Hoppe vs. Reyna, Sargent vs. Richards, big games for Aaronson & Cardoso top weekend
February 19, 2021
THE LAST TWO WEEKENDS haven’t been great for Americans abroad as many of the key players have struggled, played only limited minutes, or been on the losing end of big games. On the other hand, many of the emerging or players on the fringes of the national team have stepped up with big games.
We don’t yet know if that will change heading into the weekend but it will be interesting to see if any of the players struggling to get playing time have their fortunes changed. We also have to see if the midweek Champions League and Europa League games will force squad rotation.
We do know, however, that Christian Pulisic is unlikely to play for Chelsea on Saturday against Southampton due to a calf injury. It remains to be seen if Sergino Dest will start for Barcelona after his rough Champions League outing midweek to PSG or if Antonee Robinson will return to Fulham’s lineup after beginning the last two games on the bench. Gio Reyna, meanwhile, has had a tough recent two months for Dortmund but might actually benefit from squad rotation.
There are also two games which are massively important in the title races this weekend. Brenden Aaronson and Red Bull Salzburg host second place Rapid Vienna and a win for Salzburg will give it a very comfortable cushion. Meanwhile, Johnny Cardoso probably will be on the bench for Internacional on Saturday when they visit Flamengo, but a win for Internacional would see it win the Brazilian title and Cardoso would be the first American to win a Brazilian Serie A title.
Here is what I will be watching for this weekend:
Schalke 04 - Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, February 20: 12:30pm EST
Young American forward Matthew Hoppe, 19, recently signed a new deal with Schalke but that hasn’t stopped the transfer rumors from flying around the California native after his fantastic run in January when he scored five goals in three games. Since then, opposing defenses have attempted to try to stop him because stopping Hoppe is essentially stopping Schalke.
Schalke sits dead last in the Bundesliga and relegation seems unavoidable but Hoppe has shown himself to have a bright future. Even in games like the 0-0 draw last weekend vs. Union Berlin, Hoppe was dangerous and has been effective in making smart runs. So will he go down with Schalke’s sinking ship or will he move on in June with a transfer? That depends on the coming weeks?
Gio Reyna, 18, meanwhile, has had a tough two months at Dortmund since Lucien Favre’s dismissal. His playing time has been uneven and he didn’t play midweek in the club’s big Champions League win over Seville. Squad rotation could open the door for Reyna in this one and he is overdue and could really use a strong performance to get back into the fold. This is an important game for Dortmund if it wants to have hopes of returning to the Champions League next season.
Red Bull Salzburg - Rapid Vienna
The Austrian Bundesliga
Sunday, February 21: 11:00 am EST
American midfielder Brenden Aaronson played relatively well for Salzburg midweek in a loss to Villarreal in the Europa League but was pulled around the 60 minute mark by Jesse Marsch. Part of that, however, could be due to Sunday’s enormous game against Rapid Vienna. This is probably the biggest game of the Austrian Bundesliga season.
Coming into this game, Salzburg has a three-point edge on second place Rapid but has an enormous edge in goal differential. A Salzburg win in this one would move it six points (plus the goal differential tiebreaker) clear atop the table but a loss would see the sides move even.
If Aaronson gets the start, this will big by far his biggest test since arriving in Austria.
Hoffenheim – Werder Bremen
Sunday February 21: 12pm EST
Two young American players will meet on Sunday when Chris Richards and Hoffenheim hosts Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen in a matchup between two evenly matched, lower-half Bundesliga teams.
Chris Richards is coming off a Thursday start in the Europa League against Molde when his line-splitting pass set up Hoffenheim’s second goal in a 3-3 draw against the 2019 Norwegian champs. Sargent, meanwhile, has been improving for Werder Bremen in recent weeks although came off last week’s 0-0 draw vs. Freiburg in the 60th minute after a collision.
Not much is on the line in this game as neither team is threatened with relegation nor holds any prospects of qualifying for Europe. Instead, it will be fun for American fans to watch Richards defend Sargent in a year where both could play a role in numerous tournaments for the United States – including the Olympics.
Barcelona – Cadiz
Sunday, February 21: 8:00am EST
Sergino Dest is certainly a player who could use a big outing and 15th place Cadiz offers that opportunity. After returning from a thigh injury midweek, Dest struggled to defend Kylian Mbappé in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of PSG in the Champions League.
Dest could very well be on the bench for this one, but if he starts or plays, it will be interesting to see if he can finally have an opportunity to push deep into the attack and make use of his first-rate attacking abilities. Ronald Koeman’s tactics have limited Dest a bit but this seems like an opportunity to let Dest be Dest. Against PSG, the U.S. national team right back only had one touch in the final third.
In this game, Barcelona is aiming to pull even with second place Real Madrid and only three points separate the two clubs (with Madrid having played one more game).
Hertha BSC - RB Leipzig
Sunday, February 21: 9:30am EST
Leipzig’s Champions League hopes took a major hit midweek with a 2-0 loss at home to Liverpool in the first leg of the Round of 16 knockout stage. Priority, however, will shift back to the Bundesliga where second-place Leipzig will hope to cement its grip on a top-four finish and return to the elite European competition next year.
Threatening Bayern Munich isn’t out of the question as the lead is just five points and Bayern has a tough visit to Eintracht Frankfurt while Leipzig visits a Hertha team that has fallen into a relegation battle and is only out of the relegation zone on goal differential.
Tyler Adams has returned to being a regular starter for Leipzig but he still plays mostly on the outside of the field. With squad rotation and his generally positive defensive performance against Liverpool, perhaps he will return to the No. 6 role in this one.
Huddersfield Town – Swansea City
Saturday, February 20: 10:00am EST
As many as three American players could feature on Saturday when Duane Holmes and Huddersfield hosts Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, and Swansea City.
Holmes and Huddersfield Town have been sinking the past two months while Swansea City is in a strong place to push for automatic promotion in the Premier League. Holmes has been a regular starter since returning to Huddersfield in January but the midweek 2-1 loss to Middlesbrough dropped the club into 18th place, five points clear of the relegation zone.
Among the two U.S. national team wingers, neither Arriola or Morris have started a league game yet since joining Swansea City in January but both have been consistent offensive subs. Given the club’s winning ways, that seems likely to continue until either makes a massive impact off the bench.
Swansea sit in third place, one point behind Brentford and five behind Norwich City but have played two fewer games than either of the team it is chasing. Every game is critical for Swansea City and this is three points it should have.
Genk vs. Beerschot
The Belgian Pro League
Sunday, February 21: 12:15pm EST
Mark McKenzie has played well and is earning positive reviews for his performances with Genk since joining the club from Philadelphia in January. He was not at fault for any of the conceded goals midweek in the disappointing 3-1 loss to fourth-place Oostende. Genk meanwhile still holds onto third place and is four points behind second place Royal Antwerp – with no club having any chance of catching Club Brugge.
McKenzie seems likely to start this game against 10th place Beerschot and his adjustment into his new club, new league, and new country continues to remain smooth. Meanwhile, his case for a spot on the United States national team is getting stronger every week.
RKC Waalwijk -Heracles
Sunday, February 21: 8:30am EST
Luca de la Torre continues to have a strong season – his first a starter for a first-team. Last week he was effective for Heracles in a 2-0 loss to runaway leaders Ajax. But over the past two months, the San Diego native has played well as Heracles have shot up the table.
But for 11th place Heracles, RKC Waalwijk will present a different challenge. Against Ajax, expectations were low but Waalwijk sit in 15th place and are a team Heracles should be expected to win. Now it will be up to players like de la Torre to play well and produce tangible opportunities and goals. That will be the next test for him.
It will be tough for de la Torre right now to get a call-up to the national team but perhaps another season of increased production will do the trick. For the time being, he remains an intriguing option for the U-23 team if he can get his release squared away.
Anderlecht – Kortrijk
The Belgian Pro League
Sunday, February 21: 7:30am EST
Matt Miazga and Andrelecht have had a problem this year. The team has looked compentent against the best teams in Belgium but has struggled against the bottom of the table. In its last four games against bottom-five, Anderlecht is winless. Last weekend it played to a 0-0 draw against lowly Cercle Brugge.
Fortunately for Anderlecht, Kortrijk (which sometimes features American defender Brenden Hines-Ike) is sixth from the bottom. With a win, Anderlecht might be able to sneak from fifth and into the top four and a playoff spot but wins are not automatic for Anderlecht.
Miazga, 25, has had a strong season and could be playing his way into a higher-tier loan next year from Chelsea. With a strong three months, the New Jersey native might find his way into the Bundesliga.
Rangers – Dundee United
The Scottish Premiership
Sunday, February 21: 10:00am
American midfielders Ian Harkes and Dillon Powers will have their hands full in a visit to league leaders Rangers at the Ibrox in Glasgow on Sunday. Harkes was sharp last weekend for Dundee United off the bench in a big win over Livingston where he came up with a big assist while down a man to help in the 3-0 win. The son of the former U.S. captain has a strong chance of starting in this one.
One season after earning promotion, Dundee is aiming for a top six (top half) finish in the Premiership and is current in seventh by virtue of goal differential behind St. Mirren.
Rangers is a powerful opponent and has not lost in the Premiership this season. The odds are against Harkes and Dunddee United but this is a big opportunity for him.
Flamengo - Internacional
Brazil’s Serie A
Sunday, February 21: 2:00pm EST
This is the biggest game of the Brazilian season as second place Flamengo hosts leaders Internacional on Sunday with just two rounds to go in the season. Internacional has a one-point lead in the table and win would give a four-point margin heading into the final week. In other words, an Internacional win in this game would clinch the title but a loss would likely put it at a massive disadvantage to win the championship.
Young U.S. national team defensive midfielder Johnny Cardoso, 19, will likely be on the bench for Internacional in this one as he is not quite a starter for the club. He is a regular off the bench and this game is massively important for him as it would give him a chance to win impressive silverware early in his career. The Denville, NJ-born Cardoso would also become the first-ever American to win the Brazilian title.
Queens Park Rangers – AFC Bournemouth
Saturday, February 20: 10:00am EST
As many as three Americans could feature on Saturday when Charlie Kelman, team captain Geoff Cameron and QPR host Cameron Carter-Vickers on Saturday.
Cameron, 35, had his best game of the season midweek in a 2-1 win over second place Brentford. Meanwhile, U.S. U-20 forward Charlie Kelman is looking for meaningful playing time with the 16th-place London club.
The big story in this one, however, is Cameron Carter-Vickers, 23, who has played for six different Championship teams but is finally in his first promotional hunt with Bournemouth. The U.S U-23 hopeful has finally emerged as a starter for Bournemouth which is in sixth place and looks to be a strong contender to earn a promotional playoff spot. A win on Saturday would help that effort and perhaps earn him a permanent transfer and away from Tottenham’s endless Loan Army.
Arminia Bielefeld – Wolfsburg
Friday, February 19: 2:30pm EST
John Brooks is in the midst of his best season as a professional and his Wolfsburg team is in fourth place in the Bundesliga – pushing for a Champions League spot next season. Brooks has been part of a big of Wolfsburg’s stellar defense that is the biggest reason for the club’s success in 2020/21. Through 21 games, Wolfsburg has conceded just 19 goals.
Arminia Bielefeld is in the midst of a relegation battle and its 18 goals scored over 20 games is second-worst in the league – only behind Schalke’s 15.
Brooks and Wolfsburg will expect to pick up a win in this one and hope to keep Arminia Bielefeld’s chances few and far between. If Eintracht lose to Bayern Munich this weekend, Wolfsburg could move into third with a result in this one.
Boavista - Moreirense
Friday, February 19: 3:30pm EST
The bad news for Reggie Cannon and Boavista is that it sits in the relegation zone of the Primeira Liga in Portugal. The good news, however is that one draw could lift it out of the automatic relegation zone and into the relegation playoff position. A win would lift it to the automatic safe positions.
Reggie Cannon is coming off his best game with Boavista last weekend in a 2-2 draw against Porto. Cannon’s best games have typically come against the league’s best – including in a 3-0 win over Benfica in November.
But the team needs wins and hosting seventh-place Moreirense is a challenge, but eventually Boavista needs to find a series of wins over midtable teams to survive.
Lorient – Lille
Sunday, February 21: 11:00am EST
Tim Weah, 20, has been productive when on the field for Lille and while he seems to struggle for touches, lately he’s been doing well whenever he gets the ball. This was the case midweek in the Europa League when Weah scored against the run of play in a 2-1 loss to Ajax when he capitalized on a terrible mistake from the Eredivisie Leaders.
Lorient is only one point clear of the relegation playoff and Lille has a one point lead atop the Ligue 1 table. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest Weah will be on the bench since the starting lineup in league games is doing well. But the American will likely get into the game at some point and his minutes have been expanding with the French club the past month as they chase the title.
Bristol City – Barnsley
Saturday, February 20: 10:00am EST
Daryl Dike, 20, has been growing into a role at Barnsley since joining the club on loan at the end of January. The Orlando City forward has done well using his physicality to give 10th place Barnsley an edge in the Championship and Dike has also shown nice technical ability. He is likely gaining the attention among English clubs now watching him for a potential transfer but the Oklahoma native will eventually need to start scoring.
A visit to 14th Bristol City is not a tough opponent and Barnsley should be the favorites in this one. Dike has a good chance to start and it will be interesting to see if he can score his first goal for the club or at least provide his first assist. Either way, he has done well with his first steps in England.
Elsewhere across the globe
In the Premier League, Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream will hope to return to the starting lineup when Fulham hosts fellow relegation battlers Sheffield United on Saturday at 3pm EST. Meanwhile, Owen Otasowie will likely be on the bench for Wolves when they host Leeds on Friday at 3pm EST. U.S. national team goalkeeper Zach Steffen will surely be on the bench for leaders Manchester City when they travel to London to visit Arsenal on Sunday at 11am EST.
In the Championship, league leaders Norwich City host Matthew Olosunde and Rotherham on Saturday at 10am EST. In third-tier League One on Saturday, Burton Albion hosts Lynden Gooch and Sunderland at 10am EST. In fourth-tier League Two on Saturday, Indiana Vassilev and Cheltenham Town host Brandford City at 10am EST.
In Italy’s Serie A, Weston McKennie and Juventus host Crotone on Monday. Bryan Reynolds will hope to make the bench for AS Roma on Saturday when they visit Benevento at 2:45pm EST. In Serie B, Andrija Novakovich and Frosinone host Pescara on Friday at 3pm EST. Also in Serie B, Ascoli host Giuseppe Barone and Salernitana at 8am EST. Barone is looking to make his first-team debut.
In the Bundesliga on Saturday, American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo and VfB Stuttgart visit FC Koln on Saturday at 9:30am EST. Also on on Saturday, Timothy Chandler will likely be on the bench for Eintracht Frankfurt when they host leaders Bayern Munich at 9:30am EST.
In Germany’s 2.Bundesliga, Jann George and Jahn Regensburg visit Eintracht Braunschweig on Friday at 12:30pm EST. Leon Flach, 19, and St. Pauli host Darmstadt on Saturday at 7am EST. On Sunday in Germany’s second tier Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf host McKinzie Gaines and Hannover at 7:30am. Also on Sunday, Bobby Wood and promotional favorites Hamburg visit Wuerzburger Kickers at 7:30am
In Belgium’s top tier, Joe Efford and Waasland Beveren host Sporting Charleroi on Saturday at 2:45pm EST. On Sunday, Royal Antwerp host Chris Durkin and St. Truiden at 2:45pm. On Monday, Club Brugge and backup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath host Oud Heverlee at 2:30pm EST.
In Turkey’s Super Lig, Alanyaspor host DeAndre Yedlin and leaders Galatasaray at 8am EST with Yedlin aiming to make his first Super Lig start. Also at the 8am on Saturday Mix Diskerud and Denizlispor – host Genclerbirligi. On Sunday at 8am in Turkey, Tyler Boyd and Sivasspor host Kayserispor.
In Spain’s La Liga, Yunus Musah will aim to return to the starting lineup for Valencia when they host Celta Vigo on Saturday at 12:30pm EST. In the Segunda at 8am on Sunday, Shaq Moore and Tenerife visit Leganes.
In Scotland, St. Mirren hosts Scott Pittman and Livingston on Saturday at 10am EST.
In Austria’s Bundesliga on Saturday, Erik Palmer-Brown and Austria Vienna host Altach at 11am EST. WSG Swarovski Tirol host Taylor Booth, Brandon Servania and SKN St. Polten also at 11am EST. On Sunday, red hot Andrew Wooten (with three goals in his last two games) and Admira Moedling host LASK at 8:30am EST.
In Hungary’s top flight on Saturday, Seattle right back Henry Wingo and leaders Ferencvaros host Budapest Honved at 1:30pm in a Budapest derby.
In Poland’s top flight, Aron Johannsson will hope to make his debut for Lech Poznan when they host Slask Wroclaw on Sunday at 11:30am EST. Meanwhile, Kenny Saief and Lechia Gdansk host Gornik Zabrze at 2pm EST on Saturday.
In France’s Ligue 2 on Monday, Guingamp hosts U.S. national team forward Nicholas Gioacchini and SM Caen at 2:30pm EST.
In the Danish Superliga on Sunday, Emmanuel Sabbi and OB Odense visit AC Horsens at 8am EST while Haji Wright and Sonderjyske visit AGF Aarhus at 10am EST.
In the Swiss Super League on Sunday, red hot Jordan Siebatcheu and BSC Young Boys host Servette at 10am EST.
In Argentina’s Copa Diego Maradona, Joel Sonora and Talleres de Cordoba visit Gimnasia on Friday at 5:15pm EST while his younger brother Alan Sonora and Independiente visit Patronato de Parana on Sunday at 5:20pm EST.