Why am I like this?


Watching Ricardo Pepi make his first Augsburg start on Sunday against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, I realized either Pepi’s performance was exactly the same as Clint Dempsey’s debut with Fulham, Christian Pulisic with Borussia Dortmund and Tyler Adams with Leipzig or that I have a tendency to see exactly what I want to see when extremely talented Americans finally show up on the pitch in Europe.

There’s no doubt that Pepi is damn good and immediately ready to help Augsburg in their fight against relegation, but those are the same thoughts I always think when a USMNT phenom arrives to play at the top level.

#1. “He is wise beyond his age!”

Maybe there’s something to be focused on one player to really realize the amazing pace and skill of the top tier – forwards are shut down instantly, every touch must be clean, every decision must be pre-determined and executed to perfection – coupled with the genuine worry you have about the newbie really embarrassing themselves and leaving an incredible impression on you.

You fear this is a step too far. Every touch is going to be hell – “FC Dallas and Fabrizio Romano, why did you abandon us?” – but there’s Pepi there, mixing him up with Japanese legend Makoto Hasebe and Evan Ndicka, one of the most promising centre-backs in the game, and holding the ball well, making the right decisions and GEGENPRESSING.

We’re all hoping for a proxy acceptance through Pepi’s right foot: “You didn’t respect the Soccer IQ of Jesse Marsch, Germany, but you’ll have to respect Pepi’s – he’s a great boy!”

#2. “It is he who clearly makes the difference!”

There is a deflected shot from an offside position! A goal canceled for foul! A punch erased the line! Blow saved! BACKHEEL LINK!

I think this one is most often summed up by the recurrence of one word in American social media circles: hunger.

This ability to move his limbs, try to open up and hit the ball? It’s an insatiable hunger that you can’t train.

#3. “Why don’t his teammates pass the ball to him?

It doesn’t take long to identify who our boy’s enemy overseas is. It’s either someone taking minutes when he’s clearly inferior (Dempsey > Bobby Zamora) or all those assholes who won’t immediately pass the ball to Pepi, who is clearly in a better position than you.

Don’t they know that Tyler Adams called Pepi the best finisher he’s ever seen in the CONCACAF region? Didn’t they watch the Cross & Volley segment of the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge? The answer is a clear ‘no’ from Augsburg full-back Iago, who opted to rip one high and wide when he had Pepi to his left and obviously ready to curl a sublime right-footed sight inside from the second post.

They keep telling us Augsburg aren’t creating many chances or scoring many goals, but you can put away the tactical board because now there’s a clear solution to both of these evils: pass it to Pepi .

#4. “This manager’s vision does not match mine.”

It’s a tale as old as time (or at least as old as Thomas Tuchel). This manager doesn’t understand our ‘run fast, try hard’ race of footballers or appreciate that we’re willing to chew cement to earn one last attacking leap.

Markus Weinzierl fails to understand that as Americans we are all energized by jet fuel which is a vision of Landon Donovan’s 90+1 winner against Algeria that is spinning endlessly in our minds.

Minute by minute, as the opposition tire and spaces open up on the pitch, a player like Pepi only gets stronger. So never dare to replace Pepi, Mr. Winzierl, especially as you did today in the 84th minute. Alfreð Finnbogason isn’t the answer, unless the question is who is Real Sociedad’s worst signing of all time.

Augsburg and Pepi will play again next Saturday against Leverkusen, where I will relive it all in my head.

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