Wednesday kickoff

McKennie's super-strike, Yanks advance in UCL, Seattle superb, & USMNT updates

Champions League, MLS Cup, USMNT are all big stories this week. ASN's Brian Sciaretta walks you through it all
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 09, 2020
6:30 AM

THE START TO THE MIDWEEK has brought a bunch of really good games, including a historic goal for a U.S. international at the Nou Camp, one of the best MLS playoff games of all time, and with these games going on, the U.S. team is preparing for tonight’s El Salvador game.

The Champions League was fun for Americans as Tyler Adams, Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, Christian Pulisic, and possibly Chris Richards, Zack Steffen, and Konrad de la Fuente are set to all play in the knockout stages.

Of the four Americans who played in the Champions League on Tuesday, three were winners. Christian Pulisic, Ethan Horvath, and Konrad de la Fuente all were unused subs.

Here are some of my thoughts on all of the midweek events.


McKennie’s brilliant Nou Camp strike


In terms of importance, Weston McKennie’s goal over the weekend against Torino was bigger. It was a Derby game against a rival and it set the stage for a Juventus comeback win. Juventus was not playing well when McKennie came in and he changed the tone of a meaningful Serie A game.

Tuesday’s game against Barcelona in an empty Nou Camp pitted two of the biggest teams in the world against each other in the Champions League and both teams had already secured advancement.

Still, whenever these teams play in the Champions League, it is a big deal. And because of that, McKennie was able to deliver on an absolutely massive stage with a stunning goal. On the play, he collected the ball in a tight place in the middle of the field, swung it wide to Juan Cuadrado, then made a run into a space that was open due to Cristiano Ronaldo making a run to draw defenders, then McKennie finished with a stunning volley from close range.


It was remarkable goal that will probably be one of the most famous club goals scored by an American player. It doesn’t matter that his goal from a few days before might actually be more relevant – this was for Juventus and it was against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champion League. That’s all you need to know. And the goal displayed a high level of skill on top of it all. It was a lot of fun to watch.

Juventus ran Barcelona off the field in this one and Barcelona is not among the best teams in the world this year. McKennie’s numbers, overall, were fairly solid. But he’s finding ways to do defensive dirty work and have a few moments every game where he can be a difference maker.

Sergino Dest, meanwhile, had a ton of touches in this game and he will remain an integral part of Barcelona’s plans as it moves on from its legendary core in the coming years. His overall numbers were good although defensively, it doesn’t reveal that he could have been better. Even when he’s not a game-changer, it’s been a very good start to his tenure at the club has he has staked a place in Barcelona’s future.



Reyna subbed on for BVB rally


Gio Reyna did not start for Borussia Dortmund against Zenit St. Petersburg but was subbed on in the 58th minute with Borussia Dortmund trailing 1-0. He did not score or assist, but was on the field for both of his team’s goals en route to a 2-1 win.

With Reyna, Dortmund is just better when he’s on the field. The offense flows better, even when the American isn’t directly scoring or assisting. Almost immediately after he came on the field, Borussia Dortmund sprung to life and played like the better team.

Reyna is still very young and won’t start every game but he’s crucial to the team’s success this year.


Adams and Leipzig advance


On Tuesday, all Tyler Adams had to do was help ensure RB Leipzig did not collapse when it had a 3-0 lead in the 75th minute when he came on. Leipzig needed to win this game in order advance and in the end, it did by a narrow 3-2 score.

This was a tough game for Adams who entered when Manchester United was throwing everything it could at Leipzig. Adams didn’t play particularly well but it was enough for a win that will be remembered for a long time by fans. It was yet another stinging defeat for Manchester United.

Adams and Leipzig are now off to the knockout stages of the Champions League where they will attempt to meet or surpass last season’s run to the semifinals.


Weah to start on Thursday


Tim Weah will make his first start of the season for OSC Lille on Thursday when the New Yorker will get the nod from the opening whistle against his former club, Celtic, in the Group H finale in the Europa League. Lille has already secured advancement into the knockouts.

Weah, 20, has been mostly coming off the bench this season for Lille as he recovers from hamstring issues that cost him almost all of the 2019/20 season.


Seattle books spot in MLS Cup


It’s old news now, but Seattle will take on Columbus in MLS Cup 2020 after defeating Minnesota United 3-2. There are just a few thoughts on that game

One of the greatest MLS playoff games ever: I’ve seen a lot of good MLS playoff games and the last two seasons have featured some classics. This was perhaps the best one because it was chaotic with some team just finding a way to win in the end. This game was well played by both teams, but in the end Seattle was able to find another gear. It’s performance in the last 20 minute of the game was remarkable as it rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win it in the end.

Lodeiro’s remarkable outing: Niko Lodeiro is one of the best and most effective players in the history of the league. Not only is he skillful, but he works so incredibly hard and is seemingly everywhere on the field at all times. It is so hard to have an attacking midfielder touch the ball 106 times in a game (that number is typically reached by defenders and defensive midfielders) but that is what he did against Minnesota. He was on the ball all the time and yet would track back to play defense. With Seattle’s best player getting on the ball that much, it wore Minnesota down and Seattle as a way of just wearing down opponents.

Schmetzer and Morris: Seattle is a fun team to watch and one of the best reasons is the local ties the team has to its community. Brian Schmetzer has been affiliated with all eras of the Sounders history for 40 years now. He is approaching a resume now that will put him among the best coaches in the history of the league. Morris, another Seattle native, is among the best American players produced by the league. It all might end soon as Schmetzer is seeking a new contract and Morris might pull the trigger on a move to Europe.


The USMNT to take on El Salvador tonight


Yesterday, ASN previewed this matchup with six American players to watch in this game. Unfortunately, the top player on the list, Daryl Dike, will now not play in this game due to a minor injury he picked up in training. The powerful Orlando City forward, however, should still be relevant in a busy 2021 as he is relevant to both the U.S. national team and the U.S. U-20 team.

With Dike out, Ayo Akinola and Sebastian Soto will take over the No. 9 position.

This game is very important to all the players on the roster to showcase what they can do ahead of major opportunities in 2021. In terms of how I think the team will lineup, here is my predicted starting XI:

Predicted XI: Hamid: Araujo, Long, McKenzie, Vines: Yueill, Aaronson, Lletget: Mueller, Akinola, Arriola

If this is the lineup, pay close attention to Brenden Aaronson who Berhalter singled out as making huge strides in his game this year on “seemingly a weekly basis.” Berhalter spoke about Aaronson both at the start of camp and yesterday to preview the game and Aaronson will have a lot of expectations to create opportunities in this one.

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