Midweek kickaround

Analysis: Houston wins Open Cup, Adams returns, full slate in Italy, U-23s get games, & much more

The Houston Dynamo are the U.S. Open Cup Champions, Tyler Adams is back, Christian Pulisic played well, the same was true for Weston McKennie, the U.S. U-23 team announces games, and one of the best young Americans in MLS was spared a major injury. There is so much GOOD news to breakdown for a change, and Brian Sciaretta is here to do just that. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 28, 2023
4:30 PM

IT HAS BEEN a very busy week in American Soccer both domestically, abroad, and now with some international news to boot. But the top story took place in South Florida for the U.S. Open Cup where some silverware was handed out. Another big story was the return to the field for the USMNT World Cup captain.

Let’s get right into it.


Houston wins the Open Cup


The Houston Dynamo are the U.S. Open Cup champions following a 2-1 victory over Inter Miami. After impressing in league play in recent months, this was yet another big statement that the club is back from years in the abyss.

The big story when the lineups were announced was that Lionel Messi was unable to participate. Instead, he watched from the stands. Jordi Alba was also unable to play and was replaced by American teenager Noah Allen at left back.

But right off the bat, the Houston Dynao were on the front foot and perfectly executed its gameplan on both sides of the ball. In the first half, Houston took a commanding lead. The first was off a great team goal that ended with an impressive Griffin Dorsey finish, assisted by Artur.

In a comical note, Dorsey’s finish drew an impressed reaction from Messi in the stands.

Nine minutes later, a Sergio Busquets turnover led to a Nelson Quiñónes break into the box. Quiñónes was later fouled by DeAndre Yedlin for a penalty – which was converted by Amine Bassi.

The first half was just dominant. Houston had 18 shots and Inter Miami had just one. Miami was completely flustered and outplayed at home.

The second half saw Inter Miami play better but Houston stood tall defensively until the last kick of the game when Josef Martinez pulled one back. But it was too little, too late.

Here are a few thoughts:

First, Griffin Dorsey has blossomed as a fullback after struggling in his career as a winger. He has completely rebuilt his career. It wasn’t long ago that he was waived by Toronto. But

“Griffin is a great human, and the fact that I had him on the bench at the start of the season makes me think I was crazy,” Dynamo manager Ben Olsen said. “He is a great example of, as a player, when you’re not in favor, how to get out of it. At this point, there’s no way I’m taking him off the field.”

Second, Olsen continues to do a fantastic job rebuilding the Dynamo from a league afterthought and into a team that both wins and is fun to watch.

Third, Hector Herrera has had a massive impact as a designated player for Houston. He has embraced the team, the city, the league, and he is having a lot of fun. Mexican internationals or former internationals have been up and down in MLS. Chicharito, the dos Santos brothers, and Rafa Marquez couldn’t live up to billing.  Herrera and Carlos Vela have been immense.

Fourth, the central midfield for Houston won the game. They completely dictated the pace of the game, they defended well. This contingent of  Héctor Herrera, Coco Carrasquilla, Artur, and Amine Bassi played the game on their terms.

Finally, as for Inter Miami, they reminded everyone that they are still a work in progress. Even without Messi, the team has made tremendous progress from where it was at the start of the season. I have little doubt that they will get to where they want to be. But, this was a reminder that this group is still very new to each other and it’s still going to take time.

As for now, Houston is back. They are a team that is now going to be one to watch in the playoffs.


Adams returns


The United States national team World Cup captain Tyler Adams made his first appearance since March when he played 20 minutes (plus five minutes of stoppage time) for AFC Bournemouth in a 2-0 win over Stoke City in the Carabao Cup. Also in this game, Lynden Gooch went the distance at left back for Stoke City.

He suffered his first injury, a pulled hamstring, in March while with Leeds United. He was unable to participate with the team down the stretch in its unsuccessful relegation battle. Over the summer, he moved to AFC Bournemouth. But subsequent reinjuries have delayed his return until now. This ultimately turned out to be his Bournemouth club debut as well.

To make it even more promising, Adams put on a decent shift. It was nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering, but it was a solid outing when you consider the circumstances. He had 13 touches, was 6/7 in passing, and won 3/4 of his ground duels.

This is obviously a huge boost to both Bournemouth and the U.S. national team. Adams might see his minutes managed in the weeks ahead but Borunemouth is going to want to get him on the field to boost their season and pull away from the relegation zone and towards midtable.

As for the national team, Adams seems likely to be called up in October but how many minutes he plays against Germany or Ghana will depend on how fit he is. It’s hard to see him playing 180 minutes in the next window.

Adams has been gone for so long, but this was a development we knew was coming and was very welcome to see.

Next up for Adams and Bournemouth is a trip to London to face Arsenal on Saturday.


Yanks in Italy


Italy has become a hotbed for Americans in just the past year. Two USMNT players are at AC Milan, two USMNT players are at Juventus. In Serie B, two likely U.S. U-23 players are at Venezia, a USMNT newcomer is at Palermo, and another Yank is at Lecco.

So, when Italy has a full slate of games, there is a lot of news. This week was one of those times.

In Sardinia, AC Milan visited Cagliari and walked away with a 3-1 away win. Christian Pulisic started this game and it was a return close to the form he showed in the first three games at Milan before a string of subpar performances.

With Milan down 1-0, Pulisic was instrumental in the build-up to the Noah Okafor equalizer in the 40th minute.

Then, he picked up an assist on the final goal – although Ruben Loftus-Cheek did the heavy lifting on the goal.

For Pulisic, it was a good outing. He played well defensively, and he contributed important moments offensively for a road win in Serie A. After a tough three games, this was just the type of performance he needed.

Yunus Musah played the final 32 minutes and was a perfect 21/21 in his passing. Overall, he was impressive but probably not enough to start in a first choice XI. But Stefano Pioli is rotating his squad, so Musah will continue to play. The rest is up to him to show he continues to be a good fit for the team. As time goes by, he should see his minutes increase. But this was another positive step.

Juventus defeated Lecce 1-0 on Tuesday. Weston McKennie started and played 86 minutes for Juve at right wingback and played well. In the 57th minute he had a “hockey assist” on sending a short cross to the back post on a broken play.

Tim Weah
had short but energetic performance in the dying minutes to see out the win.

 After a disastrous performance from everyone at Juve against Sassuolo, this was a huge step in the right direction. For McKennie, this was another good outing and he seems to have the trust of Max Allegri. Weston doesn’t get on the ball a ton like he does in central midfield, but even on the right, he finds multiple times every game where he can make positive contributions both offensively and defensively.

As for Weah, it is concerning because, once again, you can see the talent but also see him struggle to be a continued starter.

In Serie B, Kristoffer Lund had a very good outing for Palermo in a 3-1 win over a Venezia team that started both Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio. The new USMNT left back drew a penalty on the opening goal in the 9th minute which was converted by Matteo Brunori - the first of his hat trick. In the 62nd minute, Lund's cross into the box was key to the buildup of Brunori's second goal - and a 2-1 lead. Minutes later he was subbed out.

But this start was important for Lund to build up his case to be an automatic starter. In a matchup between two teams in contention for promotion (and a lot of pressure on City Football Group's Palermo to go up), Lund was a positive contributor for a tough road win.

Despite the loss, Tessmann was one of Venezia's best players on the day. He was a key part of the build-up to four of the team's best scoring chances. Busio, meanwhile, struggled in this one before being replaced in the 68th.

Finally in Italy, Andrija Novakovich went the distance for Lecco in a 2-1 loss at home to Feralpisalo. Lecco is in last place in Serie B with just one point from four games.


Elsewhere abroad in the midweek


In the Carabao Cup, Fulham defeated Norwich 2-1. Starting mostly reserves, Fulham eventually made some impressive defensive substitutions to see out the game. With Fulham up 1-0 in the 69th minute, Antonee Robinson came into the game. Then in the 83rd up 2-1, Fulham brought in Tim Ream. In the end, that was enough and Fulham advanced.

Also in the Carabao Cup, Manchester United defeated Crystal Palace 3-0. Chris Richards got the start and appeared rusty in the defeat. Palace’s elimination from this competition is not good for Richards as it narrows his opportunities to play.

In La Liga, Luca de la Torre was sent off in the 69th minute of Celta Vigo's 1-1 draw with Deportivo Alaves. The U.S. international picked up his second yellow with Celta holding a 1-0 lead at home. Alaves equalized in the 74th. Celta now sit 17th out of 20. 

In the Eredivisie, PSV defeated Go Ahead Eagles for a 3-0 win. Sergino Dest was sick and missed the game. Malik Tillman and Ricardo Pepi both subbed into the game with the scoring completed. Tillman came into the game in the 69th and the good thing for him was that he was allowed to play after Peter Bosz dropped him from the squad over the weekend due to oversleeping. Pepi came into the game in the 77th minute.

For now, both players seem to be late-game substitutes once the result is known. That could change as the season progresses. But PSV is perfect in the Eredivisie with 18 points from six games.

In Greece, Erik Palmer-Brown made his first start for Panathinaikos on Thursday, but was subbed out at the half, in a 4-1 away win over Asteras Tripolis. The former Sporting Kansas City homegrown left the game with his team up 2-1.

Also in Greece, Lamia played Kifisia to a 1-1 away draw. Caleb Stanko played the final 20 minutes for Lamia who conceded a late equalizer. 

In Belgium, Mark McKenzie’s toe was still an issue and he missed Genk’s big game against Club Brugge on Thursday.

George Bello got the start for LASK in the Austrian Cup in a 3-0 away win over third-tier amateur side SC Imst.

In the Copa Libertadores, Johnny Cardoso started for Internacional in a 2-2 away draw to Fluminense. The U.S. national team midfielder was subbed out at halftime with the score 1-1. It was his first game back following an injury he picked up just before the September international window (which forced him off the USMNT roster).


MLS midweek


FC Dallas traveled to Pennsylvania on Wednesday and played Philadelphia to a 1-1 draw. FC Dallas has games in hand but also has a very congested schedule. It is a tricky period for Nico Estevez to manage. In this game, he rotated his squad heavily and did not start players such as Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferreira.

This turned out to be a very entertaining game with two very good goals. Philadelphia opened the scoring with Quinn Sullivan finishing off an outstanding pass from Kai Wagner.

Then in the 36th minute, Dallas responded with an outstanding goal from Alan Velasco.

Dallas saw a second half goal from Arriola called back but was able to play for a 1-1 draw and a point on the road. They now have one game in hand on the teams surrounding them and a two point grip on the playoffs (while only having a two point gap to making the first round automatically and avoiding the play-in game). Dallas has a favorable schedule the rest of the way with a massive game against San Jose on October 7.

Vancouver should make the playoffs, but squandered a chance to eliminate any stress about it on Wednesday night when they played Colorado to a 2-2 away draw. Vancouver needed a 78th minute equalizer from Brian White to secure the draw. White now has 13 goals this season and five goals in his last seven games.

Late on Wednesday night, LAFC fell to Tigres on penalties in the Champions Cup after a 0-0 draw.

Gutierrez spared

In a bit of great news, the MRI of Brian Gutierrez's knee showed now structural damange, just bruising. The 20 year old playmaking midfielder has been one of the best young American players in MLS this season for the Chicago Fire.

In Saturday's 2-2 draw with New England, he was the MOTM. He was forced out of the game in stoppage time and the initial injury looked ugly. But subsequent testing calmed fears and he is now just day to day. 


U.S. U-23 team announces games


The United States U-23 team will hold its first camp in October as part of the buildup to the 2024 Olympic games in Paris. It will be the team’s first Olympic appearance since the 2008 games in Beijing.

The camp will be held in Phoenix, AZ and there will be two friendlies held at Phoenix Rising Stadium.


  • Wed, Oct. 11 - USA vs. Mexico – 10 p.m. ET
  • Tue, Oct. 17 – USA vs. Japan – 10:30 p.m. ET 


Marko Mitrovic is the head coach and is expected to announce the roster for this camp next week.

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