Monday Kickoff

NJ gets the final, Taylor wins Booth Bowl, LDLT & Sargent surge, McGuire in limbo, and more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta writes up his kickoff to the week with thoughts on New Jersey getting awarded the big game, Taylor wins the Booth Bowl, Gio Reyna makes his NFFC debut, Duncan McGuire in limbo, and more
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 05, 2024
12:05 PM

THE WEEKEND IN American soccer started off slowly. Friday and Saturday gave us very little positive news except for Josh Sargent scoring an important goal. But then came a big Sunday when the U.S. national team learned their World Cup venues for 2026, the battle of the Booths in the Eredivisie was a huge hit, and there were big outings from Luca de la Torre, Johnny Cardoso, and a club debut for Gio Reyna.

Let’s start at the top.


World Cup 2026 takes shape


The World Cup 2026 has taken shape, and we now know the locations where the three hosting countries will play their group stage games. And we also know the location of the final.

Like 1994, the USMNT will play two group stage games in Los Angeles. Unlike 1994, they will be on the west coast for all three games (in 1994 they had a game in Michigan).

Los Angeles is great for the USMNT, perfect weather and very easy to get to. It’s not ideal for the U.S. team when it comes to World Cup qualifiers or Gold Cup games where the opposing teams gets more support. But for the World Cup, it’s great.

As for Canada’s team, Toronto and Vancouver will get their games.

Meanwhile, Mexico will open the tournament at Azteca which will be a venue for a third World Cup.

Meanwhile, the final will be in New Jersey at Metlife Stadium which give the Northeast a chance to crown the World Champion. It’s an upset over Dallas, but it FIFA couldn’t resist giving the final to one of the two biggest metropolitan areas of the United States and the Rose Bowl hosted the final in 1994.


Booth Bowl


The biggest story from Americans abroad was Booth Bowl 2024 when FC Utrecht hosted Volendam in the Eredivisie. Normally, a matchup between two bottom half Dutch teams wouldn’t register much attention. But on Sunday, Zach Booth started for relegation dwelling Volendam while his older brother Taylor Booth got the start for Utrecht.

Zach Booth opened the scoring with his first first-team goal. But then Taylor Booth scored the next two for Utrecht while also scoring the last en route to a 4-2 Utrecht win.

Booth, 21, becomes the third USMNT player to score an Eredivisie hat trick after Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore (who once had three in one season for AZ Alkmaar).

This was a massively important game for Taylor Booth who hasn’t had a great season entering into this game. Utrecht was reportedly willing to listen to offers over a potential transfer in January, but nothing materialized. Prior to this, he had not had a goal all season although had been trending upward with a good showing in a draw against PSV.

In this game, the elder Booth brother went off and raised his stock. Perhaps he was motivated by facing off against his brother. Will it keep him at Utrecht, or will he make a move upward? That depends on him continuing to play well. One big outing against a bad Volendam team can serve as a spark, but it’s not going to define anything.

It might change things internationally as he is in the Olympic U-23 team picture and that team is very deep in the wing and attacking midfield positions. This will keep him at the top of the list heading into the big March camp while also potentially having him in the USMNT discussions. For now, the U-23 team is a more likely call-up.

As for Zach Booth, he’s probably not in the Olympic picture and ha a tough birth year in 2004 as he’s too old for the U-20 team but extremely young for his only U-23 cycle. Right now, he’s playing for his next loan as his parent club, Leicester City, looks set for Premier League promotion while Volendam seem likely to be relegated.


De La Torre continues rise


It’s hard to say why, but over the past two months Luca de la Torre has taken his game to another level. He is now playing with offensive bite and is scoring and creating with regularity. On top of that, his defense is also first-rate.

This was on display on Sunday when the San Diego native was the MOTM for Celta Vigo in a big 3-0 win over Osasuna which moved it three points clear of the relegation zone.

His 25th minute goal gave Celta a 2-0 lead and de la Torre scored the goal with a great run into the middle where he changed directions to get in front of his defender for a clear shot from close range.

De la Torre has always had skill but the issue has always been about his final ball, his ability to produce goals and assists. This went back to his days at Fulham and Heracles too. But now at 25, he’s playing his best soccer in relation to production.


He is a lock to get called up to the national team, but this will give him a case to play more in a crowded midfield.


Juve fall farther behind Inter


Any chances of Juventus catching Inter Milan for the Scudetto took a devastating blow on Sunday with Inter Milan posting a 1-0 win over Juve. That move puts Inter Milan up four points in the race while also having a game in hand. Juve is comfortably in second place and has an overwhelming spot for a Champions League berth.

Weston Mckennie started and played until stoppage time. He was maybe the best Juventus midfielder on the day. He created three chances and was a tireless worker on both sides of the ball. Tim Weah played the final 24 minutes at right wingback but was mostly invisible.


Sargent scores in Norwich win


On Saturday, Norwich and Coventry in a matchup in the Championships between two teams that started USMNT 2022 World Cup forwards. Josh Sargent for Norwich and Haji Wright for Coventry. In the end, Sargent had the better day and the better result, a 2-1 win for Norwich.

Coventry scored first but it was Sargent who equalized in the 66th minute before Norwich found a winner in the 88th. Wright’s performance wasn’t very effective.

In addition to a big outing for Sargent, what was also important is that he played until stoppage time. This is a signal that he is at or close to full strength/health.

Sargent is having a good season, despite missing over three months. He has six goals in under 700 minutes and Norwich (like Coventry) is only a point out of the promotional playoffs. But with Sargent now hitting his stride, I like Norwich’s chances of getting into the playoffs. From there, anything is possible.

Sargent is also in a good position with the U.S. national team. While it has mostly been Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi in 2023, Sargent is playing and playing well. Pepi has played well this season, but in a very limited role. Balogun has been hit or miss. Sargent and Vazquez might be the next group pushing, even over Wright or Jordan Pefok.


Reyna makes NFFC debut


Gio Reyna made his Premier League debut when he went the final 12 minutes for Nottingham Forest in a 1-1 draw away at Bournemouth. Four minutes after he came on, Bournemouth was reduced to 10 players after a Phillip Billing red card.

Overall, Reyna was nice and tidy in possession. It helped that Bournemouth was bunkering the game out It wasn’t anything dramatically good, but it was a positive first step for Reyna in his club debut. Callum Hudson-Odoi scored a nice goal in this game and he is one of Reyna’s competitors for minutes. But Hudson-Odoi was also on the wrong end of Billing’s red card and we will have to see how healthy he is.

Reyna came to Forest on loan to play and it looks like that will happen. The concern is staying healthy in this physical league when Reyna likes to be on the ball a lot and to take defenders on.

One more note is that Reyna won’t be in action midweek for Forest’s FA Cup replay against Bristol City since he was not registered for the first game. On the other hand, Matt Turner probably will be back for Forest as his replacement, Matz Sels was also not registered at the appropriate time.

It could be the last time Turner is sought out to contribute to Forest.


Paredes sharp for Wolfsburg


Kevin Paredes, 20, has started for Wolfsburg, but the issue for him has always been keeping his form at a consistently high level to lock the starting job down for a stretch. Last weekend, he got a rare start for Wolfsburg and scored in a 2-2 draw with Cologne. On Saturday, Paredes didn’t score but was sharp again in a 2-2 draw against Hoffenheim.

The winger was credited with creating four chances in the game while he also won 6/7 of his ground duels. He also played the complete game and was easily one of Wolfsburg’s best players in the game. This was an important step towards that consistency as he should remain in the team’s starting lineup.

For Wolfsburg, it was the team’s fourth draw in a row and they are winless in five. They are midtable team this year and shouldn’t have much to play for down the stretch. That actually bodes well for Paredes and his minutes in the months ahead.

Paredes is on the cusp of the USMNT and these outings will help. He’s also an Olympic option as well if Wolfsburg would consider releasing him (which seems unlikely) and if he doesn’t go to the Copa America.

With the result, Pellegrino Matarazzo and Hoffenheim skidded to eighth place and is winless in six Bundesliga games. John Brooks went the distance in this game and didn’t really stand out much.


Cardoso continues strong start with Betis


Johnny Cardoso, 21, made his third straight start since joining Real Betis in January and he is playing very well. That continued in Sunday’s otherwise disappointing 1-1 away draw with Getafe.

In the game, Cardoso was decent with his passing and had 67 touches. He only attempted one long ball. But defensively, he had five interceptions, seven recoveries, and was an extremely impressive 10/12 in winning his ground duels.

Betis now sits in eighth place and is only two points out of sixth place for a Conference League spot. But Cardoso is hitting the ground running and should continue to start.

There is a high degree of likelihood that Cardoso will take a bigger role with the national team until Tyler Adams gets back on the field and gets his form back. That could take awhile since Adams has missed almost a year (not including the 20 minutes he played in the one game where he reinjured himself).


McGuire in limbo


A paperwork issue might have botched the Duncan McGuire loan to Blackburn. Following Blackburn’s dismal 2-0 loss at home to Queens Park Rangers, manager Jon Dahl Tomasson told the media he wasn’t allowed to comment on McGuire’s situation to the media at the request/demand of ownership.

As of now, the club is holding talks with the governing body, but what happens is unclear.

Here are the options per Blackburn beat reporter Elliot Jackson.

Per Jackson when comparing it with a similar and successful appeal last year with a player: “From my understand, this is down to the submission of certain documents whereas last year was more about the time certain documents were submitted.”

If the club accepts the decision, McGuire will probably return to Orlando and reconsider all options this summer. It might not make any sense for him to bind himself to Blackburn for next season given that the club is in a terrible place now.

The only thing good that can be said about this day is that Reggie Cannon played well for QPR and he’s been one of their better players.


Miljevic to sign with Newell’s Old Boys


Matko Miljevic, 22, has not had a good start to his professional career. Born in Miami and raised in Argentina, he started his career with Argentinos Juniors but eventually there were problems with him and his representation (reportedly his family). It got so bad, the club refused to let him train and he went over a year without playing.

Then Miljevic made the move to Montreal and it had a disastrous ending last season when Miljevic was disappointed with his playing time under fellow Argentine Hernan Losada that he registered to play in a Quebec amateur league under an assumed identity without the knowledge of Montreal. This identity was discovered when he was investigated after punching an opposing player in the face. He was banned for life by the Quebec league and Montreal terminated his contract last September.

Now Miljevic will return to Argentina (where inflation is north of 200%) and sign for Newell’s Old Boys, the childhood club of Lionel Messi.

Miljevic has talent and has played for the U-20 teams of both Argentina an the United States. But he needs to get his act together in order to reach that potential. Will that happen at Newell’s Old Boys?


Corona returns to Tijuana


After a few weeks as an unused substitute, Joe Corona returned to the field for Tijuana. It’s not always when an American is a legend for a foreign club, but Corona fits that description. It was his goal in 2011 that sent Tijuana to promotion to Liga MX for the first time. Then the following year, he started for the club in their first Liga MX title.

After stops in elsewhere Liga MX followed by MLS and then Sweden, Corona, 33, returned to where he is still loved. On Saturday, he started and played 75 minutes in a 3-2 away loss to Pachuca. It wasn’t an ideal return, but Corona was decent and it sets the stage for him returning to the field for the first time in Tijuana.


Yanks in Italy


AC Milan needed to come from behind to beat Frosinone 3-2 away on Saturday. Christian Pulisic went 80 minutes and left with the score 2-2. Yunus Musah played the final five minutes. It was an unconvincing performance from Milan and Pulisic was okay, but nothing great. It would be harsh to call this a rough patch, but Pulisic was sharper earlier in the season. He’ll get through it. The same with Musah, too.

In Serie B, it was a heartbreaking day on Saturday for Venezia who saw their hopes for automatic promotion take a hit with a 2-1 loss to first place Parma. Parma found a late winner 10 minutes into stoppage time and with the loss, Venezia fell to fourth place and three points out of second (where the top two are promoted and spots three through eight are into the playoffs for one spot). Gianluca Busio played into stoppage time just before the winner while Tanner Tessmann went the distance.

Both players played relatively well and fit in well at this high level of Serie B. But it was a tough, tough loss against a good Parma team.

Kristoffer Lund went the distance for Palermo in a comfortable 3-0 win over Bari in a win that moved Palermo back into fifth place. The USMNT left back was steady in the win and remains a competent presence in their backline.

Nicholas Gioacchini is still looking for his club debut with Como after going as an unused substitute in a 1-0 away win over Ternana. Como moved into third place with the win.

Andrija Novakovich played the final 33 minutes for Lecco in a 1-0 loss to second place Cremonese. It was the fourth straight loss for Lecco, who are in the basement of Serie B.


Yanks in England


Fulham squandered a 2-0 lead into the 70th minute and had to settle for a 2-2 draw with relegation battling Burnley. Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson both went 90 minutes. Check out this assist from Robinson that I choose to believe against the evidence that it was intentional.

Auston Trusty
unfortunately went the distance for last-place Sheffield United which dropped a 5-0 decision at home to Aston Villa. Hopefully he has some confidence next year heading into the Championship. Sheffield United has a -40 goal-differential.

In the Championship, Duane Holmes did not play for Preston North end in a 3-2 win over Ipswich Town. Daryl Dike played the final seven minutes for West Brom in a 1-0 win over Birmingham City. The goal was scored two minutes after Dike came into the game.

Lynden Gooch started and played 58 minutes for Stoke City in a disastrous 5-0 loss at home to runaway leaders Leicester. Gooch left with his team down 2-0.


Yanks in Belgium


It was a near complete wipeout for the Yanks in Belgium.

The loan Yank who did not lose was Marlon Fossey. But even Fossey left his game for Standard Liege in the 85th minute trailing Molenbeek 2-1. He was not on the field for his team’s late equalizer.

Neither Griffin Yow nor Bryan Reynolds played well for Westerlo in a 3-0 loss at home OH Leuven. Reynolds was replaced at the half and Yow came out of the game in the 65th minute.

Gaga Slonina and Eupen dropped another 1-0 decision, this time at home to Mechelen. Slonina did not make any big saves in the game.

Mark McKenzie and Genk dropped a 1-0 decision at home to leaders Union SG. It was a decent but not a standout performance from McKenzie.

Kehveh Zahiroleslam started and played 75 ineffective minutes for St. Truiden in a 4-1 loss to Cercle Brugge. After a two goal performance midweek, Zahiroleslam didn’t have a shot in this game.


Yanks in Germany


In the Bundesliga, Joe Scally and Jordan Pefok both started for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich. It was a lackluster performances from M'Gladbach but Pefok assisted on their goal.

Lennard Maloney started and played a solid 90 minutes for Heidenheim in his very defensive midfield-minded role in a 0-0 draw with his former club Borussia Dortmund. Heidenheim isn't a fun team to watch, but their goal from the onset of the season was just to pick off points to survive. Now in 10th place, they're doing that. Maloney has a limited role, but he does it well. It remains to be seen if he can play a different role for the USMNT.

Brenden Aaronson played the last 14 minutes for Union Berlin in a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Johan Gomez started and played 67 minutes for Eintracht Braunschweig who had their four game winning streak snapped in a 1-0 loss to Schalke. Braunschweig still sits in the relegation zone.

In a big game in the promotion race, leaders St. Pauli and their American-born manager Fabian Hurzeler posted a big 3-2 win over Greuther Furth. Both Julian Green and U.S. U-23 central defender Maximillian Dietz went 90 minutes in a tough loss.


Yanks in the Netherlands


PSV played Ajax to a 1-1 draw with rivals Ajax and are still without a defeat on the season. Sergino Dest was decent against his former club and went 89 minutes. Malik Tillman did not play in this game as he is still injured, and Ricardo Pepi also did not play.

Anthony Fontana was an unused substitute for PEC Zwolle in a 2-0 win over Sparta Rotterdam.

Frensh off his loan to Vitesse, Paxten Aaronson was not in the squad on Sunday in a 2-0 loss at home to Go Ahead Eagles. Vitesse remain in last place, three points from the relegation playoff and seven points from automatic safety.


Yanks in Spain and France


In France’s Ligue 1, Monaco and Le Havre played to a 1-1 draw. Folarin Balogun was injured for Monaco while Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 87 minutes for Le Havre. Sabbi drew four fouls but had no shots and was just 3/6 in passing.

In Spain’s Segunda, Jonathan Gomez had a strong outing for Mirandes in a 3-0 win over Villarreal B. Gomez was coming off a tough performance but overall has been trending up in recent months. Konrad de la Fuente played the last eight minutes in a 1-1 draw with Racing Ferrol.


Yanks Elsewhere


In Scotland, Dante Polvara started had an assist for Aberdeen in a nice 1-1 draw with Celtic, where Cameron Carter-Vickers did not play.

Scott Pittman started for last place Livingston in a 3-0 loss away to Rangers.

In Portugal, Alex Mendez was unused for last place Vizela in a 1-0 loss at home to Vitoria de Guimaraes. The same was true for Benji Michel for Aroua in a in a 2-1 away win over Portimonense.

In Greece's Super League, Caleb Stanko went 90 minutes for Lamia in a 4-1 away in over PAS Giannina.

In Hungary's NB I, Henry Wingo went 90 minutes for Ferencvaros in a 3-1 win over Kisvarda. Ferencvaros are in second, one point behind Paks.

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