Musah vs. Real Madrid, Reyna vs. Bayern, MLS Decision Day highlight weekend
November 06, 2020
THE WEEKEND for American soccer should be a fun one. Across Europe and even into South America, many players are playing in big games and will then travel to Wales to play for the United States national team. In MLS, it is Decision Day with playoff spots and even the Supporters Shield on the line.
In some occasions, it will be more than just how the players play. U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said earlier in the week said Christian Pulisic’s availability for the U.S. team during the upcoming week would be determined by how he did this week for Chelsea. Pulisic did not dress midweek for Chelsea’s Champions League win over Rennes. So now it will be whether or not he even plays on Saturday against Sheffield United.
But this is for all players. It would simply be about their form heading into camp. Berhalter at this point is simply hoping that COVID or injuries do not pop up head of the camp beginning to assemble on Sunday night.
With that said, here is what I will be watching for in the days ahead.
West Ham – Fulham
The Premier League
Saturday, November 7: 3:00pm EST
After notching their first win of the season on Monday in a 2-0 win over West Brom, Fulham actually climbed out of last place and out of the relegation zone altogether as the bottom of the Premier League contains a bunch of very poor teams at the moment. In that game, U.S. national team left back Antonee Robinson was very good and had a “hockey” assist on one of the goals. Tim Ream, however, went as an unused sub.
On Saturday, a London derby awaits as the Cottagers will travel across the city to face West Ham United – a team that is beatable and has just two wins on the season. This is actually an important game because after West Ham, Fulham has a difficult stretch of games in Everton, Leicester City, Manchester City, and Liverpool.
Robinson is making a strong case to be the U.S. team’s left back moving forward and it will be interesting if he can show continued growth from the win over West Brom.
Borussia Dortmund - Bayern Munich
Saturday, November 7: 12:30pm EST
The top two teams in Germany will meet on Saturday as Borussia Dortmund hosts Bayern Munich. Both teams have 15 points from six games (Bayern holding a goal differential edge +15 to +11).
This will be an enormous test for American teenager Gio Reyna who has started most of Dortmund games playing in the No. 10 role. His combination play with Erling Haaland, 20, makes for one of the most exciting young duos in Europe.
While Chris Richards probably won’t play in this game for Bayern, both Americans will head off to Wales afterward to join the U.S. team.
RB Leipzig - Freiburg
Saturday, November 7: 9:30am EST
Tyler Adams returned for RB Leipzig from a back injury midweek and played the final 15 minutes in a big 2-1 win over Paris St. Germain in the Champions League. During that game, the former New York Red Bull made a few key defensive players that were instrumental to preserving the win.
On Saturday, Leipzig will host a Freiburg team that has three draws and two losses from its last five games. Meanwhile, Leipzig lost its first game of the Bundesliga season last weekend against Monchengladbach – without Adams.
With Freiburg having conceded 13 goals from six games, Leipzig will be looking to take the game to Freiburg while playing at home.
Barcelona - Real Betis
Saturday, November 7: 10:15am EST
Sergino Dest, 20, is still getting settled into Barcelona and the early going have seem some positives and some growing pains as the club has been disappointing thus far in La Liga play – as it sits in 12th place after securing just two points from its last four games. The Champions League, however, has been a different story for Barcelona as it has a perfect nine points from three games.
Dest earned the start midweek for Barcelona and he went a full 90 in a 2-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv.
This will be an interesting season for Dest as he will be part of a younger generation that will try to take root at Barcelona during a time of transition where legendary figures like Lionel Messi will begin to depart.
Real Betis is off to a decent La Liga start with 12 points from eight games.
Valencia - Real Madrid
Sunday, November 8: 3:00pm EST
Yunus Musah, 17, was by far the biggest surprise on the U.S. national team roster as the highly talented teenager at Valencia seemed to have been part of the English national team set up and his connections to the United States were marginal. He once said in an interview that he was “only born America because my mum were there on holiday.”
But the New York City-born Musah has been starting for Valencia as of late and last week scored his first goal in a 2-2 draw with Getafe.
It is unclear if Musah will remain with the U.S. team long-term and Berhalter was clear that it is unsettled. But for now, the U.S. team will have the chance to make a strong impression with Musah in the next two weeks.
But on Sunday, Musah is once again slated to feature for Valencia against one of the best teams in Europe in Real Madrid. For those who have not yet watched Musah play yet, here is a great opportunity in a big game.
SM Caen – Nancy
Saturday, November 7: 1:00am EST
After missing two games to COVID, Nicholas Gioacchini should be back in the lineup for SM Caen as it hosts Nancy in France’s Ligue 2. Gioacchini has two goals through his six games this season and has been called up to the United States national team for the upcoming friendlies. It will be his first time called up to the national team at any age level.
The big/tall Kansas City-born forward and he has the talent to help across the front line – on either wing or center forward. Caen has legitimate hopes of trying to earn promotion but COVID has seen it field weaker lineups recently and it has three losses in its last five games – so no it has fallen to eighth place. The return of Gioacchini should help.
Lazio - Juventus
Sunday, November 8: 6:30am EST
Weston McKennie may not always start for Juventus but the experience he is getting this season at the nine-time reigning Serie A champions is second to none. Last weekend he picked up his first assist in a 4-1 win over Spezia and midweek he played 38 minutes off the bench in a 4-1 win over Ferencvaros in the Champions League. In other words, his playing time has been steady and Juventus has climbed back into third place in Serie A.
Lazio is one of the historically strong teams in Italy but sits in 10th place with 10 points from six games. It is on the rise, however, having won two straight games. When hosting Juventus, it will have a big opportunity to continue to climb the table.
Rapid Vienna - Salzburg
Sunday, November 8: 11:00am EST
Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg team is the best team in Austria by any standard. It has a perfect 18 points from six games. It has scored the most goals at 24. It is tied for the fewest conceded at four. It has the best goal differential in the league at +24.
But its opponent on Sunday, Rapid Vienna, is in second place with 16 points and the second-best goal differential at +10. As well as Salzburg has played, first place is up for grabs as a Rapid win would move it up to the top.
Marsch’s squad is the deserved favorite but there is surprisingly a lot at stake for an early season game.
Farense - Boavista
Portuguese Primeira Liga
Sunday, November 8: 10:00am EST
Reggie Cannon is coming off one of the best outings of his career on Monday when he went the distance for Boavista in a 3-0 win over leaders Benfica for its first victory of the season. Cannon was strong on both sides of the ball in that game and had a “hockey assist” on a goal from former Houston Dynamo winger Alberth Elis.
Can Boavista keep it going? It’s opponent on Sunday, Farense, is winless and in last place with just two points from six games.
Gent – Anderlecht
Belgian Pro League
Sunday, November 8: 12:15pm EST
Matt Miazga has played very well at Anderlecht since arriving last month. In his first three games, the team has accumulated seven out of nine possible points. Last week, Miazga and Anderlecht (which has a backline that started three former New York Red Bulls – Miazga, Michael Murillo, and Kemar Lawrence) shut out then leading Antwerp in a 1-0 win.
Gent is typically one of the strongest clubs in Belgium but has been struggling this season with just 12 points from 11 games (to sit in 12th place). It still remains a dangerous team and while Anderlecht has played better over all with 20 points from 11 games, this game should be a close and intense contest.
In the Championship, Cameron Carter-Vickers is aiming to make his first matchday roster for AFC Bournemouth on Saturday when it visits Birmingham City. Duane Holmes will likely be on the bench for Derby County when it hosts Barnsley on Saturday.
In the FA Cup, Lynden Gooch and Sunderland host Mansfield Town on Saturday while Indiana Vassilev and Burton Albion visit Barnet on Sunday.
In the Bundesliga, New Jersey-born manager Pellegrino Matarazzo and VFB Stuttgart host Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday and Timothy Chandler should be on the bench for the guests.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Julian Green and Greuther Furth visit Bochum on Saturday and Green will likely start as he has been playing well. Alfredo Morales has been struggling for playing time with Fortuna Dusseldorf and it travels to face Nurnberg on Saturday. Leon Flach and Kevin Lankford should be on the bench for St. Pauli when it hosts Karlsruher on Sunday.
In the Eredivisie, VVV-Venlo hosts Luca de la Torre and Heracles on Saturday. The San Diego native had a nice outing last weekend in a win over Utrecht. On Sunday, Desevio Payne will likely be on the bench for Emmen when it visits Vitesse. Uly Llanez, who was called up to the U.S. national team this month, will visit AZ Alkmaar on Sunday.. Richard Ledezma will be hoping to make his third appearance of the week for PSV Eindhoven when it hosts Willem II on Sunday.
In Belgium’s top flight, Brenden Hines-Ike will likely be on the bench for Kortrijk when it hosts Beerschot. Joe Efford and Waasland-Beveren visit Eupen on Saturday. Chris Durkin and St. Truiden host Genk on Saturday. Ethan Horvath will likely be the backup goalkeeper for Club Brugge when it visits Oostende on Sunday.
In Italy, Wisconsin forward Andrija Novakovich and surging Frosinone will visit Monza in Serie B action.
In France, U.S. national team attacker Tim Weah will likely be on the bench for Lille when it visits Brest on Sunday. In Ligue 2, U.S. U-20 eligible attacker Patrick Koffi and league leading Paris FC visit Dunkerque. Koffi will aim for his first appearance since the opening weekend when he picked up a quick red card.
In the Austrian Bundesliga, Erik Palmer-Brown will likely start for Austria Vienna when it visits Altach on Saturday.
In Turkey’s Super Lig, Eric Lichaj will likely start for Fatih Karagumruk when it visits Ankaragucu on Sunday. Tyler Boyd, meanwhile, is still off the roster for Besiktas.
In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso and top-flight leading Internacional host Cortiba on Sunday. Cardoso will then travel to Wales to join the U.S. team for the first time next week.
In Spain’s second tier, Shaq Moore will likely suit up for Tenerife when it hosts Real Zaragoza on Sunday.
In the Danish Superliga on Sunday, winger Emmanuel Sabbi and OB visit Bondby. In-form Haji Wright and surging Sonderjyske visit AC Horsens who will have New Jersey’s Michael Lansing as the backup goalkeeper.
In Norway, Henry Wingo and Molde host Kristiansund BK on Sunday.
In Swede’s top flight Allsvenskan on Sunday, Romain Gall and Orebro host Kalmar. Aron Johannsson and Hammarby host Varbers BolS FC. Mix Diskerud and Helsingborg host IFK Goteborg.
DECISION DAY IN MLS
MLS deserves a lot of credit for getting the 2020 season this far. On Sunday it will conclude a regular season where most teams have played 23 games along with the MLS is Back tournament during the summer.
The season hasn’t been perfect as some teams have dealt with COVID cases but it has been fun as young players have enjoyed more success than ever before.
The playoffs are over-expanded this year but it is also understandable as the unbalanced nature of the schedule have made the regular season uneven in terms of strength of schedules. The playoffs should be fun, if teams can avoid outbreaks.
The Eastern Conference has most of the interesting stories:
- Five teams in Chicago, Montreal, Atlanta United, Inter Miami, and DC United are vying for the final two playoff spots.
- Philadelphia and Toronto are going for the Supporters Shield.
- 5th place New York City and 4th place Columbus are vying for the final first round home game.
The Western Conference has some important stories – although all eight of the playoff teams are already decided.
- Sporting Kansas City, Portland, and Seattle are in line for the top Western seed.
- If 4th place Dallas looses to Minnesota, Minnesota or LAFC could over take FCD for the final home play-in game
All the Eastern Conference games will take place on Sunday at 3:30pm EST with the Western Conference games at 6:30pm EST.
Here is a look at what is stake in every game.
Chicago Fire – New York City: This game means a lot for both teams. While a win alone wouldn’t technically guarantee a postseason berth for Chicago, it almost surely would. A draw probably would do a trick while a loss would likely doom Chicago. New York City is coming off a 5-2 win over the Red Bulls and it need a win and likely a Crew loss to move into the top four places to host a first-round playoff game. NYCFC cannot fall out of the top five.
Columbus Crew – Atlanta United: Columbus likely only needs a draw to secure a first-round home playoff game but a win would clinch it. A loss would make it at the mercy of NYCFC. Atlanta is one point out of the final playoff game. Because of the logjam of five teams fighting for two spots, Atlanta needs to win and hope that Chicago or Montreal drop points to keep its chances of a spot in the play-in round.
DC United – Montreal: This is one of the best games of the day. Montreal is in the play-in spaces right now and DC United is out. DC United will overtake Montreal with a win but it will need help. Montreal qualifies for the playoffs with a win, it’s possible with a draw, but a loss in this one will likely doom it.
Inter Miami - FC Cincinnati: FC Cincinnati has already clinched the worst record in the league. This game is only relevant for Inter Miami which must win and get help with an Atlanta loss or draw and one of Montreal or Chicago losing.
New York Red Bulls – Toronto FC: Both teams are in the playoffs. Toronto will win the Supporters Shield if it wins this game and Philadelphia fails to defeat New England. It can also win it if it draws and Philadelphia loses. Red Bulls don’t have too much at stake. It sits in seventh place and it is unlikely it can climb out of the play-in positions and it will host its play-in game as it cannot fall to ninth.
Orlando City – Nashville SC: Not too much at stake in this one as Orlando is going to host a playoff game and Nashville is going to host a play-in game regardless of what happens – at either the seventh or eight place game.
Philadelphia Union – New England Revolution: Philadelphia Union will win the Supporters Shield with a win but anything less it needs help. It would take a big loss for New England to fall out of the first-round playoff games.
Houston Dynamo – Colorado Rapids: Houston is eliminated. Colorado is in the playoffs and will open its playoffs on the road. Only minor seeding is of consequence for Robin Fraser’s team.
LAFC – Portland Timbers: Portland can win the top seed of the West if it wins and Sporting Kanas City loses to Real Salt Lake. LAFC meanwhile, can host a first round playoff game if it wins this by a large margin and FC Dallas draws or falls to Minnesota (provided Minnesota wins by a lesser amound). Both teams have a lot at stake but need help.
Minnesota United - FC Dallas: Luchi Gonzalez said it was a goal for his team to host a playoff game. A win and it does it. Anything else, it has serious problems. A loss, then it will probably go to Minnesota.
Real Salt Lake – Sporting Kanas City: Real Salt Lake is eliminated. Sporting Kansas City will win the West’s top seed with a win. Anything else it will probably be overtaken.
Seattle Sounders - San Jose Earthquakes: Seattle has hopes of earning the West’s top seed but needs a to win and for both Portland and Sporting Kansas City to fall. San Jose is in the playoffs but cannot host a playoff game so not much is on the line for the Quakes.
Vancouver Whitecaps – LA Galaxy: The weekend’s only matchup between two eliminated teams.