruing just shy of 750 minutes.
The midfielder has five games left before the end of the Swiss season and faces an uncertain future at Freiburg. The club is well stocked at his position, and while he is said to be highly thought of, Stanko may struggle to earn consistent starts any time soon. That in turn may force him to assess his options, with the 23-year-old in need of playing time if he is to establish himself under Klinsmann.
Andrew Stadler, Östersunds FK (@Andrewstadler)
The name Andrew Stadler may not be familiar to most American soccer fans. The forward has largely flown under the radar, despite spending a successful three years at George Washington. Stadler took a chance on moving to Europe when he finished school, starting his career in the Swedish fourth division. Taking in spells with Farila IF, Sandvikens IF, and Landskrona BoIS, he then signed with second division side Östersunds FK, which earned promotion last season.
Tipped heavily for relegation, Östersunds looks likely to end the season in a comfortable mid-table position. That success has been cast alongside a frustrating season for Stadler, though. The forward has played 19 times for the club but has only managed three goals. Reduced to the role of a substitute in the latter part of the season, it remains to be seen what will happen to him in the off-season.
Tristan Bowen, AFC United (@TristanBowen7)
Bowen’s playing resume makes for interesting reading. The forward has played for the now dissolved Chivas USA, Hollywood United, Miami FC, LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Roeselare and KuPS, the one-time home of Freddy Adu.
Bowen has racked up some miles during his career, but hopefully he has now found some long-term stability with Swedish side AFC United, where he is playing alongside fellow former MLSers Korede Aiyegbusi and Joshua Wicks. Founded in 2007, the club's name – Athletic Football Club – is far from the most inventive, but that hasn't stopped it from making an impact. Thanks in part to three goals in 15 games from Bowen, AFC United has earned its first promotion to Sweden’s top flight.
Emmanuel Sabbi, Las Palmas (EmmanuelAMSabbi)
The Italian-born Sabbi has been a regular with the United States under-20 national team. Having committed to play for the University of Akron this fall, the 18-year-old forward changed his mind in August, instead returning to Europe to joining the Canary Islands-based Las Palmas for its Spanish first-division season.
Beginning his career with the Chicago Magic (the Fire’s development academy club), Sabbi was rumored to have drawn interest from Major League Soccer; it was later confirmed the teenager had little interest in playing stateside. Sabbi is now playing for Las Palmas’ youth squad, hopeful of cracking the first team soon.