Venezia aiming to sign US national team striker Jordan Pefok

One of America’s best strikers in Europe could be on the road in the coming days.

A source with knowledge of the matter told The Inquirer on Saturday night that negotiations were underway for Jordan Pefok to move to Italian Serie A club Venezia. There is no certainty the deal will go through, but Venezia is trying to sign Pefok – a 25-year-old with eight caps for the US national team – from Swiss club Young Boys.

Pefok is on loan at Young Boys de Rennes in France for the second consecutive season. Young Boys, based in the Swiss capital Bern, are the defending four-time Swiss league champions, and Pefok helped claim last season’s title with 12 goals and four assists in 32 games. He also scored three goals in eight Europa League appearances after the club failed in Champions League qualifying play.

Along the way, the Washington, DC native made his U.S. national team debut after picking the country out of two others he was eligible for, France and Cameroon. Pefok played two games for the France Under-21 team while growing up at French club Reims as a child. His family moved to France when he was a baby.

Pefok’s American debut came last March in a friendly against Jamaica which was played in Austria so manager Gregg Berhalter could bring his Europe-based players together during the pandemic. In June, Pefok scored his first American goal in spectacular fashion: an 89th-minute winner in the Concacaf Nations League semi-final against Honduras.

He then started the final against Mexico and played an hour before being substituted, in a match that ended in an epic 3-2 victory for the United States in extra time.

Pefok was called up for September’s World Cup qualifiers and didn’t play as well. He came on as a substitute for 26 minutes in the opener in El Salvador on September 2, an 83-minute starter against Canada on September 5, and did not play at all in Honduras on September 8. He was not called. since then, which has raised some eyebrows among American fans given the team’s lack of depth.

Pefok has done its part to stay in the spotlight. He has scored 16 goals in 30 games in all competitions for Young Boys this season: 11 in 17 Swiss league games, three in six Champions League qualifiers and two in the Champions League group stage, including one winner in the 95th minute against the mighty Manchester. United at home on September 14, the opening day of the tournament.

READ MORE: USMNT roster for January World Cup qualifiers is about number of players, not just which ones

The second goal of the group stage was Young Boys’ first goal in a 3-3 draw with Italy’s Atalanta at home on November 23, after Atalanta scored the first. It was pretty much a must-watch game for Young Boys after three straight losses, and they didn’t win it.

A 1-1 draw at Manchester United in the group stage final on 8 December, with Pefok playing 62 minutes, was a good scoreline. But that wasn’t enough to take Young Boys to third place and the Europa League, so the club dropped out of continental competition for the season.

The Young Boys are currently in third place in the Swiss league, eight points behind leaders FC Zurich and two points behind fourth place Lugano. Only the first runner-up has a chance in the Champions League and must go through a qualifying playoff to get there. Second and third place qualify for the playoffs of the Europa Conference League, Europe’s third-tier continental tournament.

If Pefok moves to Venice, he will swap the fight to play in Europe next season for the fight to avoid relegation from Serie A this season. Venezia are currently in second-to-last place, two points from the relegation zone.

But it will be a higher level of competition, and if Pefok succeeds, it will attract Berhalter’s attention. Berhalter is already keeping a close eye on Venezia, as the club is home to US national team midfielder Gianluca Busio. Venezia have two other American players in their ranks: midfielder Tanner Tessmann and Union Jack academy striker de Vries.

De Vries, who turned professional with Union in 2019, is on loan at Venice until the summer. He spent most of his time with the club’s reserve youth team, but played one game for the senior team: an Italian Cup debut match on 14 December.

There are also several Americans in Venezia’s front office, including owner Duncan Niederauer and chief analyst Alex Menta. They focused on signing American players, and it paid off as Busio and Tessmann were successful for them. Now they hope Pefok will continue that streak.

READ MORE: How West Chester’s Alexander Menta helped bring Venezia back to Serie A

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