Midweek musings

Pulisic and CCV win big games, Dike & Barnsley fall, USMNT injuries mount, & look to Wednesday

ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks at the big games on Monday and Tuesday for American players, the mounting injuries for the U.S. national team, and looks ahead to Wednesday's big games. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 19, 2021
6:30 AM

THE FIRST TWO DAYS the week brought about a lot of big games for Americans abroad with many European leagues complete and the remaining one still on going are reaching their dramatic conclusion.

Here were a few notes on what I observed watching Monday and Tuesday.


Dike & Barnsley lose opener


Barnsley hosted Swansea in the first leg of the Championship playoff semifinal and all eyes were on Daryl Dike who saw his loan from Orlando extended to encompass the playoff games. This game did not go the way Barnsley wanted and it was a brutally ugly game – which Swansea eventually prevailed 1-0.

Swansea came into this game clearly with a goal towards stopping Dike, who scored nine goals since February.


After Andre Ayew gave Swansea a 39th minute goal, Barnsley actually controlled the first 20 minutes of the second half but still Dike was not able to get involved much in the attack.

Away goals are not used in the English playoffs and this series is far from over. Containing remains a handful and keeping him neutralized for another 90 minutes is a tall task. It just takes one slip up and Dike can make something out of nothing.

That being said, will Barnsley be able to keep Swansea’s attack off the boards away from home while hoping to get Dike more involved. It clearly is an uphill climb.

The big takeaway, however, is that this game was terrible. It was every single bad stereotype of English lower-league soccer from 30 years ago. It was non-stop hoofing it up the field and hoping for the best. The scary thought is that either of these teams might be in the Premier League next season – an it remains an open question how either would think they have even a slight chance of staying there.


Carter-Vickers & Bournemouth win


In the other Championship playoff first leg, AFC Bournemouth defeated Brentford 1-0 at home. Now the teams will return to the London area for Brentford to host the second leg. American central defender Cameron Carter-Vickers got the start for Bournemouth and helped preserve the shutout victory.

Like last season when he helped Luton Town miraculously avoid relegation, Carter-Vickers thrives in ugly and desperate soccer. Brentford is favorites in this series and Bournemouth were on the heels for stretches in this game. Carter-Vickers was far from an artful passer out of the back in this one, but he was a rock in the middle of Bournemouth’s backline.


Bournemouth has the edge now but it will be much harder to achieve a similar result at Brentford. Carter-Vickers will be under the gun in this game. But in a game where emergency defending is the most important priority and building out of the back is a distant thought, Carter-Vickers is the right guy. The second leg will be interesting to watch, for sure.


Pulisic starts in big Chelsea win


Over the past month, every game Chelsea has played has been extremely important to its chances in four different competitions – the Champions League, the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup. With both cups now over, even if not in Chelsea’s favor, Chelsea can not focus on a narrower set of tasks. Until the Champions League final in 10 days, Chelsea can but 100% of its effort on qualifying for the Champions League next season with a top four finish in the Premier League.

The path towards succeeding became a lot more favorable on Tuesday after a 2-1 win over Leicester City, a rematch from the weekend’s FA Cup final which Leicester City won 1-0. In this game, Chelsea was dominant from the opening kick. The first half was scoreless but VAR called back two Chelsea goals. In the second half, Chelsea scored two deserved goals early before committing an error to gift Leicester City a goal.

Christian Pulisic wasn’t particularly strong in this game over the course of 90 minutes but still did his part helping to open up the game. Offensively, Pulisic thrives beating defenders off the dribble and drawing fouls. That either opens up shots or dangerous crosses. In this game, he wasn’t particularly effective getting by his defender and therefore his final ball wasn’t there.

That being said, managers seldomly want to make changes to a winning formula. Unlike in the FA Cup final where he didn’t start, Pulisic was the starter in a winning effort and a dominant performance.

With one game to play, Chelsea controls its own destiny for a top four finish. It is in third place with a one-point lead on Leicester and a four-point lead on Liverpool (which has two games remaining). All Chelsea has to do is win over the weekend against Aston Villa and it doesn’t need to worry about the results from other teams.

The big question is whether or not Pulisic will start the Champions League final? Again, even if Pulisic is not dominant, he is starting in all the team’s big wins lately.


Ream captain’s Fulham at Old Trafford


Tim Ream not only started for Fulham on Tuesday, but he captained the team at Old Trafford against second-place Manchester United. Even if Fulham has already been relegated, that is a huge honor. To make it even more impressive, Fulham played to a very respectable 1-1 draw.

So, what will happen with Ream after this season? He will turn 34 in the early parts of the next season. Will he return to the United States? Captaining his hometown St. Louis for their inaugural MLS season in 2023 seems like a great way to cap off a great career – but that is still 22 months away. There are ways to sign for them and get loaned out until then (his former club, the New York Red Bulls, desperately need a central defender after the injury to Aaron Long).


On the other hand, Tim Ream is a remarkably successful central defender in the Championship. He has anchored Fulham to two promotions. He was Bolton’s player of the year twice, Fulham’s once. If Fulham wants to make a quick return to the Premier League, Ream has shown to be a guy who can get that done. At 34, however, is that still a reliable bet?

Ream still has a lot of value he can offer to various clubs. His offseason will be interesting to watch because he is the missing piece for a bunch of different clubs.


Siebatcheu completes Young Boys move


Jordan Siebatcheu, 25, scored 12 goals so far this season in the Swiss Super League in which BSC Young Boys won its fourth straight title. Given that all of his goals have come since late December, it makes his form this year all the more impressive.

This past season, he’s been at Young Boys on loan from Rennes in France where he had been out of favor. In Switzerland, however, he had found a career revival and even thrived in the Europa League where he scored three goals over a two-leg win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Yesterday, BSC Young Boys announced that it had completed a transfer with Rennes for Siebatcheu and the fee is $2.8 million. Siebatcheu’s contract will run through 2024 – when he’ll be 28 years old.

This move should not be surprising as BSC Young Boys continued to play Siebatcheu even after the title was clinched – a sign they thought it was possible he was clearly coming back. But now the U.S. national team forward will have the chance to play for BSC Young Boys in the Champions League qualifiers later in the summer.

It’s been a great year for Siebatcheu who was completely out of favor with Rennes and was not playing at a level to be in consideration for the U.S. national team. Now he’s scoring double-digit goals, has a chance to play in the Champions League, and appears to be in Gregg Berhalter’s plans. It’s been a great story to watch him revive his career.


USMNT injury watch


Putting together the U.S. national team roster for the Nations League could be a challenge for Gregg Berhalter. As of right now, a bunch of players are dealing with injuries and it remains to be seen how quickly they get over them.

John Brooks missed Tuesday’s practice with a bruised foot. It seems minor but we can only know for certain once he returns to the field. Wolfsburg has already secured a Champions League spot and shouldn’t feel much pressure getting him back.

Tyler Adams has missed the last several games for RB Leipzig, including the DFB Pokal final, with back issues.

Aaron Long will miss the remainder of 2021 after rupturing his Achilles tendon and having surgery on Monday.

Chris Richards has missed the last three games for Hoffenheim due to a hamstring injury.

Antonee Robinson has missed the last two games for Fulham with a knock.

Jordan Morris will miss the remainder of 2021 recovering from an ACL tear.

Richard Ledezma will return in the fall as he recovers from his ACL tear

Combined with the fact that several other players have been dealing with injuries throughout the spring and might not be at 100% now, it will be a challenge for Berhalter to put together his team.

It's yet another reminder that the USMNT is far more about depth than Best XI right now. It's not just 11 players, or 23 players, it is more about 40-50 players. 


Pivotal games on Wednesday


There are bunch of very important games on Wednesday for American fans to watch.

Portugal will play its final round of games and Reggie Cannon and Boavista will aim to stay a live in the top flight.

Boavista controls its own destiny. It sits in the first automatically safe spot - two points ahead of both Rio Ave and Farense.

  • -          A win today over midtable Gil Vicente and Boavista will avoid relegation. Gil Vicente has no prospects to qualify for Europe nor face relegation.
  • -          If neither Rio Ave nor Farense win, Boavista is safe regardless of its result agaisnt Gil Vicente.
  • -          If Boavista draws against Gil Vicente, it will need help. If Farense wins, it will move ahead of Boavista. Rio Ave cannont realistically move ahead of Boavista if Boavista draws.
  • -          If Boavista loses to Gil Vicente, both Rio Ave and Farense can move ahead with a win.

The good news in all this is that both Cannon and Boavista have been playing much better recently.

Lynden Gooch and Sunderland will open up the third-tier League One promotional playoffs against Lincoln City. Gooch has been with Sunderland since he was 10 years old. He has played in the Premier League, the Championship, and League One with the club. Now he’s hoping to be part of its revival.

Finally, the Coppa Italia final will take place on Wednesday between Atalanta and Juventus. Weston McKennie will attempt to win a major piece of silverware although he has been starting fewer games since March when he was dealing with a hip injury. This is an exciting time for McKennie and it has been a good season, although it has been a disappointment for Juventus. The Coppa Italia final is certainly a big game but it is played in the backdrop of the upcoming Serie A final round on Sunday where Juventus, sitting in fifth place, needs to win and needs help to move into the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season.

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