Americans Abroad: U.S. teenager Gaines earns first start

Injury can provide opportunity in the sports world, and for Orrin McKinze Gaines, that’s what appears to have happened for him at Darmstadt.

The teenager moved from Wolfsburg to Darmstadt during the summer on a permanent move, likely looking for a better chance to crack the game-day lineup. That did not happen right away, but circumstances have changed in the past few weeks. 

Injury to wingers Sandro Sirigu and Tobias Kempe offered a chance for Gaines, who got his first 2.Bundesliga appearance last Monday for Darmstadt in a 4-3 loss to Nurnberg in which he received 30 minutes. He was solid enough to earn the start this past Friday against Fortuna Dusseldorf, when Kempe, who had played against Nurnberg, had to miss out completely.

However, it did not appear to go well for the 19-year-old winger, as he went 45 minutes before being substituted. He struggled to contribute in the attack and did not track back well enough in defense. His replacement, Marvin Mehlem, appeared to inject a bit of life into Darmstadt, though it would not be enough.

“We must remember that he played in the A-Youth last season and he did it well for his situation,” Darmstadt boss Torsten Frings said of Gaines post-match.

Frings’ defense of Gaines is nice, but based on the fact he only went a half and reviews of the performance were far from glowing, it looks like the teen will have a lot to work on. 

Lining up on the left side of the midfield in both his appearances thus far, it’s not clear if this is the one golden opportunity Gaines will receive for the time being. Kempe is out with a broken toe, so Darmstadt will be short handed on that side.

However, it behooves Gaines to make an impression now. In addition to Kempe, January will bring Trinidad and Tobago international Joevin Jones into the fold, and while the current Sounders man could line up at fullback, he may well end up an option in the left midfield. 

In other words, there may be no better time this season for Gaines to push himself into Frings’ plans. While he is young, results will be what’s expected if he is going to carve himself out a role.


CHANDLER INJURED AGAINST DORTMUND


Timmy Chandler Eintract Frankfurt Borussia Dortmund

There are not many Americans abroad who consistently find themselves in the XIs of teams in top leagues. And unfortunately, that number may have gotten even smaller this weekend after Timmy Chandler went down with a serious knee injury.

Lining up for Eintracht Frankfurt against Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund, Chandler was forced off in the first half, unable to walk off under his own power. He was replaced by Mexico international Carlos Salcedo.

Tests determined the fullback had suffered a meniscus tear and the 27-year-old Chandler will require surgery to repair the issue. There is no timetable for his return, though he is expected to be out for an extended period.

It is a bitter blow for Chandler, who had started every game for Frankfurt in the Bundesliga to that point in the season and spoils a quality 2-2 draw for his side against the Bundesliga leaders.


LICHAJ SCORES IN HUNT TO RECLAIM ROLE


Eric Lichaj Nottingham Forest

It has been a difficult start to the Championship season for Eric Lichaj.

After being a regular starter for Nottingham Forest — which was almost relegated from the English second division — last year and winning the club’s player of the year award for 2016-17, the fullback found his place taken by new signing Tendayi Darikwa.

Lichaj was limited to League Cup starts to begin the year, only getting his first Championship start on Oct. 15 against Derby. But he played well enough to earn another game in the XI, this time in place of Darikwa, and rewarded Forest with a goal in a 2-0 win over Burton.

“It felt good,” Lichaj told the Nottingham Post after the game. “Got my one for the season I told the guys — I’m always good for one. Hopefully I get another one, but it was good.”

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The defender later added that he understands why he has seen his place come under threat and he can maintain the performances to permanently reclaim his spot in the side.

“In every team there is competition for places. I hope I can keep doing well. I am not promising to score every week, but I will keep doing my thing and hopefully help the side get a few wins.”

Lichaj was someone who was rumored to be potentially on his way out at the end of last year, especially had Forest gotten relegated. However, now it appears now the defender and fan favorite is looking for a chance to stay at the club long term.

“I am still hopeful of signing a new deal. I love it here,” he said.

When the supporters are left chanting “USA, USA” after his goals, as they did Saturday, it’s easy to see why he would want to remain.


JOHNSON REGAINING FORM


He may not have been able to find his way into the United States national team’s lineup, or roster, for the October qualifiers, but Fabian Johnson’s time out of the Borussia Monchengladbach XI appears to be at an end.

Johnson made his fourth straight start for Gladbach against Bayer Leverkusen. It got off to a great start for him and his teammates, as Johnson put home a Thorgan Hazard cross just seven minutes into the contest for his first goal of the season.

But things turned ugly in the second half when Leverkusen struck five times to walk away with a 5-1 away win over Gladbach. Johnson would be substituted off in the 65th minute with his side down 3-1.

Bad loss aside, Johnson’s start to the season was derailed by injury. The 29-year-old has yet to go the full 90, but his appearances look to be improving.


YARBROUGH STREAKING AFTER RECLAIMING NO.1 SHIRT


William Yarbrough Leon

William Yarbrough has been kind of the forgotten man among American keepers. When people look to the future of the position, MLS keepers like Bill Hamid are mentioned, and when players from abroad are discussed, usually Ethan Horvath is the popular name.

But Yarbrough is on a nice streak of his own in Liga MX. The Leon keeper was between the sticks for a scoreless draw against Morelia on Friday — his third clean sheet in four games.

The 28-year-old Yarbrough started the season as Leon’s No.1 but lost the first two games of the season, surrendering three goals in each defeat. That saw the club make a change, going to Felipe Rodriguez.

But Leon’s struggles continued and manager Javier Torrente was fired, replaced by Gustavo Diaz, who re-installed Yarbrough as the No.1. Neither the keeper nor Leon have looked back since the managerial change.

Leon has lost just once in seven Liga MX contests, winning five of them, moving them up to fifth in the Aputera. Yarbrough has conceded more than one goal just once — in that loss to Pumas UNAM, and picked up his only three clean sheets of the campaign.

Leon’s first dropped points under Diaz have come in the last two games, so it possible teams are figuring out how to play them once again. We’ll see if Yarbrough and his teammates can keep it going to make the Liguilla.

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