Weekend preview

MLS Cup, Pulisic, Sargent, Brooks, Miljevic and others headline weekend

MLS Cup will headline the weekend for American Soccer and the final should be exciting and unpredictable. Elsewhere, Christian Pulisic will look to continue his strong form while some Americans in Europe will aim to build momentum heading into the international break and others will look to prove why they were overlooked. ASN's Brian Sciaretta previews the weekend ahead.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 08, 2019
4:20 PM
MLS CUP will be front and center of American soccer on Sunday when the Seattle Sounders will host Toronto FC in front of 70,000 people in a game that is impossible to predict. But that is just one of many games for American fans to follow this weekend.

As we do every weekend, here are the 10 best games for American fans to follow and watch in the days ahead.

Seattle Sounders - Toronto FC

Sunday, Nov. 10: 3:00pm EST

The 2019 MLS season will conclude on Sunday with a new champion as the Seattle Sounders host Toronto FC in the final of what has been a remarkable playoff run for both teams.

Seattle arrived at this stage after beating both FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake at home before putting in a stunning performance in a 3-1 away win over Supporters Shield winning Los Angeles FC.

Toronto meanwhile arrives having knocked off DC United in extra time before beating the two best teams in Eastern Conference away from home – New York City FC and Atlanta United. If Toronto becomes champion, it will have to win a third straight road against a high-quality opponent. But after their run through the playoffs so far, it is hard to bet against them.

The key to the victory for Seattle will be cutting off service to Alejanro Pozuelo. The main talking point in the Western Conference final was how Seattle thrived in cutting off Carlos Vela’s access to the ball and limiting his touches to a mere fraction of what they typically are. Seattle is going to have to focus on doing the same thing to Pozuelo and Toronto is going to have to be creative in how they get Pozuelo involved.

Seattle probably has the edge in talent in this game. Nicolas Lodeiro is one of the league’s best players over the past few years and regularly finds a way to deliver in big games. But he has a lot of help. Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris are competent offensive threats that are also in form at the moment.

For Toronto, there is a lot of talk about whether or not Jozy Altidore will be able to play in this game, as the U.S. international has yet to play in this year’s playoffs due to an injury. While he has not yet been ruled out for Sunday, he admitted earlier in the week that “it would take a miracle.” Is that gamesmanship or accurate? We will find out. But if he misses out, it would be yet another disappointment in his career that has seen him miss many big games and tournaments (for both club and country) due to injuries.

Without Altidore, Toronto does not have the talent Seattle has but it has momentum in road games and several players who tend to deliver in big games. Nick DeLeon has scored five playoff goals in his career – including the winner against Atlanta from outside the box past Brad Guzan. It also has Michael Bradley who is trying to deliver his second title for Toronto.

As this is the third time in four years these teams have met in the final, it is a remarkable story for both coaches. Brian Schmetzer has a deeply tied history to the Sounders organization that dates back to 1980 as a player and a coaching career that dates back to 2002 before the club was in MLS. He is a figurehead of soccer in the city of Seattle and is a native of the city.

But Greg Vanney, the former U.S. national team fullback, has presided over success in Toronto after the club struggled mightily for most of the first decade of its existence. It hasn’t always been smooth as the club failed to qualify for the playoffs one year after it won both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup (while also becoming the closest team to ever winning the CONCACAF Champions League). He has also successfully overseen the departure of Sebastian Giovinco – one of the best players in league history.

There are a lot of very interesting storylines in this year’s MLS Cup and it is nice to see the final being played in the West for the first time after five times in the East. 70,000 fans will provide a nice stage for what will be an intense final.

Chelsea - Crystal Palace

The Premier League
Saturday, Nov. 9: 7:30am EST

Things are certainly looking up for Christian Pulisic with four goals from his last two Premier League appearances, on one of the biggest clubs in the world, riding a give game winning streak in the league, and in the running to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Right now, Pulisic is the best American player by a wide margin and you can’t want to see what he will do next.

While Chelsea currently sit in fourth place in the Premier League, a win over Crystal Palace on Saturday could see it leapfrog Leicester City and Manchester City – if both of them should falter this weekend. London derbies are always intense but Crystal Palace enters into this game in a respectable ninth place but just one point from its last three games.

Schalke - Fortuna Düsseldorf

Saturday, Nov. 9: 9:30am EST

Two United States national team central midfielders will face off against each other on Saturday when Weston Mckennie and Schalke (coached by former U.S. national team forward David Wagner) host Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf. Following the game, both players will travel to the United States to play for U.S. team in the upcoming Nations League games.

The game lost a little bit of its American edge when Fortuna’s Zack Steffen withdrew from the U.S. national team roster on Thursday due to an injury concern. It remains to be seen if he has been ruled out to face Schalke.

Schalke enter into this game as one of four teams with 18 points on the season. With the second-place team, Borussia Dortmund, having 19 points, a win could see Schalke rise as high as second with a win and some help. With three teams on 17 points, however, Schalke could fall as low as 10th with a loss.

Fortuna Dusseldorf has been a tough team to read so far in the early part of the season. A relegation battle was always likely, but the team now has two wins in its last three to give it some breathing room – as it is three points from safety and in 13th place.

San Lorenzo - Argentinos Juniors

Argentine Primera
Saturday, Nov. 9. 3:45pm EST

The surprising leaders of the Primera will head out on the road to take on a struggling San Lorenzo team that has lost four in a row and sits in 14th place.

U.S. U-20 eligible attacking midfielder Matko Miljevic started for Argentinos Juniors last weekend in a 0-0 away draw to 15th place Defensa y Justicia. Prior to that, the club had won three in a row. Miljevic, born in Miami, has played with Argentina’s youth national teams but has shown an interest in playing for the U.S. internationally. Former U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos invited Miljevic to a U-20 camp in September and Miljevic wanted to go, but his club denied his release.

For Miljevic, continuing to get minutes for a solid Argentinos Juniors team is a great sign at this stage of his career.

Borussia Monchengladbach - Werder Bremen

Sun, Nov. 10: 7:30am EST

Josh Sargent is the top American forward heading into the November games and has been playing well for Werder Bremen lately. Bremen, which has five draws in a row and sits in 12th place, will now visit a Borussia Monchengladbach team that sits atop the Bundesliga table after 10 games.

Sargent’s Bundesliga statistics this season are pretty good at the moment (two goals, two assists, nine appearances in 530 minutes along with another assist in two German Cup games) but much of his offensive output has been happening recently.

A strong performance against Monchengladbach will give the St. Louis native serious momentum heading into the upcoming U.S. games.

Newcastle United - AFC Bournemouth

The Premier League
Saturday, Nov. 9: 10:00am EST
NBC Gold Package

Newcastle United has slowly been working its way further from the relegation zone and last week’s 3-2 win over West Ham in London moved it into 15th place and four points from safety. DeAndre Yedlin is back to starting regularly for Newcastle and his 90 minute effort against West Ham was largely uneventful.

Bournemouth has been successful early in the season and sits in seventh place. A win could see Newcastle into the top 10 if other results go its way.

Nottingham Forest - Derby County

The Championship
Saturday, Nov. 9: 7:30am EST

Duane Holmes was one of the noteworthy omissions from the recent U.S. national team roster, but how will he respond? Goals and assists will help and Nottingham Forest on the road will be a nice stage as that club sits in fifth place and has surprised in the early parts of the Championship season. Regardless, with his exciting style of play on both sides of the ball, Holmes is a fun player to watch - whether or not he is selected to the U.S. team.

Reading FC - Luton Town

The Championship
Saturday, Nov. 9: 10:00am EST

In similar mold to Holmes, Miazga was perhaps the most puzzling cut from the U.S. roster as the New Jersey native is a regular starter for Reading and he has generally been putting in consistently strong performances – despite the club’s struggles.

This is a very winnable game for 19th place Reading at home. Luton Town sits in 21st place and is just two points clear of the relegation zone. Miazga is normally an emotional player and it will be interesting to see how he reacts in this game after being surprisingly not called up by the U.S. team.

Wolfsburg - Bayer Leverkusen

Sun, Nov. 10: 9:30am EST

If John Brooks can make it through this game healthy, he will travel back to the United States where he will likely play his first U.S. national team game in an official competition in over two and a half years. His talent has never been in question but Brooks has struggled to stay healthy for the U.S. team and has only made sporadic appearances.

Wolfsburg sits exactly in midtable in the Bundesliga but the standings are extremely tight and only three points separate second place from ninth place. Awaiting them on Sunday is 10th place Bayer Leverkusen.

Ajax – Utrecht

Sun, Nov. 10: 6:15am EST

Ever since he publicly declared that he would play for the United States internationally, Sergino Dest has gone as an unused sub for Ajax – last week in the 4-2 win over PEC Zwolle and midweek in the wild 4-4 draw against Chelsea in the Champions League.

Ajax is undefeated in the Eredivisie this season with 10 wins and two draws for 32 points. It is six points clear of second place AZ.

It will be interesting to see if Dest returns to the starting lineup after the draining draw with Chelsea midweek. Utrecht is a tricky opponent and sits in fourth with 23 points and the club has won three league games in a row. After this game, Dest will travel to the United States where he will likely become cap-tied to the U.S. program.

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