Dest shines, Konrad debuts, Revs stun Philly, Seattle remains supreme, & more
November 25, 2020
IT WAS A BUSY TUESDAY for American Soccer with three U.S. internationals starting in the Champions League and another making his professional debut on a huge stage in the biggest tournament for one of the world’s biggest teams. Then in the MLS playoffs, the backet in the East is blown wide open while the best in the West continue to roll.
Here are my thoughts on it all.
The Champions League
Dest stars in Barcelona rout
Sergino Dest, 20, doesn’t always start for Barcelona and while some games are better than others, he’s generally looked up to the challenge. On Tuesday in a 4-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv, the U.S. national team fullback might have been Barcelona’s best player on the day.
In the first half, he scored the team’s opening goal on an impressive move in tight spaces in the middle of the box.
But over the course of a full 90, Dest was extremely involved, eager to take defenders on and get involved offensively. Defensively, he was fine. His numbers painted that picture.
- 90 minutes
- 100 touches
- 2 shots
- 1 goal
- 88.1% passing (52/59)
- 1 key pass
- 1 dribble
- 1x fouled
- 1 tackle
- 1 clearance
- 0 fouls
- 2 aerials won
- 5 duels won (9 lost)
- 6 crosses
- 1/2 accurate long balls
What is particularly impressive is that Dest accumulated 100 touches and when you look at his touch map, he was true to the right side and he rarely cut into the middle of the field.
When Dest is on the field, Barcelona’s attack generates to his side. Over half of his touches were in the opponent’s half. Barcelona fans should feel good about Dest being part of the team’s next generation as what’s left of the storied older core looks set to move on.
Reyna starts in BVB win
Gio Reyna, 18, also earned the start for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-0 win over Club Brugge. It’s a nice place for Reyna to be because normally his role as a starting BVB attacking midfielder at the age of 18 would generate ridiculous amounts of hype in Germany. But fortunately for Reyna, Erling Haaland is such a global sensation that it dims the spotlight on others.
In this game, Reyna played 80 minutes and his touch map shows that he was given a lot of freedom in the attacking half – and tended to play centrally.
- 80 minutes
- 49 touches
- 1 shot
- 2 key passes
- 86.1% passing (31/36)
- 2 dribbles
- 2x fouls
- 0 aerials
- 1 tackle
- 1 interception
- 0 crosses
- 5 duels won (3 lost)
- 4/4 accurate long balls
Reyna’ passing, especially from distance, was key and for his age, he won a very healthy percentage of duels. He also got on the ball a healthy amount and was active defensively as well.
Dortmund was the superior team in this game and generally outclassed Club Brugge but Reyna looked the part and was helpful to that talent gap.
McKennie quiet in Juventus win
Weston McKennie, 22, earned the start for Juventus against Hungarian champs Ferencvaros. He played 61 minutes and left with the score 1-1. Fortunately for the Italian club, Alvaro Morata was able to find the winner two minutes into stoppage time.
McKennie played on the right side of the midfield and was fairly disruptive/aggressively defensively but not too involved on the offensive side.
- 61 mins
- 34 touches
- 0 shots
- 76.9% passing (20/26)
- 0 key passes
- 1 aerial won
- 1 dribble
- 2 tackles
- 1 interception
- 0 crosses
- 0 long balls
- 4 duels won (5 lost)
It is a growing experience for McKennie who typically had a lot of freedom with Schalke and still does with the U.S. team. With Juventus he is more of a supporting cast member and sometimes the numbers won’t reflect that McKennie did what was asked of him.
De la Fuente makes debut
It has been a huge month for American winger Konrad de la Fuente. The 19 year old Miami native made his U.S. national team debut earlier this month in a 0-0 draw against Wales. Then on Tuesday, he played the final 7 minutes for Barcelona in its 4-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League. It was his professional first-team debut.
De la Fuente played well in his few minutes and the game was already decided, so there wasn’t too much pressure on him, result-wise. But it should be a huge boost of confidence for the 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup veteran. Playing for Barcelona, even just once, is a big deal and if there is a decision made to loan him out or perhaps sell him down the road, this will generate interest from a different level of clubs that it would if he was strictly limited to Barca B.
This was a huge personal milestone for de la Fuente and one that will help with his career arc in the coming years.
Notes in Europe
After starting over the weekend at right back, Tyler Adams did not play for RB Leipzig on Tuesday in its 1-0 Champions League loss to Paris St. Germain. While this was disappointing, Adams seems to be the type of player you never want to bet against. He had an injury a few weeks ago and it could be a matter of preserving him. He should eventually return to the field in all big games for Leipzig.
In Belgium’s top flight, American winger Joe Efford, 24, picked up an assist for Waasland-Beveren in the second goal of a 2-0 win over Oostende. The Georgia native is quietly having a nice season since moving to Belgium from the second tier of Greece. So far over 11 league games for Waasland Beveren, Efford has two goals and four assists.
Three Americans were on the matchday roster in the Championship when Queens Park Rangers posted a 3-2 win over Rotherham United. Geoff Cameron, 35, started and played 66 minutes in the win while mostly doing the London club’s dirty work. New Jersey native Matthew Olosunde, 22, played the final 31 minutes at right back for Rotherham and was mostly quiet in the loss. U.S. U-20 forward Charlie Kelman was an unused sub for QPR and he still awaits his club debut after transferring there from fourth-tier Southend United in September.
The MLS playoffs had a triple header on Tuesday, some results were predicted, some were surprising, some appeared to be surprising but should have been.
Overall, the playoffs in 2020 have been wild and entertaining – that continued on Tuesday and here are my thoughts on the latest installments.
Nashville gets past Toronto
Nashville upset Toronto on Tuesday 1-0 after 120 minutes. The decisive moment in the game came in the 105th minute when a Hany Mukhtar shot forced a partial save from Quentin Westberg, but the ball kept rolling towards the goal. Daniel Rios followed the shot and tapped it in for a 1-0 lead.
While Toronto came close to scoring at the end, Nashville preserved the clean sheet win.
Here are my thoughts
Nashville remains tough to play against: This team knows how to win tough, hard-fought games. It doesn’t bunker but it can absorb a lot of pressure. The approach to building this team, in its first season in MLS, has been wise in starting it from the back forward. The Walker Zimmerman trade changed the balance of the league – both in elevating Nashville but also weakening last season’s Supporters Shield winners, LAFC. The veteran presence on the team is impressive, the team never panics and can seem to deal well with situations when opponents raise their game.
Nashville’s offense is better than you think: While most people know Nashville has not conceded many goals this season and boasts a good defense, this team is not a bunker team. It can win open games and while this game against Toronto was 0-0 for 105 minutes, it was open for long stretches and Nashville had the majority of opportunities. Prior to this game, it scored six goals from its past two games. The team is maintaining its defensive presence while also improving its offensive capabilities.
The result is that this team can very well make a very deep run in the playoffs, and that should not be a surprise to anyone paying attention.
People need to know that the “parking the bus” narrative around this team is outdated. Friday was the first time we’ve had all 3 DP’s on the field at the same time. When healthy, we can take our game to anyone just like we did Toronto tonight.— Jonathan White (@WoodyWhite13) November 25, 2020
Toronto FC’s core might be done: Toronto has been to MLS Cup three of the past four years and it has been a great run for many of these team’s players and the front office made some wise decisions along the way – being able to replace Sebastian Giovinco with Alejandro Pozuelo.
New England stuns Philadelphia
The Supporters Shield winners did not put up much of a fight in these playoffs and it is too bad because Philadelphia had a great regular season and were fun to watch. The team represented so much of what many fans want to see in giving young local players chances and seeing them deliver.
In this one New England took control of the game early with two first half goals and then played a suffocating defensively minded approach to see out the win in surprisingly easy fashion.
Here are some thoughts
Philadelphia was extremely flat: With this team, so much of what it did this season was building on a rhythm. Jim Curtin did not rotate his squad much, the team played twice a week, and it got used to that routine. Now playing its first games in over two weeks following an international window and a bye, it was completely out of rhythm and out of synch.
Huge questions for Philadelphia: This is not going to be an easy offseason for the Union. Brenden Aaronson is gone. Mark McKenzie might be sold as he could fetch offers that Philadelphia might not be able to turn down. Alejandro Bedoya and Ilsinho are older. The team has promising players in the academy but they probably aren’t ready just yet. This team will require serious moves to remain at the top of the East.
New England spent wisely: While Philadelphia and other teams got a lot of praise for their use of younger domestic players which help U.S. national teams, New England is doing the same without the accolades. Matt Turner has a great chance to be on the U.S. national team and Henry Kessler should be a U.S. U-23 central defender for Olympic qualifying. But its designated player acquisitions have been second to none. Last week it was Gustavo Bou against Montreal. When Bou didn’t have a great game against Philadelphia, it was Carles Gil or Adam Buska.
Seattle remains the favorite
While the seedings suggest differently, Seattle isn’t just the favorite in the West, it is the favorite to win MLS Cup. This team just has it figured out and none should bet against Jordan Morris, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Stefan Frei.
On Tuesday, it coasted past LAFC 3-1 and the goal scorers were, unsurprisingly, Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Jordan Morris. These players just know how to deliver in these occasions and Brian Schmetzer is probably the best MLS coach over the past five years.
Here are my thoughts on this game:
LAFC needs work: This team never recovered from letting Walker Zimmerman go and made miscalculations on the ability of the defense it had following the trade. This club is ambitious and I expect them to figure it out quickly.
Lodeiro is maybe the best postseason foreign DP: Is Lodeiro the best foreign designated player in league history in terms of delivering in the postseason? Robbie Keane was great and David Beckham certainly lived up to his lofty expectations. Diego Valeri has been fantastic. But my money is on Lodeiro. He just always seems to deliver in these games.
Morris remains superior: What Jordan Morris is doing these days is phenomenal. In terms of his dominance in this league, he is outperforming so many of the league’s expensive designated players that arrive from prestigious clubs in South America or Europe. In all competitions for Seattle in 2019 and 2020, Morris has played 55 games and accumulated 24 goals and 14 assists. He has won two titles so far in his career.
One final point among all games
One point that bears repeating from this playoffs and playoffs before, the post season in this league is generally dictated by designated players. The regular seasons can see team success through qualities such as coaching, leadership, and experience but the postseason often comes down to designated players with special players doing special things.
Philadelphia had a great team but was outdone by a New England team that has in-form designated players. Nashville is surging now having its designated players all on the field together. Seattle has designated players that are just so incredibly in-synch with each other that it makes them near impossible at this time.
Moving forward in the playoffs, the winners will likely be decided on which players have their designated players deliver.