Morning update

Morning update: Champions League galore, huge Wednesday in MLS, roster talk, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta kicks off your Wednesday with talk about Americans in the Champions League, pivotal MLS games, and some thoughts ahead of two rosters releases
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 04, 2023
7:15 AM

THE MIDWEEK ROLLS on, and it’s a fun time as an American soccer fan as we have games littered throughout the week, international rosters dropping soon, and other news floating around.

With that said, here are some items to start your day.

The Champions League

There were two games on Tuesday involving Americans in the Champions League.

First, Union Berlin lost at home to Braga in heartbreaking fashion. With the score 2-2, Brenden Aaronson came into the game in the 81st minute. Four minutes later he missed a great opportunity with a header that would have given his team the lead. Then in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Braga scored.

It’s been tough for Aaronson recently and his minutes have declined. He needs a good outing soon to put himself back into the mix.

Unfortunately for Union Berlin, their Champions League hopes have gone up in smoke with two devastating losses. First was a 1-0 loss to Real Madrid off a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Now they lose against Braga at home in the fifth minute of stoppage time. It doesn’t get any worse than that.

Later in the day, PSV played Sevilla to a 2-2 draw at home. Malik Tillman and Sergino Dest went the full 90 for PSV while Ricardo Pepi was PSV’s last substitute in the 82nd minute. For Dest, he had just come back from an illness, and he struggled in this game. It was clear he was still trying to get his legs back from a tough week.

Tillman, however, had a very good game. It was his best game for PSV and it came on the heels of a one goal, one assist outing against a bad Volendam team over the weekend. The highlight for him was earning a penalty in the 86th minute which briefly equalized the game at 1-1 (before the teams traded very late goals). With games like this, Tillman should remain in the starting lineup for PSV.

As for Pepi, his minuets were limited but he was also very dangerous. He was in the middle of the play on the final goal and generally was effective in replacing Luuk de Jong for the final minutes. For Pepi, the goal is to earn the trust of Peter Bosz that would allow for more squad rotation and not force de Jong to go at least 80 minutes every single game. At 33, de Jong will likely not be able to keep up at his pace the entire season. But maybe that was the plan for Pepi all along – to go heavy with de Jong early in the season as Pepi grows into PSV.

PSV will look to continue their perfect start in the Eredivisie when they visit Sparta Rotterdam, who feature American winger Agustin Anello.


Wednesday in Europe


On Wednesday in the Champions League, the big game will be AC Milans visit to Borussia Dortmund. Christian Pulisic is riding a wave of great form and will now look to get a win against his first professional club in Germany. Meanwhile, Yunus Musah is also seeing an increased role with Milan and he could start as well.

After a disappointing draw at home to Newcastle in the Group F opener, Milan needs to win this game. Pulisic has shown up for big games before and this is a big one.

But all eyes will also be on Gio Reyna. The U.S. attacking midfielder/winger is yet to play for Dortmund this season and has been going as an unused substitute the past two weeks. But if BVB wins this game and he doesn’t play, the club might simply view him as a luxury player at the moment – and that wouldn’t be good.

Also, in Europe on Wednesday, there are some games of interest for Americans in the Championship.

A week ago, Preston North End was atop the table in England’s second tier. But after a 4-0 loss at home to West Bromwich, they fell to third. It’s a long season but the question is how can PNE respond to such a defeat? Today, they will visit Leicester in a very tricky game. Duane Holmes should start for PNE.

We don’t know much about Reggie Cannon’s move to Queens Park Rangers. QPR announced the move but also said it was contingent on the club get his ITC (international transfer certificate), but based on him unilaterally terminating his Boavista deal, that might not be easy. One thing we do know, however, is that if/when Cannon suits up for QPR he could be walking into a relegation battle. QPR is in 22nd place to start the season with just 8 points from 9 games. Today, they visit Leeds United.


MLS on Wednesday


A healthy chunk of the league will be in action tonight. Here are the meaningful games to watch.

Chicago hosting Inter Miami: with or without Messi, this game has enormous playoff implications. The winner is in the driver’s seat to make a push in the final two games. The loser is in a bad situation, almost needing to win out. A draw would hurt both teams and help no one.

FC Dallas vs. Colorado: Dallas has been rotating its squad due to schedule congestion, but this is the game that could put them into the playoffs or put their season on the brink of disaster. Colorado is the bottom of the table, but they’re still playing hard.

LAFC vs. Minnesota: Minnesota’s struggles down the stretch of the season have put it in a bad spot. Now they travel to LAFC in a situation where they almost have to win. Minnesota’s backs are against the wall. How will they respond? Meanwhile, how will LAFC play in this game after being shocked at home by RSL on Sunday night?

Austin FC vs. DC United: DC United is also in a desperate situation. Likely, Chicago or Miami will win tonight and there is an excellent chance DC United’s playoff hopes will go up in smoke with a loss.

Philadelphia vs. Atlanta: two teams with realistic hopes of a long playoff run will meet in Philadelphia tonight. Philadelphia has drawn the last five games and needs to show up and win games against tough opponents. It has been a long time since that happened. Atlanta also needs to play well heading into the playoffs. This team can score, but can their defense hold up its end of the bargain? That is the weakness in Atlanta.

New England vs. Columbus: these are also two teams fighting for playoff positioning. But New England hasn’t been convincing yet since the Bruce Arena debacle. A win over Columbus would be a big step in that direction. But Columbus has a lot of fire power with Cucho Hernandez and Diego Rossi. If they gain momentum heading into the playoffs, they have legitimate MLS Cups hopes.


Rosters releases


The USMNT is expected to release its roster on Thursday for the October friendlies against Germany and Ghana. There are a lot of things to consider with this team.

First, the re-injury to Tyler Adams was unexpected and surely Gregg Berhalter hoped to have his captain back. It seems like Yunus Musah makes the most sense to play that role in shifting him further back in the midfield. But there needs to be depth behind that. Kellyn Acosta left LAFC’s game on Sunday in the first half, which likely rules him out for this window. Johnny Cardoso has also been dealing with injuries.

One potential option could be Lennard Maloney at Heidenheim who has started each of his team’s games to start the Bundesliga season. His passing range and foot speed are weaknesses, but he does win duels and covers a lot of ground.

The big question will be Gio Reyna. Everyone knows the drama involved. We know Berhalter and Reyna have spoken and want to move forward. But even aside from that, Reyna hasn’t played a game since the Nations League final. Reyna is at a juncture where he is trying to finally return to being a regular with his club – or possibly making a move. His ongoing injury issues the past two years originated in two different moments while playing for the U.S. national team. Is it best for him to get his legs back with his club before coming back into the mix? Aside from the drama elements, these are legitimate questions for any player in his situation.

Then there is the U.S. U-23 roster which has a targeted release for Friday. Here we will get a look at Mark Mitrovic’s first roster. He doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the Olympics (likely just the October window, the November window, January camp, the March window, and a pre-Olympic camp in June).

There are some names who are expected – players like Duncan McGuire, Bryan Reynolds, John Tolkin, Caleb Wiley, Aidan Morris, Cade Cowell, Gaga Slonina.

One big question will be player releases as clubs needs to voluntarily let players go for youth events.

As second big question will come with how U-23 eligible players who are on the edge of the USMNT are treated. This would be for players who are good enough to make the USMNT but likely not play much but who would likely start for the U.S. U-23 team. This list is long and it includes Tanner Tessmann, Johnny Cardoso, Paxten Aaronson, and Kevin Paredes? Also, it could involve talented and coveted dual nationals like Noel Buck or Benja Cremaschi.  


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