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Grading the Top 5 USMNT transfers after Gio Reyna
United States

Grading the Top 5 USMNT transfers after Gio Reyna

Published Feb. 1, 2024 6:12 p.m. ET

When it was finalized on the eve of Thursday's deadline, Gio Reyna's much-anticipated departure from German club Borussia Dortmund became easily the biggest transfer this winter among members of the U.S. men's national team.

But it was far from the only one. And while its impossible to know right now if Reyna's short-term loan to Premier League team Nottingham Forest will be a smashing success, an abject failure or something in between, most of the other deals are a lot easier to judge.

Here are the five biggest moves made by other Americans in 2024 — complete with way-too-early grades attached.

Alexi Lalas reacts to Gio Reyna transferring to Nottingham Forest | SOTU


M, Johnny Cardoso

To: Real Betis (Spain)

From: Internacional (Brazil)

Why he's here: Already a favorite of U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, the 22-year-old took a significant leap last month when he landed in arguably the second-best domestic league on Planet Fútbol. Cardoso arrived there nursing the ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from the national team's final camp of 2023. But he hit the ground running for Betis when he recovered, debuting against Barcelona and going 90 minutes in his next start, a 1-0 win away to Mallorca last weekend.

What this means: Cardoso isn't going to knock a healthy Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie or Yunus Musah out of Berhalter's preferred lineup soon. But injuries happen — Adams (hamstring surgery) hasn't played for his country since captaining it at the 2022 World Cup — and Cardoso, if he keeps playing regularly, should elevate his status and put him near the front of Berhalter's mind if any of the regulars are out.

Grade: A

M/F, Paxten Aaronson 

To: Vitesse Arnhem (Netherlands)

From: Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)

Why he's here: The 20-year-old Aaronson's first 12 months in Frankfurt yielded just 260 Bundesliga minutes spread across 14 appearances, prompting his desire for a loan this winter. He got it on Deadline Day, moving until the end of the season to Vitesse, a mainstay in the Dutch Eredivisie.

What this means: This switch is reminiscent of the successful one made by Ricardo Pepi in 2022. Like Aaronson, Pepi struggled in Germany after arriving mid-season from MLS before going on loan in the Netherlands and finding his feet. Aaronson needs to play. He should get that opportunity in Arnhem.

Grade: A-

GK, Zack Steffen

To: Colorado Rapids (MLS)

From: Manchester City (England)

Why he's here: Long the USMNT's presumptive No. 1 keeper at the 2022 World Cup, Steffen hasn't played for his country since March of that year and was shockingly left off of the roster for Qatar altogether by Berhalter, his former coach with the Columbus Crew. But the USMNT's depth chart in goal is shallower than a puddle: Matt Turner is expected to lose his job at Nottingham Forest to new recruit Matz Sels, and with no proven international backstops behind Turner, Steffen's deal opens the door for the veteran's potential return to the program.

What this means: Still only 28, Steffen remains an elite shot-stopper; he didn't end up at City by accident. But with Brazil's Ederson entrenched as Pep Guardiola's starter, he made just two Premier League appearances in five years and was mostly limited to some cup games when not on loan — first to Germany's Fortuna Düsseldorf and then Middlesbrough in England's second-tier Championship. Starting next month, though, Steffen will be playing every week. And given the Americans' full-blown crisis in goal, the timing count be better.

Grade: B+

GK, Ethan Horvath

To: Cardiff City (Wales)

From: Nottingham Forest (England)

Why he's here: Horvath was in an awful position at Forest. Omitted from the Premier League roster, he had no realistic hope of playing ahead of Turner or Greece's Odysseas Vlachodimos. But now he's back in the Championship — a league in which he excelled last season with Luton Town — following a Deadline Day deal.

What this means: Horvath was acquired by Cardiff to back up incumbent Jak Alnwick, at least initially. Which obviously isn't ideal. It's still a big upgrade for the 28-year-old considering his situation during the first half of this season. Now, at worst, he's an injury away from a starting job.

Grade: B

F, Brandon Vázquez

To: Monterrey (Mexico)

From: FC Cincinnati (MLS)

Why he's here: Vázquez drew genuine interest from top-flight teams in England and Germany but ended up with the Rayados, a Liga MX powerhouse and frequent FIFA Club World Cup participant. The 25-year-old target striker is off to a blazing start, scoring three times in his first two starts.

What this means: Forwards live off goals, and scoring in Mexico certainly can't hurt Vázquez's chances of becoming a USMNT regular. But will it really increase them? It's hard to know how much more stock Berhalter will put into Vázquez's production south of the border than in MLS, especially with the rest of the striker corps — Folarin Balogun, Daryl Dike, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent and others — all plying their trade in more competitive leagues in Europe. Remember: Vázquez was the co-leading American scorer in MLS in 2022 (along with Jesús Ferreira) and still didn't earn a cap that year. 

Grade: B

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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