Pepi's defining moment could open doors, Miazga suspended, busy Thursday, & more
November 30, 2023
ON WEDNESDAY, U.S. national team forward Ricardo Pepi finally had his first defining moment since moving on from FC Dallas in 2022. Elsewhere, Union Berlin are still in search of a win, Matt Miazga has left FC Cincinnati in a bad spot, and now there are interesting proposed referee rules coming.
But let’s start with the good news
Pepi’s big moment
It was a wonderful day for PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday and it has been a wonderful start to the season in every regard. In the Eredivisie, they’re at 39 points from 13 games – which is perfect. On Tuesday, they defeated Sevilla in Sevilla 3-2, to sit in second place of Group B of the Champions League by three points (and a nice goal differential too) with just one game remaining. They now look likely to advance to the knockouts.
Perfect league start through 13 and advancing in the Champions League? That’s a home run.
But how PSV won yesterday was for the ages, and Americans were front and center. Trailing 2-0 on the road, PSV was given a lifeline when Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos was sent of in the 66th minute. Two minutes later, Saibari pulled one back for PSV on an assist from Sergino Dest.
Sergino Dest’s assist to start PSV’s epic comeback win pic.twitter.com/ZXK0Q1sX6j— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) November 29, 2023
Then with the score 2-2 in stoppage time, it was Ricardo Pepi who found the winner after he entered the game in the 82nd minute.
Ricardo Pepi’s big time winner for PSV. His first defining moment for the club pic.twitter.com/q4bSsPazEB— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) November 29, 2023
This was arguably the biggest moment of Pepi’s career and it carries a lot of importance. Not only was this huge for PSV and their chances of advancing to the knockouts, but it was important for Pepi to build confidence and it was important for PSV and head coach Peter Bosz to gain trust in Pepi.
For most of this season, Pepi has only been seeing limited minutes behind Luuk de Jong. While he is a top player, de Jong is now 33 years old and he had been playing almost at an unsustainable rate. For Pepi to breakthrough and play more than the 5-15 minutes per game (typically when PSV has a comfortable lead) he needed to prove he could help his overachieving team and that there would not be much of a layoff whenever he was on the field in place of de Jong.
This goal goes a long way towards building that trust to show he is ready to contribute to a Champions League-knockout club.
That was the big story in this game for Americans, but also Sergino Dest played very well again and he is getting everything he wanted out of this season – a chance to reboot, play well, and play in big games. Malik Tillman also came into the game in the 58th minute and was on the field for the comeback win. His future status at PSV is a little less clear but still being part of a Champions League run and a likely Eredivisie title will boost his resume substantially.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin continued to have an awful season with a 1-1 away draw with Braga. On paper, it wasn’t so bad. But Union Berlin had a man advantage from the 30th minute and they even took a lead in the 42nd minute.
But Union Berlin was outshot 18-6 despite having a man advantage for 2/3 of the game. Aaronson played the last 12 minutes of this. But for Union, it’s just about finding a spark to turn things around. It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with a visit to Bayern Munich, with Union still in the relegation zone.
European play on Thursday
There are a lot of Americans in action on Thursday in the Europa and Conference Leagues.
George Bello will likely get a huge opportunity when LASK visits Liverpool in the Europa League. LASK needs a win to have any hopes of advancing, so it’ll be quite the stage for them at Anfield to go for it.
Djordje Miahailovic should start for AZ due to injury and he could really use a big outing to try to earn regular minutes for AZ. AZ hosts Zrinjski Mostar in the Conference League and AZ needs to win its last two games to have any chance of advancing.
Dante Polvara should start for Aberdeen away at HJK Helsinki in the Conference League. Unfortunately, Aberdeen cannot advance to the knockouts.
Eintracht Frankfurt has already secured a spot in the Conference League knockouts and that might open the door for another start for either Paxten Aaronson and/or Timothy Chandler against PAOK.
Genk desperately needs a win or at least a result to advance to the Conference League knockouts and on Thursday, they have a big chance with a visit to Fiorentina in Tuscany. Mark McKenzie should start. It is games like these which could boost his USMNT stock and put him on the inside of the bubble.
Matt Miazga will miss the remainder of the playoffs for Cincinnati after he was suspended by MLS for an incident in the playoffs against the Red Bulls when he reportedly went into the referee’s locker room after the game seeking an explanation for a yellow card.
This is terrible news for Miazga who was recently named the MLS Defender of the Year and will now not be there for his team in their biggest games in club history. Cincinnati will host Columbus in the Eastern Conference Final and Columbus boasts two elite attackers in Diego Rossi and Cucho Hernandez, who is an MLS Best XI.
Miazga has not made a public comment on this suspension, but it puts a dent in his hopes of getting back into the USMNT picture. Will that come in January? That will be a close call.
New Referee Rule
Speaking of referees, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is recommending a trial for 10-minute “sin-bins” for cynical fouls and excessive dissent. It will be similar to rules in ruby or even ice hockey where a player must leave for 10 minutes.
The problem is that this introduces even more discretion for referees and many recent attempts to stop out problems in the game have been ineffective and not applied equally. Reviewing diving by video after games and issuing suspensions was supposed to put a dent in diving. It really hasn’t.
Sin-bins would probably be more effective in youth soccer. But for senior soccer, what really needs to be applied is the rule that only captains can approach referees. This would prevent swarming and dissent. If anyone else approaches the referee, he/she is given a yellow and a quick red without promptly leaving the vicinity of the referee.
But it looks like some leagues will be tasked with being trial balloons for the sin-bin rule. We will see if MLS or USL get the nod.