Weekend preview

Big showdown in Philly, big test for Pulisic & Chelsea, Sargent faces Union

The Weekend has finally arrived and the international window is over. That means there are many games taking place all across the globe. ASN's Brian Sciaretta previews the 10 best games to follow from an American perspective. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 13, 2019
12:00 AM
THE INTERNATIONAL WINDOW is now over for September and players are now back with their clubs. For American fans, there are going to be a lot of great games to follow both domestically and abroad.

In MLS, the regular season is in its final rounds and playoff positions are up for grabs. The opportunity to host playoff games under the new format gives added importance. Meanwhile, most of the leagues abroad are still in their early stages and many players are still trying to secure set roles with their clubs.

As we do every Friday, here are previews for the 10 best games for American fans to follow this weekend.

Philadelphia – Los Angeles FC

Saturday, September 14: 7:30pm EST

The best game this weekend for American fans will take place domestically in the City of Brotherly Love when the Philadelphia Union hosts Los Angeles FC in a matchup that features the second-place team in the Eastern Conference taking on the runaway leaders in the Western Conference.

In addition to two teams who are in contention for MLS Cup, there are a lot of interesting storylines. Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin played under LAFC manager Bob Bradley at the Chicago Fire. Earlier this week, Bradley had nothing but praise for Curtin as a manager. In turn Curtin said it was Bradley who made him want to be a manager after his playing career.

“Jimmy has done an excellent job,” Bradley said. “Jim was always a smart player, a really good teammate, a guy who just understood sports and how the chemistry in teams work. And I think he’s been able to put all those things together and provide great leadership, and do an excellent job with the Union.”

This game is going to go a long way in telling just how good Philadelphia is right now. Coming into this game, Philadelphia has won two in a row and four of five. Teenage midfielder Brendan Aaronson returned from the U.S. U-23 camp where he was a standout in a 2-0 win over Japan. He has also scored in his last two games for the Union. Forward Kacper Przybylko is also on a red-hot streak where he helped carry the team in a recent 3-1 win over Atlanta.

Meanwhile, LAFC is running away with the Supporters Shield but is winless in its last three games. The key will obviously be in Carlos Vela’s ability to expose Philadelphia’s young backline. If not, Philadelphia could pull off an upset.

Wolverhampton – Chelsea

The Premier League
Saturday, September 14: 10:00am EST
NBC Sports Gold

By its standard, Chelsea is off to a poor start in the Premier League with just five points from its first four games. It has won only once – against Norwich – and even that was a huge struggle. Whether it is new manager Frank Lampard or any of its players, including Christian Pulisic, everyone at the club is under a lot of pressure.

While Chelsea is away on Saturday, playing Wolves is a game where the London club needs to win. Wolves has three draws from its first four games and is winless.

Christian Pulisic returned early from the United States international break after playing just one game – a terrible 3-0 loss to Mexico in New Jersey. His performances for Chelsea thus far have been decidedly mixed, although his best outings have been his two most recent games. But now will be the time to see if Pulisic is one of the many players struggling at Chelsea, or if he is part of the solution to the team’s woes.

Fortuna Dusseldorf – Wolfsburg

The Bundesliga
Friday, September 13: 2:30pm

Alfredo Morales and Zack Steffen returned early to Germany after just one friendly with the U.S. team over the recent window to prepare for this game. Steffen is ready to start although Morales is questionable for this game at home against Wolfsburg on Friday evening. 

Steffen and Morales have both played well to start the season although Fortuna has lost its last two games after a win in its season-opener. The club might find itself in a relegation battle if it is not careful and getting unexpected wins here and there can go a long way. 

But Wolfsburg will be a big test for Fortuna. Wolfsburg has two wins a draw for seven points and third place in the Bundesliga. But one player Wolfsburg will be without is U.S. national team central defender John Brooks who injured his hamstring with the U.S. team ahead of the friendly against Mexico. 

Playing at home will give Fortuna a shot but Wolfsburg remain the favorites. Steffen in goal will be important to Fortuna in its hopes of achieving a result on Friday.

Minnesota United – Real Salt Lake

Sunday, September 15: 5:30pm EST

Generally, it has been a good season for Minnesota United although the club has lost two of its last three games. When playing at home in its beautiful new Allianz Field, the club has been difficult to beat. That will be welcome news for Adrian Heath’s team which suffered an ugly 2-0 loss away at Houston midweek.

Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, is impressively in second place in the Western Conference although most of its success has come while playing at home in high altitude. Heading into Allianz is a difficult assignment although one with a lot of opportunity. Under interim manager Freddy Juarez, the club has steadily achieved a lot of impressive results.

For American fans, not only will this matchup provide a look at two of the Western Conference’s better teams and one of the league’s best stadiums, it will also provide a look at many of the key players in the U.S U-23 Olympic team pool. Real Salt Lake regularly plays Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo, Aaron Herrera, and Brooks Lennon – who were all part of the recent U-23 camp and should all future in qualifying. Meanwhile for Minnesota, forward Mason Toye and central midfielder/fullback Hassani Dotson are likely starters for the U-23 team.

This is definitely a good game for American fans. Serious playoff implications are on the line, young domestic players will feature, and the atmosphere at the stadium will be intense.

FC Union Berlin - Werder Bremen

The Bundesliga
Saturday, September 14: 9:30am EST
Fox Sports Go

After playing in two games with the United States national team over the recent international window, American forward Josh Sargent will return to Germany looking to continue the momentum he had going before his recent trip stateside. In Werder Bremen’s last game, Sargent scored one of the best Bundesliga goals from the third round in a 3-2 win over Augsburg. Those were the team’s first points of the season.

It is not assured that Sargent will start on Saturday after a busy international window, but it seems likely he will play – especially if Werder Bremen finds itself in a position where it needs a goal. 

Newly promoted Union Berlin, playing at home, will represent a challenge for Werder as Union has four points from its first three games. If Sargent gets into the game, the defender who will likely be in his way is former U.S. youth international turned Serbian international Neven Subotic. 

Seeing Sargent score on Subotic would be a thrill for older American fans who remember the Serbian’s defection. 

LA Galaxy – Sporting Kansas City

Saturday, September 15: 10:00pm EST

All of a sudden, regular season games matter for Zlatan Ibrahimovi?. The legendary Swede has spent most of this season earning headlines for his interviews where he rails on the playoff format, the league, the officials, LAFC, playing through international windows, and all sorts of other stuff about MLS.

But after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Colorado, the Galaxy’s struggles become more noticeable as it finally fell out of the playoff positions. The bottom line is that if the Galaxy don’t make the playoffs, Zlatan will be earning headlines as a flop. Sure, he hasn’t been surrounded by that great of a team, but to miss out on the playoffs in each of his two seasons will made everyone wonder if it was worth it for the Galaxy to have brought him here.

The Galaxy will probably end up making the playoffs due to a very weak schedule down the stretch (three out of its last five games are at home and only one of its remaining opponents is in the playoff positions at the moment). But a loss to a suddenly improving Sporting Kansas City could but the Galaxy in a very bad position.

For Sporting Kansas City, this is an upset they need to have any kind of chance at the playoffs. They’re six points from the playoff line and a loss could send it further into the abyss – especially as FC Dallas and Portland continue to improve. Sporting needs to play like a desperate team on Sunday, not a team resigned to missing out on the playoffs.

Paderborn – Schalke

The Bundesliga
Sunday, September 15: 12:00pm EST

Weston McKennie returned to Germany early from the U.S. national team camp to prepare for this game for Schalke. After finishing second in the Bundesliga for 2017/2018, Schalke was in a relegation battle in 2018/2019. Now under former U.S. national team forward, McKennie has a set position and is ready to take on bigger role with Schalke.

But what kind of club is Schalke right now and what kind of club does it want to be? Is it a contender for a return to the Champions League or the Europa League? Or is it in the mid to lower-tier teams in the league? The club has just four points from its first three games but looked particularly sharp in its last game which was a 3-0 win over Hertha BSC.

An away matchup against newly promoted Paderborn is a game which Schalke simply has to win if it wants to be around the top of the league. Paderborn has just one point from three games and has conceded seven goals. Paderborn also has American forward Khiry Shelton although he is still awaiting his Bundesliga debut after having been an unused substitute early in the season.

Hobro – Copenhagen

The Danish Superliga
Sunday, September 15: 10:00am EST

Hobro is a smaller team in Denmark and three of its players are eligible for the United States U-23 team. Emmanuel Sabbi has been the subject of transfer rumors and will likely be on the move this winter break. He was recently called up by the U.S. U-23 team but had to withdraw as he is currently playing with a broken nose (and a mask to go along with it).

Towards the end of the transfer window, ASN learned that Hobro rejected bids from Nordsjaelland, Brondby, Troyes in France’s Ligue 2, and an unnamed team in Ligue 1. The club hopes higher bids come in during the winter.

Meanwhile, the young Christian Cappis, 20, has been a steady presence in Hobro’s central midfield in recent week while Yosef Samuel has made appearances with Hobro coming off the bench.

The three Americans will have a huge opportunity on Sunday when they host Denmark’s most storied club in FC Copenhagen. If these Americans want to attract potential clubs for a transfer, these are the games in Denmark which get players noticed.

Godoy Cruz - Argentinos Juniors

Argentina’s Primera
Saturday, September 14: 2:30pm EST

In its most recent Primera game, Miami-born midfielder Matko Miljevic, 18, scored his first ever league goal for the club in a 1-0 win over Gimnasia la Plata. The goal took a fortunate deflection but Miljevic played very well.

Miljevic’s international future is going to be very interesting. Years ago, he played for the U.S. U-16 team. Recently he has played for Argentina’s U-18 and U-20 teams. For the recent international window, he was called up to the U.S. U-20 team by Tab Ramos for its first camp of the 2021 cycle, but Argentinos Juniors denied his release. During the international window, Miljevic said he was also in contact with Croatia’s federation. Last year, Miljevic told ASN he was applying for a Croatian passport to make it easier to eventually play in Europe. His connection to the country is his grandfather, who was born in Croatia.

Miljevic is remains a very talented player and one with options. But it is certainly a winnable situation for the United States as Miljevic has been enthusiastic in interviews about playing for the U.S. team.

On Saturday, Miljevic will have yet another opportunity to impress against a Godoy Cruz team which could find itself in a relegation battle this season.

Gazisehir Gaziantep FK - Besiktas

Turkey’s Superlig
Saturday, September 14: 1:00pm

Tyler Boyd, 24, is coming off a great run last season with Ankaragucu where he scored six goals and added four assists in 13 games. His performances were so strong he attracted the interest both the U.S. national team and Turkish contender Besiktas. Over the summer, he made the switch from New Zealand to play for the U.S. team and then transferred to Besiktas and signed a four-year deal.

Boyd is very talented but hasn’t gotten going quite yet for either the U.S. team or Besiktas. The pressure is on him a little bit to perform and taking on a Gazisehir Gaziantep team that is expected to finish midtable, at best, is a good opportunity.

Boyd recently started two games for the U.S. team over the international break, so it might be tough for him to start on Saturday. But if he does get on the field, it will be another important opportunity for him.

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