Aaron_long_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_red_bulls_-_howard_smith Howard C. Smith/ISI
Weekend preview

Schalke hosts Bayern, MLS rivals meet, Sonora faces tough test in Argentina

Lots of rivalriy games in MLS and lots of Americans in action in the Bundesliga generally makes for a fun weekend of soccer for American fans. This week is no exception. Elsewhere, there pressure on Christian Pulisic & Chelsea and curiousity over Joel Sonora's hot start in Argentina. Here are the 10 best games for Americans to watch. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
August 23, 2019
1:00 PM
This weekend features another full slate of games to follow both abroad and domestically. A lot of rivalry games combined with playoff races will make MLS interesting this weekend while the Bundesliga and Premier League have interesting stories for American fans to follow.

As we do every weekend, here are the 10 best games to follow from an American perspective.

Fortuna Dusseldorf - Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, August 25: 9:30am EST

After an impressive Bundesliga debut where he was key in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 3-1 win over Werder Bremen, U.S. national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen will make his home debut for the club on Saturday when it hosts Bayer Leverkusen. Fellow American Alfredo Morales is also likely to feature for Fortuna. It’s opponent on Saturday, Bayer Leverkusen, is also coming off a win in its opener after it downed Paderborn 3-2.

After a rough stretch in Germany following to the 2015 U-20 World Cup, Steffen returned home to play for the Columbus Crew where he stood out as one of the top goalkeepers in the league. During the most recent offseason, he secured a transfer to Manchester City and has now moved to Fortuna on a season-long loan.

Los Angeles FC - LA Galaxy

Sunday, August 25: 10:30pm EST

The last time these two teams faced each other, it turned into the Zlatan show. The Swedish icon trash-talked all week-long and then proceeded to score a hattrick en route to a 3-2 win.

But that was just one game. Since then, LAFC has continued to be the best team in the league (and maybe the best in league history) winning all five of its games since. The Galaxy lost its next three after that win. In its last game, the Galaxy drew Seattle at home 2-2.

This game means little for LAFC in the standings as it is cruising to the Supporters’ Shield. But for morale, this game means a lot for LAFC as it wants to be the king of its city and it wants to silence the Swede’s antics.

At first glance, the Galaxy look safely in the playoffs. But a loss to LAFC combined with Portland and San Jose wins (both likely) would move the Galaxy to just a point clear of the playoff line. Zlatan might have to realize that regular season games might matter quite a bit more than he has been preaching.

Hertha BSC - Wolfsburg

Sunday, August 25: 12:00pm EST

On Sunday, U.S. national team central defender John Brooks will return to his home city and face the club which not only developed him at the youth ranks, but also allowed him to take his first professional steps in both the 2.Bundesliga and Bundesliga. He eventually played 119 league games for Hertha. Hertha is also the club which sold Brooks in 2017 for nearly $20 million – a record at the time for an American player.

Brooks was impressive last weekend in a 2-1 win over Koln and he will be an important part in the team’s push for a spot in Europe next season. He is coming off a solid season in 2018/19 where he helped the club qualify for the Europa League just one season after avoiding relegation only via the playoff.

Hertha, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive 0-0 draw on the road against reigning champions Bayern Munich. In returning to Berlin to face his hometown club, emotions will certainly be running high for Brooks.

Schalke - Bayern Munich

Saturday, August 24: 12:00pm EST

Former U.S. national team forward turned manager David Wagner is used to having his clubs punch above their weight. That is how he helped Huddersfield earn promotion to the Premier League and keep it there for a season.

But now at Schalke, Wagner will have his first major test when Schalke hosts champions Bayern Munich for its home opener.

Weston McKennie is likely to start for Schalke. While Schalke generated little offense last week away at Monchengladbach, McKennie was a disruptive force in the midfield and won most of the aerials that came his way. If Schalke is to earn any points from this match against Bayern, McKennie will once again have to be on top of his game – hopefully on the offensive side but definitely on the defensive side.

New York City FC - New York Red Bulls

Saturday, August 24: 7:00pm EST

While not an old rivalry by MLS standards, the Hudson River Rivalry brings the nastiness that is common whenever two teams from the Big Apple area play each other. Both teams are already off to a strong start this week with NYCFC beating Columbus at Yankee Stadium and the Red Bulls downing rivals DC United away in Wednesday’s slate of games.

NYCFC enters this game with the best points per game in the Eastern Conference and can move atop the table with a win. The Red Bulls, however, are just three points behind NYCFC (although have played two more games) and can move even with NYCFC with a win. The last time the two teams met earlier this season, the Red Bulls came away with a 2-1 win at home.

From an American perspective, the Red Bulls boast U.S. national team defender Aaron Long while American goalkeeper Luis Robles has bailed the team out of numerous situations in recent weeks. Forward Brian White injured his ankle last week but might return and with nine goals in just over 1300 minutes this season, he could be in the mix for a U.S. national team call-up.

NYCFC has mostly a foreign core although its goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, is a backup on the U.S. team. Midfielder Keaton Parks is aiming for a spot on the U.S. U-23 team. Defender James Sands also hopes to be part of the Olympic team although he’s injured at the moment with a broken collarbone.

Arsenal de Sarandi - San Lorenzo

Argentina Primera
Friday, August 23: 8:00pm EST

Through three rounds of the Argentine Primera, there is just one team that has collected a perfect nine points – Arsenal de Sarandi. What makes that even more impressive is that Arsenal is fresh off promotion.

2015 U.S. U-20 midfielder Joel Sonora has scored two goals for Arsenal in the first three games and has been a big part of the team’s early success. But the three wins have come against weak teams. San Lorenzo will provide a much more difficult test and the visitors have seven points through three games.

Portland Timbers - Seattle Sounders FC

Friday, August 23: 10:00pm EST

One of the oldest rivalries in American soccer will resume on Friday night when the Portland Timbers hosts archrivals Seattle Sounders. This meeting comes at a time when both teams are in the playoff positions but trending in different directions.

Seattle has been struggling mightily with just two points from its last four games and its play of the field has been flat. Its defense, in particular, has struggled to keep games within reach.

Portland is coming off a tough 2-0 loss to Atlanta but this will be just its fourth game of a 10 game homestand. The pressure is on Portland to make a climb during this run and if it doesn’t get a win against its rival, it will be a big lost opportunity.

This game should feature plenty of Americans players who play for various national teams. Seattle’s Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan were part of the recent Gold Cup team while Portland forward Jeremy Ebobisse figures to be a big part of the U.S. U-23 team.

Chelsea - Norwich City

Premier League
Saturday, August 24: 7:30am EST

Christian Pulisic’s start at Chelsea has been rocky. The American has not been the team’s biggest problem but he hasn’t been a solution either. His solid performance in the UEFA Super Cup is now a tiny blimp when compared with his play in the first two games of the Premier League season where Chelsea has managed to get just one point.

Pulisic was completely invisible last weekend against Leicester in the team’s home opener. He neither got a shot off nor was part of any dangerous opportunities. While Pulisic was used to the pressure of a big club at Borussia Dortmund, nothing matches the pressure at a club like Chelsea when the team is not living up to expectations.

A win against Norwich is a must but it is also not a sure thing for Chelsea. Norwich was impressive in its 3-1 win over Newcastle last week. But this is the game that an expensive team like Chelsea always beats when it is on its game. A draw or a loss will only magnify the problem.

It is far from certain that Pulisic will start this game. Frank Lampard will have tough choices and no player has a long leash at the moment. If Pulisic gets on the field, he will have to show an improvement or else run the risk of seeing an extended run on the bench. The move to the top of the Premier League is always a high risk/high reward endeavor for any player.

Fulham - Nottingham Forest

Saturday, August 24: 10:00am EST

While he’s generally been in and around the edges of the national team for years, Tim Ream has never been seen as a critical player. His club career, however, has been very successful and the St. Louis native has proven himself to be integral at the Championship level. He was named Bolton’s Player of the Season twice and Fulham’s Player of the Season once – in a year it was promoted.

Now he’s off to another strong start to the season with Fulham where the team has conceded just one goal in the 270 minutes Ream has been on the field. On Wednesday it posted a 4-0 win over London-rivals Millwall.

On Friday, Fulham announced that it had exercised an option to extend Ream’s contract through 2021. Will he leave afterward to join the new St. Louis team in MLS?

But a win over Nottingham Forest would see its strong start to the season continue as Fulham wants to make a quick return to the top flight and these early seasons games are important in preventing the season from getting away from teams.

Philadelphia Union - DC United

Saturday, August 24: 7:30pm

DC United’s season is in a tailspin and its 5-1 loss at home to Philadelphia four game ago was a low point. Midweek it lost 2-1 at home to the New York Red Bulls and saw captain Wayne Rooney get sent off for a blatant elbow to the head. Will the team be galvanized in its underdog role or will it see its low morale continue? Another loss could see the team’s once certain playoff chances become jeopardized.

Philadelphia remains near the top of the Eastern Conference. It trails leaders Atlanta only by goal differential. Philadelphia used to be the team to beat in the East but has been exceptionally hard to figure out in recent weeks. It is coming off a baffling 2-0 loss to Chicago which ended its two game winning streak. Before that, it was a 4-0 loss to a bad Montreal team.

So which Philadelphia will show up? Which DC United team will show up? The inconsistent nature of both teams makes this one an interesting game to follow – and one with serious playoff consequences for each team too.

From an American perspective, it is a good one. Former U.S. national team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya leads Philadelphia but his teammates Brendan Aaronson and Auston Trusty are both Olympic hopefuls. DC United, meanwhile, features U.S. international Paul Arriola and national team hopefuls Bill Hamid and Russell Canouse. U.S. U-23 midfielder Chris Durkin remains injured.

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