It was a big week for a quartet of American youth players over in Germany.
First leg semifinals of the U19 Bundesliga took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with McKinzie Gaines, Nicholas Taitague, Haji Wright and Weston McKennie all getting earning significant minutes for their respective club sides.
The latter three started for Schalke in its 3-1 win against FC Bayern on Wednesday. Wright led the line, scoring the third goal, while Taitague featured on the right wing and McKennie manned central midfield.
Schalke jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes, with Taitague winning a penalty kick for his side’s second goal. Wright found the back of the net with an emphatic, left-footed strike to the upper corner to extend the lead to 3-1 in the second half. The U.S. U17 World Cup veteran performed well on the day, tracking back to defend, holding the ball up when needed and connecting with his teammates in the final third. He did miss a chance for a second goal, glancing a header just wide shortly after his opener.
Taitague exited the game in the 68th minute, while McKennie finished the game in central defense for the game’s final 15 minutes.
German-American dual international Timothy Tillman started for Bayern Munich as well. Reports from February suggest Tillman is interested in representing Germany on the international stage, though he was a non-factor for most of the 90 minutes.
Tuesday’s semifinal didn’t go as well for Gaines, as his Wolfsburg U19s fell 3-2 on a late goal against Borussia Dortmund.
Playing on the right wing, Gaines was busy and active when he had the ball, creating a handful of scoring chances with his crossing and dynamic runs.
Former U.S. U17 goalkeeper and Duke recruit William Pulisic made the match day squad for Dortmund opposite Gaines, but didn’t see any action.
Both of the semifinal second legs are scheduled for next week, with Schalke looking to hold its 3-1 lead, and Wolfsburg needed to overturn the 3-2 result on the road in Dortmund.