Midweek musings

Pulassist vs. Dest, Toronto upsets NYCFC, Holmes over Robinson, Seattle rolls, thanks Nick, & more

What an eventful midweek it was with New York City getting bounced, Pulisic getting a winning assist for Chelsea in the Champions League, Rimando's career over, an injury to Carter-Vickers, and Duane Holmes bettering Antonee Robinson. ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here with some thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 24, 2019
12:10 AM
THE MIDWEEK brought the start of the second round of the MLS playoffs as well as Americans in action in the Champions League and the UEFA Champions League. As would be expected, it left us with plenty to talk about.

Pulisic & Chelsea down Dest & Ajax

It is very rare when two American players take on each other in the UEFA Champions League. That happened on Wednesday when Ajax hosted Chelsea in Group H action.

Sergino Dest started for Ajax and Christian Pulisic came off the bench in the 66th minute.

Both players played very well but it was Pulisic who came up with the winning play in the 86th minute when he got the ball on the left wing in an isolated position against Dest. Pulisic moved down the side and was able to send in a low cross that found a ton of space through the box before finding Michy Batshuayi who scored the winner.

Pulisic has responded nicely after a spell where he did not see the field under Frank Lampard. He’s been coming off the bench and playing well.

For Dest, he didn’t make a bad play on the winner. Most high-level wingers are going to get that cross off and Dest forced Pulisic all the way to the endline before the cross. Plus Ajax defenders should not have allowed that much space in the box for the pass to travel.

But overall, Dest played well over the course of 90 minutes. He got forward into dangerous positions and was generally effective defensively. Pulisic, meanwhile, was a difference maker in limited minutes.

Dest’s choice

One recent Dutch report indicated that Sergino Dest was going to make his international decision this week. For that, U.S. fans should be thankful – if it’s true. Regardless of what happens, this saga won’t drag on.

There are plenty of reasons to think this can go either way. It’s natural that Dest would want to play for Holland given that he was born and raised in the Amsterdam area and plays for the country and city’s most storied team.

But how realistic is it that he’s going to feature for the Dutch in the years to come? There is no hurry to make this decision. If he was going to play for the Dutch, why wouldn’t he wait longer to make sure he was more likely to be in that team’s plans? Is he willing to walk away from the full U.S. team permanently to play for youth teams of Holland? Maybe.

The U.S. team is not in a good place but Dest will be 24 when the United States cohosts the 2026 World Cup. He will be 28 for the World Cup in 2030. How much weight does he really want to give to the poor current form of the U.S. team?

Marsch and RB Salzburg fall at home to Napoli

Twice Red Bull Salzburg came from behind to find an equalizer. But when Lorenzo Insigne put Napoli ahead in the 73rd minute, Salzburg had no response and fell 3-2 at home. Jesse Marsch has his team playing well and playing hard, but Liverpool and Napoli are separating themselves from third-place Salzburg. That is unfortunate for American fans who want to see the first American coach in the Champions League succeed but it is not unexpected given the talent edge the Premier League team and the Serie A team have.

That being said, Marsch has Norwegian sensation Earling Haaland who is having a remarkable year and will fetch the club a fortune sooner than later.

New York City upset by Toronto

The first major upset in the 2019 MLS playoffs happened on Wednesday night when Toronto defeated top seeded New York City FC 2-1 at Queens’ Citi Field.

All of the goals were scored in the second half. Alejandro Pozuelo pounded on a defensive error in the 47th minute. Ismael Tajouri equalized for New York in the 67th. Then in the 90th minute, Pozuelo converted a penalty after an inexcusable foul from Ronald Matarrita.

The result was completely justified. Toronto was the better team in the first half and into the start of the second half. Fatigue started to set in for Toronto (which played 120 minutes on Saturday in the win over DC United) and New York City started to take control. But a sloppy play gifted Toronto the golden chance on the penalty.

There is no excuse for New York City to come out as flat as it did. It was clear Toronto had all the momentum. NYCFC had a great season, but it didn’t even go out without much of a fight in the postseason. This will be a difficult question Dome Torrent and the veteran players have to ponder in the offseason.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">FT: <a href="">@Pozuelo_10</a>&#39;s brace sends <a href="">@TorontoFC</a> to the Eastern Conference Final!<a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NYCvTOR</a> // <a href="">@Audi</a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCupPlayoffs</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Major League Soccer (@MLS) <a href="">October 24, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

New York City’s postseason record is now 1-6 with the team being outscored 17-5.

As for Toronto, if it can get Jozy Altidore back the sky is the limit. The fact it has played two strong games without their best forward is impressive. The edge of experience is proving to be a huge asset in winning these types of games. There is no reason to think it can’t beat either Atlanta or Philadelphia.

Holmes and Derby edge Robinson and Wigan

In the Championship, there were lots of Americans involved in midweek action. The biggest game came on Wednesday when Derby County hosted Wigan Athletic. It was the battle of English-Americans as Duane Holmes got the start in midfield for Derby County and Antonee Robinson started for Wigan Athletic left back.

Both Americans played well. In the 90th minute, it was Holmes who had a hand in the winner as his cross in the box found Chris Martin who teed up Graeme Shinnie for first-rate finish.

But Robinson was an asset for Wigan with his ability to cover the sideline and get into the attack – where he created two different chances.

Both players are trying to get into the picture with the United States internationally in November. Antonee Robinson could play for the full national team but he might also play with the U-23 team for the November camp – rumored to be in Europe.

Holmes, meanwhile, looks to be building a case to make a return the full national team. Holmes made the Gold Cup team over the summer but had to withdraw because of a quad injury.

Carter-Vickers injured

Cameron Carter-Vickers got the start for Stoke City against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday as the club was looking for its third straight win after a 10-game winless run to start the season. The American central defender has been among the team’s better players so far and was important to the recent wins.

Unfortunately for Carter-Vickers, he left the game in the 27th minute due to what appeared to be a foot injury. Stoke City ended up losing the game 1-0.

This injury came at a bad time for both Stoke City and the U.S. U-23 team as Stoke is trying to claw its way out of a massive hole and Carter-Vickers is likely to take a role inside the U.S. U-23 team in the months ahead of Olympic qualifying.

An update on Carter-Vickers is expected either Thursday or Friday

Seattle advances past Real Salt Lake

The Seattle Sounders are into the Western Conference Final thanks to a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Seattle was the favorite heading into this game but the question was its ability to hold up physically after a difficult 120 minutes on Saturday in an exhausting 4-3 win over Dallas.

This game was quite a bit different. It was far more physical and less open. But Gustav Svensson found the winner off a Nicolas Lodeiro header and that was the difference. The experience of Seattle clearly paid dividends in a tough game like this and Lodeiro put the game out of reach.

As for Seattle, it will meet the winner of the Los Angeles derby in the Conference final and Seattle will certainly enter into that game having withstood some difficult challenges. Real Salt Lake had its chances but Seattle was the better team and its difference makers won the game. Lodeiro is clearly one of the best players in this era of the league – and he finds ways to get better in the postseason.

Real Salt Lake will now head into the long offseason with many questions. Legendary goalkeeper Nick Rimando is retiring. Freddy Juarez was the interim head coach, will he return? Who will take the Sporting Director job after Craig Waibel left? It is a very murky offseason coming up for Real Salt Lake.

Finally, happy trails to Nick Rimando who is clearly one of the most influential players this league has seen. His career is now over but his legacy will live on for years to come.

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