Ricardo Pepi became the latest young American to make his European debut in the German Bundesliga, and he faced off against a U.S. men’s national team teammate in the process.
Pepi came off the bench in the 60th minute of Augsburg’s 3-1 loss to Hoffenheim on Saturday, becoming the seventh American to debut in the Bundesliga before his 19th birthday. Having arrived via a reported $20 million transfer from FC Dallas just five days earlier, Pepi made his Bundesliga debut against USMNT teammate Chris Richards, who started and played the full match for Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim led 2-1 when Pepi entered, and he finished with nine touches and one shot, while completing all four passes he attempted. Richards and Hoffenheim kept firm control of the match in the second half and finished things off with a stoppage-time goal to seal the win.
Hoffenheim maintained 57% of possession and overpowered Augsburg with 13 shots with five on target. Augsburg managed 10 shots with three on target.
Augsburg paid a reported $20 million for Pepi, setting a club-record transfer fee. It was also the highest fee paid for an American MLS player, a total that would double the $10 million figure that Villareal paid to sign Jozy Altidore in 2008.Wolfsburg had been reported as a frontrunner to sign Pepi before Augsburg stepped in with an offer that ended the chase.
Pepi’s Bundesliga debut helped continue the recent trend of young Americans earning opportunities in the Bundesliga at an early age, joining the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna.
Augsburg currently occupies 16th place in the Bundesliga, a relegation playoff spot. Augsburg is tied on 18 points with Stuttgart and two points behind Bochum and Wolfsburg.
Pepi and Augsburg return to action on January 16 when they play host to Timmy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt.