Midweek musings

Hoppe starts at Bernabeu, Allegri critical of McKennie, Pefok & Miljevic score, Revs Rise, Seattle falls, & more

It was a very busy Wednesday for American soccer - both domestically and abroad. ASN's Brian Sciaretta watched a ton of soccer and reports on all the major games. Who played well? Who didn't? Here are your answers. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 22, 2021
3:10 PM

IT WAS A BUSY Wednesday of action both domestically and abroad with many U.S. national team players in action along with three games in MLS that shaped the playoff races.


There are a lot of games to run down – so here is what caught my eye.


Hoppe’s big Mallorca start


Matthew Hoppe made his first start for Mallorca on Wednesday and it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

The young U.S. national team attacker assisted with a one touch short pass in the midfield to set up Kangin Lee for a very impressive individual effort. That 25th minute goal cut Real Madrid’s lead to 2-1 but it would be Mallorca’s only goal of the game. It finished 6-1 in favor of the hosts. Mallorca was never competitive in this game.

As for Hoppe, he played well and was one of the team’s few bright spots (along with Lee) in the lopsided loss. Hoppe also had a moment where he nearly drew a penalty. He was better in the first half but then faded in the second half before getting taken out in the 59th minute.

Overall, it was a promising outing for Hoppe who should only continue to play for Mallorca. As he builds up his fitness, he should soon be able to start and be a threat well into the second half of games.

Hoppe has hinted at it, but it seems likely that he will be returning to the national team. Even if he is still learning and adjusting, his confidence is refreshing.


Pefok scores


In Switzerland’s top tier, Jordan Pefok started for reigning champs BSC Young Boys away at likely relegation battlers Lausanne.

The U.S. international played well and scored to put Young Boys up 4-0 en route to a 6-1 win.


Lausanne put forth a woeful effort where it hardly played defense. Young Boys scored often with Lausanne hardly trying to stop them.

Pefok played 63 minutes in this game and completed 12/13 passes and his goal came on his only shot of the game. He also won 3/8 of his duels. He showed solid instincts but this game was non-competitive.

It is remarkable how Pefok is always in good position to take advantage of sloppy passing or sloppy defending from opponents. Last week it was the winner against Manchester United, today it was against Lausanne. These aren’t goalazos but they count and there is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time.

For the national team, the striker position is crowded but he should be with the U.S. in October.


Weah starts for Lille


Over the weekend, Tim Weah made a sub appearance for Lille in a 1-0 loss to Lens. It was his first appearance in nearly a month since picking up a hamstring injury. On Wednesday, the U.S. international started for Lille in a 2-1 win over Reims.

Weah, 21, was quiet in this one and did not stand out – either in a good way or a bad way. The fact that he left with the score 2-0 is nothing but a positive as managers rarely change winning lineups. Weah should continue to improve with more minutes but it is good that he is now getting playing time.

Lille, meanwhile, still sit in midtable in 14th place with eight points through seven games. They will likely climb but they are a shadow of their form last year where they won the title.

As for Weah, the fact that he is playing combined with injuries to Gio Reyna and Christian Pulisic give him a great chance of returning to the team for the first time since the Nation’s League final.


Allegri critical of McKennie


Weston McKennie started for Juventus on Wednesday in a 3-2 comeback win on the road over Spezia. With just two points from its first two games, Juventus needed to show signs of life and it was a positive sign that McKennie started and played a full 90.

McKennie’s numbers were decent. He had 49 touches and was 32/38 in passing. He also had three touches and was a perfect 5/5 with his long balls. On the flip side, he was also invisible for stretches when Spezia had the lead.

Juventus manager, Max Allegri, was not impressed: "McKennie for example, should have scored at least four goals and those chances make the difference.”

But like Weah’s situation at Lille, managers are going to be hesitant to change a winning formula and Allegri should continue to play McKennie, despite the comments today. 

That alone is great news for the U.S. team ahead of the October window should Gregg Berhalter be willing to take McKennie back into the team.


Busio starts in Venezia loss to Milan


Venezia was never likely to get a result at the San Siro on Wednesday against Milan. Sure enough, AC Milan prevailed in a 2-0 win over the newly promoted club. Gianluca Busio earned the start and played the full game while fellow American Tanner Tessmann came into the game in the 82nd minute.

AC Milan did not run away with this game – scoring in the 68th and 82nd minute – but had 67% of the possession.

Busio finished with 40 touches and was 27/31 in passing. He won 3/5 of his duels. He wasn’t involved as Venezia need him to be but he continues to be one of the team’s better players. Tessmann completed 3/3 of his passes in nine minutes.

Venezia is certainly a tougher team than they were at the start of the season. They are still losing, but they are more competitive. To remain in this league, however, it is going to have to translate into wins. While they have just three points from five games, four of their games have been on the road. When they return home, they need to play better.

From a U.S. perspective, this is good for Busio. He’s forced to defend more and win loose balls. That addresses his weaknesses from his Kansas City days. With Gio Reyna out and Yunus Musah only seeing limited minutes, Busio seems like a good bet to return to the national team in October.


Musah plays 2nd half for Valencia


Yunus Musah, 18, came off the bench for Valencia at the start of the second half on the road against Sevilla on Wednesday. Valencia lost this one 3-1 with all the goals scored in the first half. He only had 15 touches in his 45 minutes and was 5/7 in passing.

Valencia is trying to ramp up his minutes. Over the weekend, he came into the game as a 15th minute sub in a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid. On Wednesday, he played 45 minutes. It’s clear he lacks chemistry with his teammates. He’s still not combining well and is dribbling into trouble. He also relies on his right foot too much. He has nice technique and is very fast..

He’s a big talent but he still doesn’t have the reps yet to be a dependable player for Valencia. He’ll probably get there but needs to produce off the bench before he gets his starts.

It is easy to see Musah getting the call-up to the National Team for October but the number of minutes he can play is a question mark.


De la Fuente subs into Marseille draw


U.S. national team midfielder Konrad de la Fuente subbed into Marseille’s 0-0 away draw vs. Angers in the 59th minute on Wednesday.

In his 31 minutes, de la Fuente brought some energy, but it wasn’t until the 83rd minute when he delivered a play that should have resulted in a goal. On the play, he controlled the ball with his chest and sent a beautiful and perfectly weighted through ball to Ahmadou Bamba Dieng, whose 1v1 was saved by Angers keeper Paul Bernardoni.

Overall, it wasn’t a great performance from de la Fuente but he still was able to have moments that could have produced a goal. Overall, it’s a great place for him to learn.


Emotional Hudson River Derby


The Hudson River Derby took place on Wednesday night in Harrison, NJ as the Red Bulls hosted NYCFC at Red Bull Arena. It was an emotional game, and the emotions were running so high that it took away from the game.

It wasn’t a very good game and NYCFC had the better of play. RBNY was lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw. NYCFC had 23 fouls, RBNY had 21. NYCFC had two players sent off – Keaton Parks in the 73rd minute and Maxime Chanot in the 10th (!) minute of stoppage time. RBNY had 5 yellow cards, NYCFC had four yellos and a direct red card. Patryk Klimala’s stoppage time penalty kick was the latest ever goal scored in MLS history (not including the early days of the league which had overtime).


It’s hard to know what Gerhard Struber’s approach is for the Red Bulls. The team paid a lot for Frankie Amaya, but hardly uses him. The team paid a transfer fee for Cameron Harper, but rarely uses him. Caden Clark is one of the jewels of Red Bull youth system but is not improving throughout the season. It would be one thing if Struber inherited players who weren’t working out. But many of the players brought in under Struber’s watch aren’t working out. Even Klimala isn’t dangerous enough when you don’t include penalties.  

The team doesn’t create much from the run of play. Everything seems to be based on hustling and running – not enough creativity. The team is also not bringing in players that fit this system. There should be real concerns over the Red Bulls.


Inter Miami’s implosion


Seven days ago, everything was trending upward with Inter Miami. It had three wins in a row (yes, against poor competition including Cincinnati and Toronto) but getting into the playoff race was a possibility.

Now a week later, Miami has lost two games at home by a combined score of 9-1. Last Friday it was a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. On Wednesday night, it was an embarrassing 5-1 loss to Nashville SC. Miami actually had 55% possession in this game but offered very little. Miami ended up with four shots inside the box while Nashville had 15.

"We can’t hide behind the fact that it was five goals, five mistakes, individual errors,” said head coach Phil Neville. “We have to regroup because the season is on the line, where it could go so good or it could go so bad…We thought that we closed the back in terms of inconsistency, but we reverted."


Miami is an older team and that works against them in many ways. They’re vulnerable against younger and hungrier teams but also are simply wearing down at the end of a season. They’re not a team put together well and it will be interesting to see what lessons, if any, David Beckham and company have learned this season.

Nashville SC, meanwhile, looks like a contender. It’s a team build on defense. A competent forward in CJ Sapong. Finally, they have an MVP-nominee difference maker in Hany Mukhtar. They also function very well in a three-central defense formation. Tonight, it was a 3-5-2 and the team played like a machine.

Between New England, Atlanta, and Nashville, the East has an intriguing playoff race coming up.


New England clinches playoff


It was a foregone conclusion, but the New England Revolution clinched a playoff berth Wednesday with a 3-2 win over Chicago.

On Saturday, New England drew Columbus 1-1 despite wildly outshooting the Crew 33-6. New England manager Bruce Arena made nine different lineup changes to flex his team’s strength in depth. 

On Wednesday, New England was far worse than Saturday but actually found a way to win. Chicago outshot New England 26-18, out passed New England 338-208. Chicago’s XG was 3.26 and New England’s was 1.55.

New England won it thanks to a scramble in the box that found Henry Kessler, a long kick from U.S. national team goalkeeper Matt Turner that was headed on to create a 1v1, and then an individual moment of skill from Carles Gil to win it late.


Chicago played well but let its guard down on set pieces and “Route 1” soccer. Chicago also started 17-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina – who should be the starter for the U.S. U-20 team next year. In this game, Slonina made four saves but could have done better on the winner from Gil.

“For him, getting minutes is very important for his development,” Chicago and former U.S. national team World Cup defender Jonathan Bornstein said of Slonina. “I think, not only is he getting the games and development, but he's also playing very well. I think you know it's hard anytime you're getting your first games. I think he's also extremely professional on and off the field. I think he's got a huge future in front of him, so I'm excited for him to get these minutes. I think any player gains experience the more games they get. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a win for him this time. Overall, though, he's doing a great job and you've got to applaud his performances.”

It’s the tale of two of the league’s older teams going in different directions. Chicago remains stuck in the mud. New England is having a potentially record-breaking season.



Yedlin and Galatasaray fall


DeAndre Yedlin started and went the distance on Saturday for Galatasaray in a 3-0 loss on the road to Kayserispor. Normally a contender, Galatasaray have had an ugly start to the season with eight points from six games. They’ve lost two games in a row – having been shutout each time.

In this loss, Yedlin had a tough game – along with everyone one Galatasaray. Yedlin’s speed helped but his crossing wasn’t there in this one.


Miljevic scores in Montreal debut


Matko Miljevic was expected to be one of the top players at the start of the 2021 U-20 cycle. He had also been getting call-ups to Argentina’s U-20 team but seemed to be favoring the U.S team. But then, his career was turned upside down. COVID shut down soccer and cancelled the U-20 cycle. Miljevic also had a falling out with his club, Argentinos Juniors, which saw him removed from the team – but not sold for a year and half.

This past summer, he signed for Montreal and on Wednesday he made his first appearance in a game since February 2020.

In a matchup against the Halifax Wanders of the Canadian Premier League, Miljevic scored the first goal of a 3-1 win. His goal was a 35th minute equalizer.


“Miljevic lacks rhythm, but he has quality," Montral manager Wilfried Nancy said. "We knew it. He had trouble repeating his efforts after 25 minutes. He needs to find the rhythm of the game. "

Overall, a good start for Miljevic as he gets his career back on track. That would be a good story for a player who is still very promising.


Seattle falls to Leon


The League Cup final took place on Wednesday night with Club Leon coming from behind to defeat Seattle 3-2. Seattle missed some key chances while Leon dominated late en route to the win. The winning goal came off a penalty that was conceded off a poor tackle by Shane O’Neill.

U.S. international Cristian Roldan scored Seattle’s lone goal to open the scoring. Roldan had a good game and cotninues to play well for the Sounders. 


The final was well-played, but the earlier rounds of the tournament were decidedly mixed with some teams taking it more seriously than others.

The tournament will take on a different level of importance in 2023 when both Liga MX and MLS will pause for a month to play a tournament featuring the clubs from each of the leagues with group-stages and knockout rounds.


Other notes


In La Liga, Matt Miazga played the final four minutes for Deportivo Alaves in a 1-0 loss to Espanyol.

In Ligue 1, Nicholas Gioacchini came into the game for Montpellier in the 82nd minute for a 3-3 draw against Bordeaux. Montpellier had a 3-2 lead when the Kansas City native entered.

In Hungary’s top tier: Henry Wingo started and played the distance for Ferencvaros in a 1-0 away win over Fehervar FC.

In Belgium: Mark McKenzie was an unused sub for KRC Genk in a 4-2 loss to Royal Antwerp. U.S. national team left back Sam Vines is still out with a long-term injury for Antwerp.

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