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Weekend preview

Weekend preview: Homecomings for legends and opportunities for youth

Among the many highlights this weekend will be seeing Clint Dempsey return to Craven Cottage to be honored, Weston McKennie facing off against one of the best teams in the world, and Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley returning to face their first pro club.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 21, 2018
8:00 AM
THIS WEEKEND has a little bit for everyone. There are big opportunities for young players, there are homecomings for legends, there are important games in MLS playoff races, and there are potential club debuts. 

With all of that, here are 10 things to watch this weekend. 

Legends return

In an era where a lot of coverage is focused on young American players, two players beloved by their former clubs will offer a bit of a reunion.

Recently retired Clint Dempsey will be at Craven Cottage this Saturday (7:30am ET) when Fulham hosts Watford in a Premier League game. Dempsey was Fulham’s best offensive players during its run in the Premier League from 2007-2012. During that time, he scored 50 goals in England’s top flight and helped take it to the final of the Europa League in 2010.

“I can’t wait to see Fulham playing back in a league they belong in and taking a little trip down memory lane,” Dempsey said. “It will be great to see the fans. The Cottage was one of my favorite stadiums to play in. It was such an intimate atmosphere and I’ve just got so many great memories of playing there.The fans were a big part of helping create those memories. I gave all I could for Fulham so to be able to come back and sit in the stands as a supporter is going to be a great experience.”

But Dempsey is not the only American club legend to interact with his former club this weekend. Joe Enochs had a storied career with Osnabruck in Germany over two decades where he was a player, front office manager, youth coach, and first team head coach when the club was in both the 2.Bundesliga and 3.Liga.

Enochs was so popular there is a section in Osnabruck’s stadium named after him. But last year, Enochs was fired from Osnabruck as its head coach and took the head coaching job at FSV Zwickau. On Sunday (7:00am ET) FSV Zwickau will host Osnabruck – marking the first time Enochs has faced off against the club where he is considered a legend.

Bradley & Altidore return to New Jersey

While the feelings are still warm between Enochs and Osnabruck as well as Dempsey and Fulham, two players in MLS are returning to a former club where they were booed last year in the playoffs.

Michael Bradley played for the Metrostars from 2004-2005 and Jozy Altidore was with the Red Bulls from 2006-2008. For both players, it was their gateway to Europe as Bradley was sold to Heerenveen and Altidore set a then-American record transfer to Villarreal in Spain.

Last year in the playoffs, both players were booed at Red Bull Arena after both were part of the U.S. national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. But Bradley and Altidore would get the last laugh as Toronto won the series en route to winning MLS Cup.

This year is far different. The Red Bulls are in the hunt for the Supporters Shield or at least a first round bye in the playoffs. Toronto, meanwhile, came very close to winning the CONCACAF Champions League before losing to Chivas in a shootout. But its league campaign has been a disaster and the club needs a near miracle to make the playoffs.

The two teams face off at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (5pm EST) and this is not going to be a happy reunion as Red Bulls fans are going to be looking to move close to securing a first round bye in the playoffs as well as driving a steak into the heart of Toronto’s playoff chances.

McKennie and Schalke host Bayern 

Weston McKennie, 20, had a nice assist for Schalke in his Champions League debut in a 1-1 draw against Porto.

On Saturday (12:30pm ET), McKennie and company will have a much tougher task when reigning champions Bayern Munich come for a visit. But in a great challenge lies a great opportunity and these are the type of games that will help raise the bar for top young American players to reach.

But Schalke have had a dreadful start to the Bundesliga season having acquired zero points from its first three games – scoring just two goals and conceding six. With a perfect nine points from three games, Bayern is the last team Schalke need to be facing right now.

Regardless of the outcome, it is a measuring stick that few American players in their early 20’s are awarded.

Pulisic and Dortmund visit Hoffenheim

Earlier this week, Christian Pulisic turned 20. On his birthday he received a bit of luck to be on the right end of an inadvertent play that resulted in Dortmund’ winning goal over Club Brugge in the Champions League.

On Saturday (9:30am ET), Dortmund will travel to face fellow Champions League qualifiers Hoffenheim. Dortmund has had a strong start to the season with seven points from three games while Hoffenheim has just three in that span.

Miazga and Nantes visit Lille

Matt Miazga, 23, has been playing well as of late for Nantes but unfortunately for the New Jersey native, the club has not. With just five points from five games, Nantes sit in 17th place in the 20 team Ligue 1.

Miazga needs to stay sharp because things are not going to get any easier for Nantes.

On Saturday (11am ET), Nantes will visit Lille which has 10 points from five games.

For a player who should be in the mix to be the next USMNT captain, this is a good opportunity to help lead his team to climb the Ligue 1 standings.

Surprising Union host red hot SKC

The Philadelphia Union are one of the best surprises in MLS this season and are very likely to make the playoffs out of a tough Eastern Conference. Midweek, Philadelphia traveled to Seattle and snapped the Sounders’ nine game winning streak. 

Meanwhile in the Western Conference, Sporting Kansas City atop the standings and have six wins in its past seven games. 

The two teams face each other on Sunday (1pm EST) in Philadelphia and both teams will surely be confident. From an American perspective, there is a lot to follow. 

With Jack Elliot suspended, United States U-20 central defender (and potential U-20 captain) Mark McKenzie. Of course, McKenzie will be partnered with Auston Trusty, 20, who is a likely U-23 central defender. On top of that, Philadelphia will boast the regular contingent of Keegan Rosenberry, Alejanrdo Bedoya, and CJ Sapong. 

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City has long-time veterans Matt Besler, Ike Opara, and Graham Zusi on its backline. Tim Melia has never featured for the U.S. national team but even over 30, he could emerge as a backup to Zack Steffen after several strong seasons in a row. It will be interesting to see if U.S. U-20 fullback Jaylin Lindsey or U.S. U-17 attacker Gianluca Busio start – after both players have been regulars off the bench this season. 

Lankford & Green meet up

In the 2.Bundesliga, two German-Americans will meet up on Sunday (7:30am ET) when left-wing Kevin Lankford and Heidenheim hosts attacking midfielder Julian Green and Greuther Furth.

There is no question that Green, 23, has been playing very well to start the season. Last week he scored a goal in a 4-1 win over Holstein Kiel. Meanwhile Kevin Lankford, 19, has been a regular for Heidenheim which does not want to fall into a relegation fight after two straight losses. Lankford has quietly impressed but is still looking for his first goal in the 2.Bundesliga.

Amon and Nordsjaelland visit FC Copenhagen

It seems like every week Jonathan Amon, 19, is doing something eye-opening for Nordsjaelland. Last weekend, he scored the opening goal in a 4-1 win over Randers in what was the South Carolina native’s second goal of the season.

So far for his professional career dating back to his first team debut in November, Amon has five goals and four assists across 16 games and 853 minutes in all first team competitions.

This Sunday (10:00am EST) will be a different test as Nordsjaelland visit perennial Danish Superliga contenders FC Copenhagen which is atop the standings this season with 19 points through nine games. Nordsjaelland, meanwhile, has 12 points over nine games to sit in seventh place in the 14 team league.

Will Sargent make his debut?

On Saturday (9:30am), Augsburg hosts Werder Bremen and with Werder playing three games over the next week, American teenager Josh Sargent could be in line to make his Bundesliga debut. Sargent, 18, has been on fire with five goals and one assist in eight appearances for the club’s U-23 team.

Werder Bremen has five points from its first three games to start the season but is in a position where it needs squad rotation and use its depth. That could open the door for Sargent in what would be an exciting moment for him.

Playoff race: Galaxy host Sounders

In a game that is critical in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the LA Galaxy will host the Seattle Sounders on Sunday (7:00pm ET).

Seattle recently had its nine-game winning streak snapped at home by Philadelphia midweek but still is riding momentum of a strong second half of the season. Meanwhile, the Galaxy has been a trainwreck in recent where it is winless in seven games and has conceded five or more goals in three out of its last four games.

Things are so bad for the Galaxy right now that even the star power of Zlatan Ibrahimovi? cannot hid the problems within the organization. Despite the Swede’s outstanding numbers of 17 goals in 22 appearances, the Galaxy have not performed due to a roster with so many holes in it.

The Galaxy still have a chance, however, and a win over the Sounders will put it back within striking distance of the playoffs. Will Seattle rebound after its streak was snapped? Will the Galaxy ride Zlatan into a turnaround surge into the playoffs?

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