Friday kickaround

Friday kickaround: Musah nears Milan, Vazquez nets hat trick, Euro seasons open

ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up his thoughts on the news, the Leagues Cup, transfers, Euro preseason, and the opening of the season in some European Leagues. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 28, 2023
1:50 PM

WE'VE REACHED Friday and a full weekend of soccer is ahead of us - and it is getting a little more real. The Leagues Cup is better than expected and the group stages start their final rounds on Saturday. The Belgian First Division, the Danish Super Liga, and the 2.Bundesliga open play, and the remaining preseason games start becoming more important with the season starting soon.

Here is a look at it all.  


Musah on the move to Milan


According to reports in Italy, AC Milan have nearly acquired Yunus Musah from Valencia for approximately $20 million. Musah will join U.S. national team winger Christian Pulisic on the Italian giants.

Musah will be an interesting player to follow this season. He is young, skillful, and athletic, but he’s coming off a tough season with Valencia where he had 0 goals and two assists across 2119 minutes. In short, the talent is there, and his youth helps him, but he still needs to show more final production – and it is the same thing with the national team.

Milan is betting that as he gets older in their setup, he will become the player who not only is smooth with the ball but is one that can create chances and deliver goals and assists.

It's a gamble by Milan. They are not buying the player Musah is now, but they are betting that he will improve substantially. The fact that the improvement needs to be significant is why the transfer price was finally reduced by Valencia.

There will be competition for Musah as well. Milan is still looking to add more to their roster. If he continues to struggle creating chances, he might not get to the 2000 minute plateau that he hit with Valencia.

Overall, it’s a good move. He was stagnating in Valencia and that club was not in a good place. Milan is more functional and competitive. Musah will get a chance with his new team and he must take it. If he does, the upside is huge.


Leagues Cup thoughts


The Leagues Cup continues to progress and there have been 30 games played.

So far, the tournament has been better than expected. There are lots of goals, the games are competitive. Most of the teams are starting their top lineups. It offers a different look for both leagues.

In terms of the matchups between Liga MX and MLS teams, what you’re seeing is that MLS teams are faring well against most of Liga MX (you could see this in some blowout wins: Philadelphia’s 5-1 win over Queretaro, New England’s 5-1 win over San Luis, Minnesota’s 4-0 win over Puebla, Dallas’ 3-0 win over Necaxa) but are struggling against the top Mexican teams like Club America and Monterrey. Portland gave Tigres a tough game but were mostly done in by Evander getting sent off in the first half - right after scoring an incredible free kick goal. 

On Thursday, Club America thoroughly outplayed St. Louis in a 4-0 win. It was the best performance by a Liga MX team so far. From the opening kickoff, Club America was all over St. Louis and the expansion team’s pressing style was quickly exposed as insufficient.

Nashville’s 4-3 loss to Toluca was also disappointing for those hoping to see MLS team succeed. Nashville had 1-0 and 2-1 leads in this one but were let down by their greatest strength – their defense.

On the flip side, Cincinnati defeated Chivas 3-1. Chivas has nine points from three games to start the Liga MX season. Brandon Vazquez had a hat trick and also has a great backstory in this game. Growing up, his family supported Mexico and Chivas. Now Vazquez has elected to play for the United States national team and in this game, he scored twice against Chivas inside of the first two minutes and then added his third in the 73rd minute when play resumed on Friday after a weather delay.

His first goal was the best of the two when he hit a beautiful curling ball from outside the box.

Chicago’s 3-2 win over Minnesota was also intense as the five goals were all scored inside a 20-minute span inside the second half. The opening goal was a penalty that was nicely drawn by Brian Gutierrez after he dribbled through several Minnesota players. The winner was scored by Kei Kamara, who then went and took selfies with the crowd.

Of an interesting note, the leading scorer of the Leagues Cup is no longer Lionel Messi. It is now Philadelphia’s Daniel Gazdag and Bongokuhle Hlongwane who scored both of Minnesota’s goals against Chicago. In his two Leagues Cup games (the first in a 4-0 win over Pumas), the South African forward now has four goals & one assist.

On thing that has been wild about the Leagues Cup is the sheer number of cards. 10 players have been sent off in the 30 games. There has been a total of 112 yellow cards issued. It’s been intense, and that’s not a bad thing either.


Euro preseason notes

Some notes about the European preseason.

Juventus defeated AC Milan on penalties after a 2-2 draw. The game featured three Americans as Tim Weah and Weston McKennie played the first half (Milan led 2-1 at the half) while Christian Pulisic played 57 minutes. The big winner was Tim Weah who was dangerous and effective for Juve playing as a right wingback. McKennie played well and did himself favors for the shop window. Pulisic had some nice moments but was relatively quiet.

On Wednesday night, Arsenal defeated Barcelona 5-0. For Arsenal, none of their three Americans played. Matt Turner is on break. Auston Trusty was an unused substitute and Folarin Balogun missed the game for what was listed as a “minor foot injury.”

The issue for this game was Sergino Dest who started for Barcelona and played the first half (nearly everyone was subbed out at the half for Barca). The score was 2-2 when he left and while Dest wasn’t bad, he wasn’t particularly sharp.

Sad news came out of Borussia Monchengladbach’s camp this week as Stefan Lainer has been diagnosed with cancer. The good news is that there are reports that it was caught in the very early stages. Lainer was the team’s right back and overtook Joe Scally down the stretch (playing the final five games) of last season. Scally will now head into the season as the starter, but there are hopes Lainer will return this season.

What will Paxten Aaronson’s role at Eintracht Frankfurt be this season? It’s probably going to be expanded from last season and you can see the minutes starting to come this preseason. On Friday, Aaronson played the second half of a 1-1 draw with Vitesse.


Weekend ahead in Europe

There is plenty of good soccer this weekend.

The 2.Budesliga opens and for Americans, the best game is Kaiserslautern hosting St. Pauli. Kaiserslautern will likely start Terrence Boyd at the No. 9 as he finished in the top five last season in scoring. St. Pauli is coached by former U.S. U-20 midfielder Fabian Hurzeler who was wildly successful since taking over in December. He led the team from the cusp of the relegation zone and into a promotional race. On Sunday, Julian Green, Max Dietz, and Greuther Furth host Paderborn.

The Belgian First Division also opens. Eupen hosts Westerlo. Westerlo are bringing back Bryan Reynolds on a transfer after he was at Westerlo on loan last season. Reynolds showed a lot of grown last season. But also, Griffin Yow looked very promising this preseason and the former DC United winger could take on a bigger role with Westerlo this year.

Mark McKenzie and Genk will get their season started against newly promoted RWD Molenbeek on Saturday. Genk are coming off a tough end to the last season where a collapse on the final matchday saw them come up short in their bid to win the league.

On Sunday, St. Truiden host Marlon Fossey and Standard Liege. Fossey emerged as Standard’s starting right back last year and earned a contract extension for his strong play. Royal Antwerp host Cercel Brugge with Sam Vines in the squad for Antwerp – the reigning champs.

In Denmark, the Superliga got underway on Friday with Jonathan Amon making his first appearance in nearly three years – this time it was a cameo for Lyngby. While he only played two minutes, he created a chance with one of his two touches.

Also in Denmark, Brondby hosts OB on Sunday. Justin Che will hope to make his club debut for Brondby while Emmanuel Sabbi should start for OB.

In Croatia, Rokas Pukstas will look to follow up his dramatic winner against Dinamo Zagreb with another strong performance when his Hajduk Split squad hosts Rijeka in the second game of the season.

There are lots of preseason friendlies to follow. The best should be Ricardo Pepi and PSV Eindhoven facing Ethan Horvath and Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

Chelsea and Fulham will face off with Antonee Robinson likely to start for Fulham with U.S. U-20 goalkeeper Alex Borto on the bench.

Chris Richards missed a midweek game with a precautionary injury for Crystal Palace but should be back on Sunday when they play Sevilla.

In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso should play for Internacional against Cuiaba despite transfer rumors circulating for the young New Jersey-born midfielder.


Leagues Cup lookahead


Two teams that were the victims of Lionel Messi will play for a spot in the next round when Cruz Azul and Atlanta United meet. Atlanta has the talent to win this game, but they looked rattled against the new Miami team.

Santos Laguna and Orlando should be one of the better matchups of the night. Duncan McGuire will look for his 10th goal across all competitions this weekend.

Elsewhere, Charlotte takes on Necaxa, Austin FC host FC Juraez, and Pumas face DC United.

On Sunday, the pressure is on Toronto to show some kind of life. The team is in an absolute tailspin right now after a 5-0 loss to NYCFC. Now they will face Atlas needing to show improvement.

The Red Bulls host San Luis in a game that is tough to predict. The Red Bulls snuck past New England on penalties in their opener while San Luis was smashed by New England 5-1.

Monterrey visit Seattle and while this might have name appeal, Seattle is struggling and were outclassed by Real Salt Lake 3-0 in their opener. Meanwhile, Monterrey smashed RSL 3-0.

The Galaxy host Vancouver on Sunday and the Galaxy look to be the underdogs in this one after their loss to Leon at home.

Tigres visit San Jose on Sunday. Tigres remains one of the best teams in Mexico behind a well-established core. San Jose has improved under Luchi Gonzalez, but this will be a tough task.

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