Dest in El Classico, Pulisic visits Old Trafford, Philly hosts Toronto in busy weekend
October 22, 2020
WEEKENDS ARE VERY busy these days in American soccer as hundreds of professional players play in dozens of leagues across the globe. This weekend is no exception as Sergino Dest could play in one of the world’s great games in the El Classico while the playoff races in MLS heat up with some big matchups such as Philadelphia – Toronto that could feature top young American players.
There are a lot of really cool stories to keep an eye on apart from the El Classico. Top teenager Owen Otasowie could make his Premier League debut for Wolves this weekend. Cameron Carter-Vickers might make his club debut for AFC Bournemouth. Ethan Horvath could boost his resume for a future sale as he should earn another start.
With all of that said, here is an outline of everything I will be following in the days ahead.
Feature games from abroad
Barcelona – Real Madrid
Saturday, October 24: 10:00am EST
There are a lot of benchmarks being used these days to measure the recent success of Americans abroad: most Americans in the Champions League, first American at Juventus, etc. But on Saturday, Sergino Dest could become the first U.S. international to play at El Clasico, perhaps the most prestigious rivalry in world sport.
Thus far, Sergino has played in all three of Barcelona’s games since he joined from Ajax. He has also started the last two games since the October international window. Most recently, Dest started in Tuesday’s Champions League win over Ferencváros. But hosting Real Madrid will be an entirely different level of intensity for Dest.
This will be the most-watched game on the planet this weekend and both teams are relatively evenly matched as Barcelona has seven points from four games and Real Madrid has 10 points from five games. Real Madrid, however, is coming into this game on the heals of a being upset Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
But Barcelona comes into this game in a transitional period. Messi is likely in his last season with the club. There is an aging core and a younger group of players looking to emerge. Dest is part of that group looking to bring a successful transition for Barcelona and a win over Real Madrid would be a massive step.
Manchester United – Chelsea
The Premier League
Saturday, October 24: 12:30pm EST
Chelsea has certainly has frustrated its fans at the start of this season as putting forth a complete effort on both sides of the ball with any kinds of consistency has been elusive. Last weekend, its offense was strong but its defense was laughable in a 3-3 draw with Southampton. Then midweek, its defense was solid but its offense was a mess during a 0-0 draw with Sevilla in the Champions League.
In a visit up north to take on Manchester United, it is hard to confidently predict how Chelsea will perform. After missing months with a hamstring injury, Chelsea was cautious in how it eased Christian Pulisic back into action. But will Frank Lampard start the Hershey native for the third time in a week? That is tough to read although Pulisic will likely play in this one at some point.
Thus far in his return, Pulisic has played well – albeit a little rusty. That rust will wear off but his teammates need to raise their games a unit to win games like it will face on Saturday.
Fulham - Crystal Palace
The Premier League
Saturday, October 24: 12:30pm EST
Last weekend Fulham took its first point of the season when it played Sheffield United to a 1-1 draw. Combined with the 0-1 loss to Wolves in the game before, Fulham has actually improved slightly after its brutal four losses to start 2020/21. But at some point, that improvement needs to translate into wins or else it will find itself in too deep a hole in the relegation zone.
The good news for Fulham, is that a home matchup against fellow Londoners, Crystal Palace, is a winnable game. Crystal Palace has seven points on the season but just one point from its most recent three games.
Left back Antonee Robinson and central defender Tim Ream should start for the Cottagers. Both have played well in the last two games and Robinson has shown to be a fullback who can compete well in this league. It seems likely he will be given looks by the national team soon as well.
The pressure will be on both American players to perform well as this is an important game, even if it is early in thee season. To win these games, defense is critical.
VfB Stuttgart - FC Koln
Friday, October 23: 2:30pm EST
Pellegrino Matarazzo is off to a terrific start in his first season managing VfB Stuttgart in the top flight. After leading his team to promotion last season, Matarazzo and Stuttgart are off to a start where they have seven points from four games. If the primary goal for the club is to avoid an immediate relegation, a win on Friday could see those around the club set more ambitious goals.
This game should be winnable for Stuttgart as Koln has just one point from its first four games.
Matarazzo has implemented not just a winning style at Stuttgart but also a style that is fun to watch. It presses, and it attacks effectively from the run of play. Thus far it’s nine goals are the third highest in the Bundesliga.
Matarazzo is one of the more surprising and best stories on an individual level for Americans in Europe – gradually more and more American fans are picking up on it.
Austria Vienna - Red Bull Salzburg
The Austrian Bundesliga
Saturday, October 24: 11:00am EST
American manager Jesse Marsch and his reigning champion Red Bull Salzburg are off to high-flying start in the Austrian Bundesliga. The club is expected to win the Bundesliga once again this season and so far Marsch’s team has a perfect 12 points from four games and a +10 goal differential. On Friday, it was formally announced that American midfielder Brenden Aaronson will join the club in January from the Philadelphia Union.
Salzburg is an offensive power in this league and with 17 goals from four games, it will look to surpass the 110 it scored in 2019/20.
But in this game, Austria Vienna will attempt to keep Salzuburg off the scoresheet and Austria Vienna will feature United States U-23 central defender Erik Palmer-Brown as a key part of its backline. Palmer-Brown, 23, has impressed so far this season and could be a selection for the U.S. team in November. But this will be his biggest challenge of the season.
Kortrijk - Anderlecht
Belgian Pro League
Friday, October 23: 2:45pm EST
Last Sunday, Chelsea loanee Matt Maizga made his Anderlecht debut when he played the full game in a 2-2 draw with OH Leuven. While the result was disappointing, Miazga played well in central defense.
Traditionally one of Belgium’s best clubs, Anderlecht has struggled in recent years as it has not been able to spend a lot of money due to financial constraints. This year it finds itself off to another midtable start with 14 points from nine games. Anderlecht’s opponent in this game, also has 14 points.
Miazga is looking to return to being one of the best American central defenders in the game. There is a lot of competition with a bunch of younger American players at this position but being a dependable option at Anderlecht will be a huge boost for Miazga.
RB Leipzig - Hertha BSC
Saturday, October 24: 9:30am EST
Tyler Adams has typically been a starter at the No. 6 role for RB Leipzig when heathy although he came off the bench midweek to see out the final 30 minutes midweek of a 2-0 win over Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League.
For most games Adams has played this year, he has been active, generated a high number of touches, pressed, forced turnovers, and covered a ton of ground. When he plays well, Leipzig typically wins and Adams plays an important role.
Hertha comes into this game in poor form with three straight losses after an opening match win. Leipzig is the favorite in this one and Adams maturation as a player is impressive.
Oud-Heverlee - Club Brugge
Belgian Pro League
Saturday, October 24: 2:45pm EST
It was an emotional scene on Tuesday when Club Brugge posted a 2-1 win over Zenit in the Champions League via a dramatic stoppage time winner. American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, 25, earned his first appearance for Club Brugge in nearly 400 days after normal first choice starter Simon Mignolet tested positive for COVID-19. In this game, despite a fluke own-goal, Horvath played very well and made four saves.
Horvath should start in this one and any opportunity he gets is a big one to impress potential suitors for upcoming windows that he could be a starter. The chances that he overtakes Mignolet anytime sign soon are slim so Horvath needs to make the most of any chances he gets. He passed a nice test on Tuesday and Saturday could be another important step.
Borussia Dortmund - Schalke 04
Saturday, October 24: 12:30pm EST
Once, the Revierderby was one of the best in Germany because both clubs were among the best of the Bundesliga. These days, however, Schalke is in such poor form that relegation is getting more likely every week and that could make the Revierderby a rare occasion in the years ahead.
For Borussia Dortmund, the team remains one of the best in Germany and Gio Reyna, 17, has been one of the best teenagers in the league. In fact, the Reyna and Erling Haaland combination is on of the most exciting young duos in Europe.
The American has been playing as the team’s attacking midfielder and has had a hand in most of Borussia Dortmund’s goals this season. Midweek, he played the second half and had an assist in a 3-1 loss to Lazio in the Champions League.
In this game, Reyna should once again factor in as Borussia Dortmund is heavily favored but needs these three points to remain in the top three of the Bundesliga table.
SM Caen - Guingamp
Saturday, October 24: 9:00am EST
Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, and his SM Caen team have promotional hopes this year but were dealt a tough 3-0 loss to Niort last weekend. The Gioacchini, the Kansas City-born attacker, didn’t score but had a highlight when his bicycle kick missed the net just wide. Gioacchini, who can play either central forward or on either wing, has two goals on the season.
SM Caen will want to move back towards the top of the table on Saturday and will host a Guingamp team that is in 10th place but has won three of its last four games.
Gioacchini is likely among several young American players who has a good chance of earning a call-up to the United States national team for its November camp. That would be a milestone for Gioacchini who has never played for the United States before at any level.
Wolfsburg - Arminia Bielefeld
Sunday, October 25: 10:30am EST
Wolfsburg has drawn each of its first four games to start the season and while its offense has been terrible having scored just two goals, its defense has been excellent having conceded just two goals in 360 Bundesliga minutes.
After he began 2020 riding the bench for Wolfsburg, Brooks has been excellent at the start of this season and Gregg Berhalter is likely looking forward to working with Brooks in the upcoming November window.
Newly promoted Arminia Bielefeld will be Wolfsburg’s opponent on Sunday and the club is coming off a 4-1 loss to Bayern Munich which followed a 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen.
Werder Bremen – Hoffenheim
Sunday, October 25: 1:00pm EST
Quietly, Werder Bremen is laying the foundation for an improved season that could see it avoid a serious relegation battle – like it did last season. While its schedule has been easy early in the season, Werder is getting the results it needs to stay away from danger. Wins against Schalke and Arminia Bielefeld followed by a draw to Freiburg all led to valuable points for Werder.
Josh Sargent has played well for stretches and has been a regular starter for Werder, but the St. Louis native is still looking for his first goal of the season (his only time on the scoresheet was an assist in the 3-1 win over Schalke).
Sargent has very good characteristics to his game. He is strong, solid in the air, and can move in tight spaces well but that will have to translate into goals at some point. The good news is that Werder’s strong start will likely prevent the manager from making any sort of major changes to his first choice starting XI.
Hoffenheim is hungry for a win after two victories to start the season were followed by losses to Eintracht Frankfrut and Borussia Dortmund.
Famalicao - Boavista
Sunday, October 25: 1:30pm EST
Since arriving in Portugal last month, Reggie Cannon has been a regular starter at right back for Boavista. That is the good news. The bad news is that his team is off to a poor start with just two draws from four games. It sits in 17th place in the 18-team league and its -6 goal differential is the worst in the league at this early stage.
Cannon has shown promise at times in the first few games while also showing times where it was clear he was still adjusting to a new league. His defense has been steady but getting into the attack has been more difficult.
At some point it will have to click for both Cannon and Boavista. Cannon told ASN two weeks ago that the team’s chemistry needed to improve as many players were still new to either the league or team. In the first game after the international break on Monday, Boavista lost to Vitoria Guimaraes 0-1 and was still not in synch.
Famalicao is a smaller team but has been playing better with a win followed by two draws in its last three games.
Notes for other games
On Saturday, Chris Richards will hope to continue to work his way back into the Bayern Munich lineup when the European Champions host Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. Richards has been dealing with a calf injury but played for Bayern Munich II midweek.
On Sunday in Serie A, Juventus will host Hellas Verona. It is unlikely Weston McKennie will return from COVID in time for this.
On France’s Ligue 1, Timothy Weah will hope for more minutes when league leaders Lille visit Nice on Sunday. Weah has struggled for minutes early in the season as he missed most of last season due to a hamstring injury. Weah played the final 10 minutes for Lille in a 4-1 win over Sparta Prague.
In the Premier League, U.S. U-20 eligible Owen Otasowie will hope to make his Premier League debut when his Wolverhampton team hosts Newcastle United. Otasowie was an unused substitute on Monday when Wolves fell to Leeds. DeAndre Yedlin is unlikely to play for Newcastle United.
On Friday, Duane Holmes will hope to return to the starting lineup and reverse Derby County’s struggles in a visit to Nottingham Forest. Derby County has just three points from the first six games of the Championship season.
In the Championship, Cameron Carter-Vickers will look to make his AFC Bournemouth against Watford on Saturday. Team captain Geoff Cameron and Queens Park Rangers will host Birmingham City also on Saturday. After making his Championship debut, Matthew Olosunde midweek for Rotherham, the New Jersey native will look for another outing when his team visits Reading on Saturday.
In League One, U.S. U-20 attacking midfielder Indiana Vassilev and Burton Albion will hope to climb out of last place on Saturday when they visit AFC Wimbledon. Lynden Gooch has assists in each of his last two games for Sunderland and they hosts Portsmouth on Saturday.
In the 2.Bundesliga: Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf visit Hannover on Saturday. Leon Flach and Kevin Lankford visit Darmstadt on Saturday. Julian Green and Greuther Furth visit Holstein Kiel on Saturday.
In the Scottish Premiership, Ian Harkes and Dillon Powers visit St. Johnstone on Saturday.
In the Danish Superliga, Jens Cajuste and Midtjylland visit Brondby on Saturday. Emmanuel Sabbi and OB visit Lyngby on Friday. Haji Wright has four goals in just 190 minutes in the Superliga for SonderjyskE and they will visit Randers on Sunday. In the second tier, Christian Cappis and Hobro visit Esbjerg on Saturday.
In the Eredivisie, Ulysses Llanez and Heerenveen host Desevio Payne and FC Emmen on Saturday. Luca de la Torre and Heracles visit Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday. Meanwhile, Richard Ledezma was an unused substitute for PSV on Thursday in a 2-1 loss to Grenada in the Europa League and he will hope to remain with the first team on Sunday when PSV visits Vitesse. In the Dutch second tier, Sebastian Soto and Telstar host Helmond Sport on Friday.
In Italy’s Serie B, Andrija Novakovich and Frosinone visit Pescara on Saturday.
In Belgium’s top flight, Chris Durkin and struggling St. Truiden host Standard Liege on Sunday. Joe Efford and Waasland Beveren visit Sporting Charleroi on Sunday.
In Sweden, Aron Johannsson is his best form since 2015 and he and Hammarby visit Oestersunds on Sunday. Also on Sunday, Romain Gall and Orebro hosts Mix Diskerud and Helsingborg. In Norway, Henry Wingo will hope to return from injury for Molde when it hosts Stromgodset on Sunday.
In Poland’s top tier, Ben Lederman and Rakow Czestochowa host Stal Mielec on Sunday. On Friday, Kenny Saief and Lechia Gdansk visit Zaglebie Lubin.
In Greece’s Superliga, Gboly Ariyibi and Panathinaikos host NFC Volos on Saturday.
In Spain’s second tier, Shaq Moore and Tenerife host Espanyol on Sunday.
In France’s Ligue 1, Patrick Koffi will hope to reemerge in Paris FC’s lineup when they visit Chateauroux on Saturday. Koffi, 18, hasn’t made a matchday sheet for Paris FC since an opening weekend red card.
In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso, 18, will hope to return to the matchday roster for Internacional on Saturday when they host Flamengo.
ON THE DOMESTIC FRONT
The upcoming weekend in MLS features an intriguing slate of games as the playoffs get closer. The fact that many of the teams did not have midweek games, the break from the grueling schedule should allow teams to field their best lineups for this weekend.
The best game of the weekend will be on Saturday when Philadelphia hosts Toronto. But there will be plenty of good games on the docket – particularly on Saturday.
Philadelphia Union – Toronto FC
Saturday, October 24: 7:30pm EST
Perhaps the two best and most intriguing teams in the league this season will meet in Chester, PA when the Philadelphia Union hosts Toronto FC. After 19 games, Toronto has a very impressive record with 12 wins, 5 draws, 2 losses which should have it as a serious contender in the post season.
Even without Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley for long stretches, Toronto has found a way to win. Alejandro Pozuelo is likely the league MVP as he has helped make Sebastian Giovinco a distant memory at this point. U.S. U-23 eligible forward Ayo Akinola has eight goals since the MLS is Back restart.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia has been riding its success with a very youthful core. Mark McKenzie is one of the best young American players in the league and could be closing in on a U.S. national team spot. Attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson wants to bring a trophy home to Philly before he heads to Salzburg after the season. Anthony Fontana, meanwhile, has six goals for the Union since August.
This will be a rematch from two weeks ago when Toronto defeated Philadelphia 2-1 in Hartford behind goals from Akinola and Pozuelo. Both of these teams are coming off win as Toronto defeated Atlanta United 1-0 last weekend and Philadelphia defeated New England 2-1 on Monday.
Chicago Fire – New York Red Bulls
Saturday, October 24: 7:30pm EST
The Chicago Fire might take advantage of an expanded playoff format in 2020 and sneak into the post season. As of now, the odds are in their favor as the club sits in 10th place in the East and have been a tougher team to defeat in recent weeks. Entering into this game, the Fire has lost just once in its last five games.
The New York Red Bulls might be the toughest team to read in this league. The team has been hit hard recently by injuries to Aron Long and the loss of Cristian Casseres and Kaku to international duty. The team has remained very competitive under interim manager Bradley Carnell as well as the rise of teenage midfielder Caden Clark, 17, who has been very impressive since been signed to the first team two weeks ago.
The Red Bulls are probably not as hopeless as their long-time pessimistic fanbase believes, but the team is woefully short on strikers. If this team can score, they have a very good chance of winning.
Nashville SC – New England Revolution
October 23: 8:30pm EST
While many slated Nashville SC to struggle mightily in its inaugural season in MLS, that is turning out not to be the case. Why? Well, this team’s focus on a very tight and well-organized defensive structure is proving to be very effective. In future seasons, Nashville will surely want to add attackers but in its first steps in the league, it is being built from the back first.
So far, so good. After 18 games, the team has scored 18 goals and conceded just 17 goals. That is enough to have it in eighth place – which is a home run of a season based on preseason predictions.
U.S. international Walker Zimmerman should be in the running for league defender of the year and he has been a huge addition for Nashville and a huge loss for LAFC.
New England is sitting nicely in fifth place despite a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia midweek. American fans should want to check out goalkeeper Matt Turner who has helped the Revolution in close games. Meanwhile Henry Kessler should be in the running for rookie of the year and the central defender could emerge in the U.S. U-23 picture, should that team resume play after the season.
Sporting Kansas City – Colorado Rapids
Saturday, October 24: 8:30pm EST
The Colorado Rapids will play their first game in a month due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team and staff. As a result, the Rapids have played six fewer games than most teams in the league. That is very unfortunate for Colorado as the team had been playing really well up to that point – having won three of four.
Colorado had been doing well using many young domestic players such as Cole Bassett, Jonathan Lewis, and Sam Vines. Lewis has five goals while Bassett, a U.S. U-20 midfielder, has four goals and four assists in 2020. Vines, meanwhile, is taking nice steps as a left back at this level.
The question in this one will be how Colorado responds to such a layoff with no friendlies to get back into form.
Sporting Kansas City will be a tough test for Colorado as Peter Vermes’ squad sits in third place but is coming off an unimpressive pair of results in a draw to Chicago and a loss to FC Dallas in its past two games.
As Colorado has been utilizing local homegrown players, Sporting Kansas City has been respectable in that area as Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey, Felipe Hernandez and Cam Duke have all played big roles in recent weeks. On Thursday, the club announced the signing of promising forward Wilson Harris, 20, to a homegrown deal.
Los Angeles FC – LA Galaxy
Sunday, October 25: 3:30pm EST
The two LA teams have been big stories in MLS this season, but neither in good ways.
LAFC has not been poor, overall, but it has been disappointing when comparing it to the previous two seasons. Carlos Vela’s injuries has resulted in inconsistent offensive production. Diego Rossi, when healthy, has been hot and cold. Bradley Wright-Phillips is effective at times but is clearly not as strong as he used to be.
Through all the ups and downs, Bob Bradley’s team still sits in fourth place and remains a threat in the post season.
The LA Galaxy, however, have remained a disaster this season and they sit in dead last in the West. Chicarito has just one goal so far in 2020. Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s squad won its most recent game against Vancouver by a 1-0 score. While it is rarely fun to watch bad teams, it’s tough to ignore the Galaxy. The club has some top Mexican players and interesting American players in Sebastian Lletget and U.S. U-20 right back Julian Araujo. Cristian Pavon is also one of the most talented players in the entire league.
The fact this team can’t put it together is rather remarkable.
Elsewhere in the league
On Saturday, Inter Miami hosts an improved Orlando City SC team that has emerged as a contender to win the East in 2020. Oscar Pareja might be the league’s manager of the year while Chris Mueller might be a Best XI player and Daryl Dike should be a U.S. U-23 option in 2023.
Atlanta United has been a huge disappointment but might sneak into the playoffs with a few wins down the stretch. Right now, it sits one point out of the 10th spot. DC United holds the league’s worst record and this is a good matchup for Atlanta on Saturday. DC United, however, is still worth watching as it plays a trio of promising young players in Moses Neyman, Kevin Paredes, and Griffin Yow.
Cincinnati hosts an inconsistent Minnesota United team on Saturday. Minnesota has talent but has only won once in its last five games.
New York City FC is holding onto the sixth spot in the East by a slim margin and will host Montreal on Saturday night in the Bronx.
Columbus ended a four-game winless skid last weekend when it downed New York City FC. U.S. fans will want to check out the form of U.S. forward Gyasi Zardes as well Crew defensive midfielder Aidan Morris who could be a good option for the U.S. U-20 team. Houston has struggled in recent weeks since the sale of Alberth Elis but is only one point out of the playoffs. At some point Tab Ramos’ team will need to find a big win if it wants to get into the playoffs.
FC Dallas suffered an ugly 3-0 loss to Nashville on Tuesday and Luchi Gonzalez’s team is really struggling to score and generate chances. The team has just one win its last five games. The team’s young core in Tanner Tessmann, Jesus Ferreira, and Brandon Servania have hit a rough patch in terms of making an impact. The only young player making positive impacts in recent games is Bryan Reynolds. A trip to Real Salt Lake will be tough as Real Salt Lake upset Portland last weekend and is only out of the playoff positions on goal differential.
San Jose has been one the most improved teams the past month and Matias Almeyda’s team has moved from second to last and into the playoffs after earning consistent results over the past month. U.S. international Jackson Yueill has been a positive contributor but so has fellow American Nick Lima and young standout Cade Cowell – who has shown promise at just 16. San Jose will face Vancouver on the road on Saturday. The Whitecaps feature many Canadian players and could sneak into playoffs with a strong finish.