Sargent's big game, Brooks solid run, Mckennie's return, and much moren
June 12, 2020
LAST WEEK WAS the most revealing week of 2020 for Americans abroad as players, managers, and teams showed exactly what to expect in the season’s final weeks.
This week could be more of the same and some Americans will be under pressure. Josh Sargent, for example, probably has the most important game of his young career so far. A loss or a draw will likely seal Werder Bremen’s surprising relegation.
Others players like John Brooks will look to continue their surging form.
The leagues in Europe are beginning to reopen and MLS and others will follow soon. This is making for a fun and distracting summer for American fans who have been through a lot.
As ASN does every Friday, here are the 10 best games to follow this weekend from an American perspective.
Fortuna Dusseldorf - Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, June 13: 9:30am EST
If Fortuna is going to avoid relegation it will need to post some unexpected result. A win or a draw against Borussia Dortmund would be just that. It was only 2 weeks ago when the team was blown out Bayern Munich. Now it will need to fare better against the league’s 2nd place team. With Werder Bremen having a much easier schedule down the way, the pressure is on. Fortuna sits three points ahead of Werder Bremen and has a five goal advantage in the goal differential category.
U.S. national team midfielder Alfredo Morales should start for Fortuna in this one as he came off the bench midweek and was impressive in a 2-2 draw with Hoffenheim.
Saturday, June 13: 9:30am ESTOn the other side, Borussia Dortmund is trying to seal 2nd place. A win could clinch a Champions League spot for the club. American teenager, Gio Reyna, is nearing his first start for the club. All of his 13 appearances have been off the bench but a start before the end of the season is likely. This could very well be his day.
Paderborn - Werder Bremen
Saturday, June 13: 9:30am EST
It is crunch time for Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen to make an uphill push to survive in the Bundesliga. The club is three points out of the relegation playoff zone behind Fortuna Dusseldorf and it has a five-goal disadvantage in the first tiebreaker. There is certainly a good chance Fortuna gets blown out by Dortmund.
But if Werder Bremen can’t get it done against the league’s last place team, it will be a disaster that will likely seal its relegation fate. This is one of the few games where Werder can be expected to win.
Josh Sargent has been playing regularly for Werder Bremen and he has been quite sharp at times. Still the goals are not coming and he is not getting on the ball enough. If Sargent starts in this one, he must be a consistent threat to score.
Wolfsburg - Freiburg
Saturday, June 13: 9:30am EST
The 2019/2020 season has been very weird with the sudden stop in play, the restart, no fans allowed, and other oddities.
But through it all, the best American player over the last six months in any league has been John Brooks. Since he reclaimed his starting spot, he has been terrific and Wolfsburg has move up in the Bundesliga table into sixth place – which is the final Europa League position in the league.
Freiburg is in eighth place and is four points behind Wolfsburg. A win would move Freiburg back into contention for the Europa League spot.
For Brooks, the question has always been about his consistency and he is on a terrific run at the moment and it would be a great boost to his resume if he can finish the season playing this well.
Whenever Wolfsburg plays, there is always the possibility that Ulysses Llanez will make his Bundesliga debut. He made the bench before so there are signs that it is building towards that.
Schalke 04 - Bayer Leverkusen
Sunday, June 14: 12:00pm EST
Schalke 04 began the restart in sixth place but it struggled prior to the break. Since then, the club has continued its nosedive and is playing its worst soccer in over two decades. It is winless in 12 games and has scored just four goals in that span. It is coming off a 1-1 draw with Union Berlin. Head coach David Wagner, a former U.S. national team forward, is under pressure to figure it out and needs to at least have the team playing better to end the season. Sitting in 10th place, there is no threat of relegation nor any chance of qualifying for Europe. But the club has to end the current embarrassment.
U.S. national team midfielder Weston Mckennie, 21, was suspended last week but has been among the Schalke’s best players but still needs to be sharper on the ball. His defensive skills have been impressive but right now he has to avoid the frustration of the team’s run and help keep the ball. Still, he is an asset to the club despite its current woes.
Karlsruher - VfB Stuttgart
Sunday, June 14: 7:30am EST
Last week VfB Stuttgart played to a disappointing 0-0 draw with relegation battling Osnabruck. The club could have fallen out of second place but was bailed out as Hamburg collapsed late in a 3-3 draw with Holstein Kiel.
But this time Stuttgart won’t be so lucky as Hamburg defeated Dynamo Dresden on Friday to temporarily move into second place. Making up that game in hand, VfB Stuttgart will need to defeat 16th place Karlsruher – which should be a desperate opponent in the relegation playoff position. A draw or a loss will keep Stuttgart in third place and out of automatic promotion (and in the playoff promotion position).
Stuttgart manager Pellegrino Matarazzo is attempting to be the first American born and raised to lead a team in the Bundesliga. This is indeed a pressure game with HSV having already won.
Hobro - AC Horsens
Saturday, June 13: 11:00am EST
If Hobro is going to avoid relegation this year, it will have to win via the relegation round where it has been drawn into a group consisting of Randers (34 points), Horsens (34 points), Hobro (23 points), and Esbjerg (21 points). Today, Esbjerg defeated Randers to put pressure on Hobro.
Under these current standings, the top two teams advance to a playoff for a Europa League spot. The third team goes into the relegation playoffs and the last team is relegation. For Hobro, the first two spots are unrealistic. The best it can do is qualify for the relegation playoff spot and this stage requires it to maintain a lead over Esbjerg.
Hobro is a tough team to defeat but a team that hasn’t won enough. It has a highly unusual record of three wins, 14 draws, and nine losses. In this game, the U.S. U-23 duo of Emmanuel Sabbi and Christian Cappis are likely start and both players have been among the best players on the team this year. Next year Sabbi will head within Denmark to OB. Cappis will likely entertain offers this summer.
AC Horsens boasts one American on its roster, backup goalkeeper Michael Lansing, but he is unlikely to play.
Besiktas - Antalyaspor
Saturday, June 13: 2:00pm EST
The Turkish Super Lig resumes this weekend and fifth place Besiktas will host 11th place Antalyaspor in the first game since the restart for both teams.
U.S. national team winger Tyler Boyd was playing well prior to the shutdown and benefited from the club’s recent managerial change. During the shutdown there were reports that he had tested positive for COVID-19 although the club did not confirm and instead stated a Besiktas player tested positive.
It has been an uneven first season at Besiktas for Boyd but he had been trending in the right direction. We will now see if he is ready to return to the field and keep contributing on Saturday.
Red Bull Salzburg - LASK
Sunday, June 14: 1:30pm EST
Since the restart in Austria, Red Bull Salzburg has been beyond dominant. So far it has played four games – one in the Austrian Cup final and three in the Austrian Bundesliga. It has won all four games by a combined score of 18-1. It entered the shutdown in second place but it now has a seven point lead atop the table.
It’s opponent, LASK, was atop the table entering the shutdown but was docked six points for holding illegal training sessions during the shutdown. Combined with poor play following the restart, LASK now sits in fourth place and is 11 points back.
American manager Jesse Marsch is on a roll and is aiming to complete a double in winning the Austrian Cup and the Austrian Bundesliga. After becoming the first American born and raised manager to coach in the Champions League, it has indeed been a ground breaking season. A win over LASK would continue its strong pursuit of the title.
Hertha BSC - Eintracht Frankfurt
Saturday, June 13: 9:30am EST
After being bounced by Bayern Munich midweek in the German Cup semifinals, Eintracht Frankfurt will return to Bundesliga action where it has done enough to pull away from a relegation battle and now sits comfortably in midtable in 11th place.
Former U.S. international Timothy Chandler, 30, has had his highest and most productive season with five goals so far. Mostly he has been playing on the wing and his best moments have been coming off the bench in the second half of games. Even in the loss midweek to Bayern, Chandler was dangerous.
Its opponent, ninth place Hertha BSC is also comfortably in midtable and the two evenly matched teams will now be aiming to end their season on a high notes with four games remaining.
Hammarby - Oestersunds FK
Sunday, June 14: 11:30am EST
The seasons in Norway and Sweden will kickoff this weekend. These leagues used to contain many American players but with the improvement in MLS, the numbers have dwindled significantly. Right now, the most known Americans are Romain Gall on loan at Stabaek from Malmo and Aaron Johannsson at Hammarby. There are others such as Henry Wingo at Molde although it remains to be seen if these players earn significant minutes.
A former U.S. international who was previously at Werder Bremen, Johannsson, 29, will be interesting to watch as he attempts to rebuild his career after a seemingly endless stretch of injuries. He made 10 appearances in the second half of last season although he did not score. Hammarby finished in third place in 2019 and will participate in the Europa League qualifiers this year.
Johnannsson has been sharp in 2020 in the Swedish Cup where he had three goals in three games. But those were against lower-league opponents. Now he will look to continue that form into Sweden’s top flight in the season opener. Hammarby will be the favorite against Oestersunds FK which finished the 2019 season in 12th place in the 16 team league.