Midweek: American record in the Champions league, USMNT camp update, MLS playoffs roll on
December 02, 2020
TUESDAY AND Wednesday were big days for American soccer where seven Americans played in the Champions League, one coached, Seattle booked a spot in the Western final, the USMNT camp opened, and there were Americans in games across the globe.
With all that took place, here are my thoughts.
The best player in the Champions League this week was Weston McKennie who earned the start for Juventus against Dynamo Kyiv in a 3-0 win. McKennie was sharp on both sides of the ball. In the attack he was active and was an important part of the build up to the third Juventus goal.
But without the ball, he was a disruptive presence and did the exact performance that was asked of him and his touch map shows that he was all over the middle of the field – and his passing was strong.
- 90 minutes
- 68 touches
- 1 shot
- 3 key passes
- 83% passing (44/53)
- 2 aerials
- 0 dribbles
- 2x fouled
- 3 tackles
- 2 interceptions
- 0 clearances
- 2/3 accurate long balls
Here is the touch map for Weston McKennie that shows how he had a big presence in the middle of the field:
Juventus had already clinched a spot in the knockout stages as it has an insurmountable lead on both Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros in Group G. With one game remaining, first place is probably out or reach as it would take a seven-goal win over Barcelona in Spain.
Also, in the Champions League, Christian Pulisic returned to Chelsea’s starting line for the first time since October when he played the first 66 minutes in a 4-0 win over Sevilla. Olivier Giroud was the star of the day after scoring all four goals, but it was good news for Chelsea and U.S. fans to see the Hershey native back.
Pulisic’s performance in this one was mixed. Individually, he made some good players but was clearly eager to take the game on. As a result, he didn’t necessarily combine well with his teammates and forced the issued a few too many times. Defensively, he wasn’t much of a presence.
- 66 minutes
- 28 touches
- 4 shots (1 on target)
- 0 aerials wins
- 81.3% (13/16)
- 2 dribbles
- 0 tackles, interceptions, & clearances
- 1 blocked shot
- 1 foul
Chelsea has already booked a spot in the knockouts as it sits atop Group E and the only way it will fall out of the top spot is to lose to the point where it overturns a 15 goal differential advantage.
In Group F, Gio Reyna, 18, started for Borussia Dortmund in a 1-1 draw with Lazio and it marked the start of a stretch where the German club will have to go without Erling Haaland, who is out with a hamstring injury.
In this game, Dortmund got the result that it needed to remain atop Group F and clinch a spot in knockouts with one round remaining.
- 90 minutes
- 67 touches
- 91.5% passing (43/47)
- 3 shots (1 on target)
- 2 key passes
- 1 aerial won
- 0 dribbles
- 1x fouled
- 2 tackles
- 0 interceptions
- 2 clearances
- 0 crosses
- 1/2 long balls
On Tuesday, Sergino Dest played a full 90 for Barcelona in a comfortable win over Ferencvaros. Heading into the final game of Group G next week, Barcelona has already clinched a spot in the knockout rounds and now has three-point lead atop the group. On top of that, it has a seven-goal differential in the tiebreaker over second place Juventus – which has already clinched a spot in the knockouts. So this likely sets up a very low-pressure finale between the two teams.
Against Ferencvaros, Dest was had no game-changing highlights but he was remarkably competent. He was quiet but effective. He still managed to touch the ball nearly once per minute over a full 90. He made no major errors. Dest has the ability to be a great offensive weapon – and that’s why he landed both a move and a starting spot at Barcelona. But it is also important he can have a good game when he isn’t a game-changer.
- 90 minutes
- 89 touches
- 1 shot
- 2 key passes
- 94.3% passing (66/70)
- 0 aerials won
- 1 dribble
- 1x fouled
- 1 tackle
- 0 clearances, interceptions, blocked shots
- 1 foul
- 3 crosses
Here is Dest's touch map that shows how he continued to stay close to the right side:
Also in this game, young American teenage winger Konrad de la Fuente played the final 10 minutes in this game. Once again, he did well in a late-cameo where he completed all seven of his passes. The Miami native stands to benefit for the low-pressure game in the group finale where perhaps he can play extended minutes or even start.
Tyler Adams played the second half for RB Leipzig on Wednesday in a wild 4-3 win over Istanbul Basaksehir. The former New York Red Bull midfielder came into the game with Leipzig up 2-1. In the 66th minute, Leizpig took a 3-1 lead in the 66th but the Turkish club rallied and equalized the game in the 85th minute but found a winner in stoppage time.
For Adams, it was not his preferred type of game. For a player who can be a disruptive force defensively, and a calming presence with the ball – who gets a lot of touches and completes a high percentage of his passes – this was not a preferred type of game. This game was out of control and Leipzig was lucky to win. Leipzig lost its command of the game at key moments.
Adams did well with passing but wasn’t on the ball enough and he typically wins a better percentage of his duels.
- 45 mins
- 30 touches
- 20/21 passing
- 1/1 long balls
- 1 duel won (4 lost)
- 1 clearance
- 2 fouls
- 1 tackle
- 1 interception
But a win is a win and it sets up a wild finish to Group H next week. Manchester United, Paris St. Germain, and RB Leipzig all enter the final matchday even on nine points – with Istanbul Basaksehir already guaranteed a last-place finish.
The problem for Leipzig is that it has the worst goal differential of the three teams with nine points. As a result, Leipzig will almost certainly need to defeat Manchester United on the final matchday in Germany to advance.
It has been a rocky road in the Champions League for Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg but the good news is that it has control of its own destiny heading into the final matchday. The problem, however, is that it must defeat Atletico Madrid at home.
On Tuesday, Salzburg rather easily defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 3-1 to set up a decisive finale. Bayern Munich already clinched the top of Group A. The result is that second place Atletico has six points and Salzburg has four points. When the two sides meet next Wednesday, a Salzburg win would see it through but Atletico needs to just draw. That is an uphill climb as Atletico is one of the best teams in Spain but it will be an advantage for Salzburg to be hosting this game in the cold weather.
Also, in Group G, Chris Richards played the final 28 minutes for Bayern Munich in a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. It was an unexpected sub at the time given that Bayern was trailing when he came on and he played almost as a right wingback that pushed forward into the attack. Bayern ended up finding an equalizer through a penalty.
Richards generally played well despite one bad giveaway. He generally played it safe with his passing – which is to be expected given he is not really a right back. But perhaps with Bayern having nothing on the line in the group finale, Richards will get a chance to start at his natural center back position.
Seattle moves past Dallas
On Tuesday, Seattle became the third team to advance to the playoff’s final four. New England and Columbus will meet in the Eastern Conference final. Seattle will now meet the winner of Kansas City and Minnesota in the Western Conference final.
Seattle’s 1-0 victory over Dallas wasn’t surprising and Seattle was easily the better team over 90 minutes. It was surprising that the game winner came from centerback Shane O’Neill early in the second half. O’Neill was left wide open for a header off a well-delivered Nico Lodeiro corner kick.
Here are few notes on this game
Seattle’s stars shined: The postseason is all about whose stars and whose designated players deliver. Well, Lodeiro was routinely dangerous and is corner kick was the difference. Every year Lodeiro seems to do this and his impact on the postseason makes him one of the best players in league history. Jordan Morris constantly had the Dallas defense on its backfoot. Dallas really only had one big chance to score – a shot off the post in the second half.
Tough lesson for Dallas kids: Jordan Morris provided a tough learning lesson to the very young and promising Dallas right back Bryan Reynolds – who should be a key player for the U.S. U-20 team. Morris stripped Reynolds of the ball a few times and got past him on the wing in big moments. Reynolds will recover but this showed the gap he needs to make up next year – provided he does not transfer.
For Tanner Tessmann, the promising U.S. U-20 midfielder showed impressive passing (and it was his backheel that set up Dallas’ best chance). But Tessmann also showed he needs to be quicker with his decision making and defensively, he had a tough time staying with Cristian Roldan on a few of Seattle’s dangerous chances.
Love the nifty first pass from Tanner Tessmann to start this sequence. pic.twitter.com/j7f9yydgsZ— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) December 2, 2020
Dike & Perea boost USMNT camp
The United States national team camp rolls on in Ft. Lauderdale ahead of next Wednesday’s friendly against El Salvador.
The U.S. team has made two additions to the roster following the departure of Frankie Amaya due to COVID-19. Jackson Yueill’s addition is not surprising as he is likely to be part of the U.S. U-23 team.
But an addition that raised eyebrows was the first call-up of Andres Perea. The talented defensive midfielder was born in Florida but has been playing for Colombia as a young player. He represented Colombia at the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and started each of Colombia’s five games of the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Colombia’s run to the quarterfinals – where he was eliminated on a 1-0 loss to eventual champions Ukraine.
Signed to Atletico Nacional, Perea spend 2020 on loan to Orlando City in MLS where he played under former Colombian international Oscar Pareja. Perea, 20, played well this season where he grew into a starting role and earned over 1200 minutes in the season.
Now with the U.S. team in camp, he is ineligible to play for the U.S. team unless he files a one-time switch with FIFA and as of now, there is no indication he is willing to do so. Along with Efra Alvarez, he is the second dual national in camp that is ineligible to play for the U.S. team due to participation in official youth national events with other countries.
Under the radar, Perea would be a sneaky good addition to the U.S. player pool if he does elect to make a switch. For one, he is eligible for the U.S. U-23 Olympic team. But as a defensive midfielder, the U.S. team is short on options at the No. 6. Behind Tyler Adams, options are still unproven but Berhalter offered up a brief, but key insight into Perea as a player when he said one of his strengths was his “range” and ability to cover ground. Adams has great range but the problem is that there is no one else who can play the No. 6 in the same way. If Perea can showcase his range, he might be an attractive backup – and use the Olympic team as a key springboard.
“Andres Perea played in two FIFA events with Colombia,” Berhalter said. “It's a very similar process for both of them [along with Efra Alvarez]. For them to be able to play for us and be eligible to play for us, they would have to do a one-time switch. The way I am looking at it is, in times like this, it is smart for a player to see what's out there. We are talking about really young players. Both of them have a history with the United States but also have cultural ties to other countries. To me, this isn't an unusual process and all we're looking to do is create a good environment for players where they want to play.”
“Andres has really good range,” he added. “He's very athletic, can cover ground. He's a very interesting young player in the league.”
Also on the dual national front, Orlando City forward Daryl Dike is in a U.S. camp for the first time and this is noteworthy given that both his brother and sister represented Nigeria internationally. Dike scored eight goals in his rookie season but also was interesting given the way he played the No. 9 position. At 6’2” and 220 pounds, he has unusual size for his position and his size and strength can be tough for center backs to defend given that he also moves well too.
Berhalter also acknowledged that U.S. team would play differently with Dike on the field.
“In terms of Daryl, we would most likely use the forward position in a different way if he was on the field because he is such a physical presence,” Berhalter said. “He's a guy you need to get the ball to. You saw what he did in the game against New England. He made it very hard for the centerbacks to play. He was very physical and very aggressive against them. I felt they just needed to get him the ball in the box more. I can imagine that when he's on the field, we would look to get him the ball in the penalty box more - either back to goal or on the crosses to draw in defenders and perhaps lay off or take them on himself.”
On Monday, U.S. U-20 forward Charlie Kelman made his Queens Park Rangers and Championship debut when he played the final seven minutes in a 2-1 loss to Bristol City. Kelman completed a transfer from League Two’s Southend United in October.
Terrence Boyd, 29, scored two more goals for Hallescher in a 2-0 win over Unterhaching on Wednesday. His numbers since joining the 3.Liga club in June 2019 from Toronto FC are outstanding. With those goals, he now has 7 goals and 2 assists in 13 games so far this season. Since joining the club, he now has 22 goals & 13 assists in 46 games.
In the Coa Sudamericana, New Jersey-born central midfielder Alan Sonora, 22, played the final 20 minutes plus stoppage time for Independiente in a 1-0 win over Uruguay's Fenix on Wednesday night. That win gave it a 5-1 aggregate win on Fenix in the quarterfinals of the tournament.