Friday kickaround

Friday kickaround: Pulisic in Milan, Olympic team update, MLS weekend preview, Euro preseason notes

ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here to kickoff your weekend with thoughts on Christian Pulisic's unveiling in Milan, news on the U.S. U-23 Olympic team, an MLS weeekend preview, and notes from the European preseason.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 14, 2023
11:05 AM

GOOD MORNING and happy Friday to all ASN readers. To get your weekend rolling, here is the news along with some thoughts on it all from MLS to Americans abroad and other items.

We can start with Milan.


Pulisic unveiled in Milan


The deal was well-known for a long time but it was formally announced and he will wear number 11.

Pulisic has won the Champions League and Club World Cup. He will play for Milan although his role will become more known during preseason. But the key is for him just to stay healthy and if he does, he will be fine.

It’s great to see him leave England and he could benefit from a less physical league, a club environment that is more stable, and a club with less of a budget where the staff will take a longer time to make it work with a player as opposed to replacing him quickly.


But again, it’s up to him to stay healthy.


U.S. U-23 team to start


The U.S. national team is done from the summer after a shootout loss to Panama in the Gold Cup semifinal and the merciful decision to not have a third-place game this year.

So, what’s next? Gregg Berhalter now takes back control of the team for September friendlies. He will now need a new staff as Anthony Hudson and Luchi Gonzalez have moved on. We will see if B.J. Callaghan sticks around or tries to pursue a head coaching job.

Next June and July the United States will host the Copa America which will be a major tournament for the team midcycle.

But then in late July through August, the U.S. U-23 team (also with three overage players) will compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. That is also a major tournament for the next generation of players and it should help give a platform to those on the cusp of become part of the main USMNT roster.

ASN has learned that U.S. Soccer is planning for the U.S. U-23 team to hold camps in the FIFA international windows this fall (September, October, November). 

Some of the players who are likely in the mix for the team include: John Tolkin, Cade Cowell, Duncan McGuire, Tanner Tessmann, Paxten Aaronson, Bryan Reynolds, Aidan Morris, Jalen Neal, Brian Gutierrez, Gianluca Busio, Caleb Wiley, Jack McGlynn, and Gaga Slonina. 


MLS Weekend


Before the League Cups opens, MLS will play a round of games this weekend. 

What am I watching this weekend?

 St. Louis City is looking to hand Inter Miami one more loss before the arrival of Lionel Messi and Company. Bradley Carnell is likely the coach of the year in MLS this season. He has done extremely well with players who were discarded by other MLS clubs. Nicholas Gioacchini has 8 goals after not sticking in Orlando. Indiana Vassilev didn’t make it in Miami and he’s an Olympic option. The same with Aziel Jackson who was offloaded by Minnesota but is terrific in St. Louis.


Can Miami give any sort of momentum heading into Sunday’s big announcement? We will see. I do like their young players. Ben Cremaschi is worth the hype. Noah Allen is a good, young left back.

FC Cincinnati hosts Nashville SC on Saturday. Brandon Vazquez and Matt Miazga rejoin Cincy after national team duty.  How will the transfer talk affect Vazquez? Is Gladbach still interested? Cincinnati is the best team in the league but Nashville, led by Walker Zimmerman, has a great defense.

The Galaxy visit Vancouver. The Galaxy are showing signs of life. This game will tell us if their attempted comeback is legit. Riqui Puig has been in great form.

Real Salt Lake is heavily favored at home against the New York Red Bulls, who are disappointing this season. RSL is a team that could contend for MLS Cup. They have improved so much this season and adding Cristian Arango has put them over the top while American fans will want to take note of Diego Luna’s good form carrying over from the U-20 World Cup. The Red Bulls? There is no attack and the defense has gone wobbly. They will need to rally just to make the playoffs and the absence of Lewis Morgan is taking its toll.


Minnesota United hosts a struggling LAFC team that has had a tough two months. But Minnesota is surging with Emanuel Reynoso back and the promising addition of Teemu Pukki from Norwich.

Chicago is really improving and could sneak into the playoffs. On Saturday they host a Toronto team that is an expensive mess. From an American perspective, Chicago is interesting. Brian Gutierrez is one of the best young players in the league. Chris Brady is on par with Gaga Slonina’s tenure with the same club.

Bello in, Konrad out

Among some of the American players who had brutal seasons in 2022/23, there was differing news. 

George Bello has signed with LASK in the Austrian Bundesliga. LASK finished third last season in Austria. 

Bello is walking into a tough situation. Just in May, LASK signed its existing left back Rene Renner, 29, to a new contract also through 2026. Renner is clearly the starter heading into the season. Yes, Bello can overtake Renner if he plays well. But Bello is walking into a team with an established left back fresh off a new deal.

LASK seems pretty satisfied with Renner. In his 4 seasons at LASK, he's made 113 Austrian Bundesliga appearances (105 were starts) for a total of 9,115 minutes (2,279 minutes per season average). Bello has a tough assignment to overtake him.

The news was tough for Konrad de la Fuente. He was informed he is not part of Marseille's plans. New manager Marcelino needed just four days to make this decision. De la Fuente's contract runs through 2025 but he is not part of the team's future and won't be permitted to train with the club's first team until he can find another club. 

For de la Fuente, it's getting late early. He's already coming off a completely lost season in Greece. It's hard to see him landing at a place where he's going to be expected to contribute. He will find a new club but it's likely going to be a spot where he's behind others and he has to prove to a manager he's better than existing options. If he doesn't, he's looking at another lost season. 

McKennie on the market

Similarly, Weston McKennie is out at Juventus and is no longer part of the team's plans per Fabrizio Romano. This is not surprising after he went on loan to Leeds United and the club were relegated. The hopes were then that Leeds would avoid relegation and a buyout would be triggered for McKennie. 

This isn't great news but McKennie will be fine given his long body of work in the Bundesliga, Serie A, the Champions League, and the U.S. national team. His time in England was incomplete given his late arrival into a messy situation with Leeds. 

Clark to Twente

Caden Clark, 20, hasn't played since September 18 (in an appearance with the New York Red Bulls). Since then, there hasn't been much going on with him. He moved to Leipzig, made the bench for a few Bundesliga games but never appeared in any games. He ended up not being part of the U.S. U-20 World Cup team. 

Now, according to BILD, he could join FC Twente in the Eredivisie. It would be a big test for him as it has been awhile since he played regularly but perhaps a change of scenery will bring him back to the level he was at when he first began playing for the Red Bulls and scored a string of wondergoals. If he can get back on track, he could perhaps make the U.S. Olympic team and then return to Leipzig in a great position. But he has a lot of work to do. 


European preseason


Auston Trusty and Folarin Balogun were each subbed into Arsenal’s 1-1 friendly draw with FC Nurnberg on Thursday. Throughout the second half, Arsenal subbed out all 11 of its starters. Balogun entered in the 55th minute and Trusty came into the game in the 60th. After Arsenal scored in the 7th minute, Nurnburg equalized in the 63rd.

It seems like a bit of a stretch that either player will be at Arsenal this season. There is legitimate interest from clubs to buy Balogun after he scored 20 goals on loan at Reims. Trusty will likely leave on either a sale or another loan after impressing last season at Birmingham City. The question comes down to valuation.

Trusty played well in this game.

Julian Green played the first 60 minutes of a 120-minute game for Greuther Furth in a 3-2 loss to FC Zurich. Green looks to once again be a starter for Furth in the 2.Bundesliga.

Haji Wright
scored the opening goal for Antalyaspor in a 2-1 preseason win over fellow Turkish club Basaksehir. It would surprising and disappointing if Wright is still with Antalyaspor at the start of the season.


Matthew Hoppe is not with Middlesbrough in Portugal as he deals with a minor injury.

John Brooks and Hoffenheim dropped a 2-1 decision to newly promoted 2.Bundesliga club SV Elversberg. Brooks started but was part of a large sub rotation to start the second half when the score was 1-1.

Sparta Rotterdam defeated PEC Zwolle 3-1 in a 120 minute game between two Eredivisie teams. American winger Agustin Anello played the second 60-minute half. He nearly scored towards the end but was denied by a great save. Anthony Fontana came on to play the second half for PEC Zwolle with the game 3-0 when he entered.

Josh Sargent
played the first half for Norwich in a 1-0 win over Germany’s Darmstadt. Jonathan Tomkinson played the final 15 minutes.


Saturday’s friendlies

Three Americans should be involved on Saturday when Norwich (with Sargent and Tomkinson) take on Kaiserslautern with Terrence Boyd. Boyd and Sargent are coming off double digit scoring seasons with their respective second division clubs.

Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Pefok and Union Berlin face Hungary’s ZTE who have an attack led by American forward Eduvie Ikoba. This is an interesting game. Aaronson could make his first appearance since joining Union Berlin on loan. Pefok had a brutal second half of the season where he scored just once since September. Ikoba struggled in the second half of the NBI season but still put up impressive numbers. Is there a chance he moves elsewhere?


Paxten Aaronson, Timothy Chandler, and Eintracht Frankfurt face FSV Braunfels. It will be very important for Aaronson to build up a case to play regularly this season.

Mark McKenzie and Genk take on Zlute Waregem.

Alex Mendez, Alejandro Alvarado and Vizela take on Caldas. Mendez is looking to become an impact player while Alvarado is looking for any playing time he can get.

Sebastian Soto and SK Austria Klagenfurt take on St. Polten. Uly Llanez is no longer with St. Polten.

Chris Richards and Crystal Palace face Christian Cappis and Brondby. Two player who developed in the FC Dallas system.

Dante Polvara and Aberdeen will play Fraserburgh.

Ethan Horvath, Alex Mighten and Nottingham Forest visit Notts County.

Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes host Nancy.


Sunday’s friendlies

Sam Vines and Royal Antwerp take on WSC Hertha. Will Vines finally show his broken tibia is behind him?

Lennard Maloney and FC Heidenheim are widely expected to be relegated after earning promotion to the Bundesliga last season. On Sunday they take on SV Mergelstetten in a friendly.

Griffin Yow is looking to earn regular minutes this season for Westerlo and the Belgian club takes on PAOK FC.

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