Weekend preview

McKennie & Pulisic return, DCU eyes playoffs berth, & Sargent debut? Plus more

There is so much going on this weekend for AMerican soccer that we've expanded our preview beyond our typical 10 things to watch. This weeeknd it stands at 12. Why is it such a big weekend? Brian Sciaretta breaks it down. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 19, 2018
3:00 AM
WITH THE international window over, there is a lot more soccer to watch for American fans. MLS enters into its final two games of the season and the European season is in full swing. 

McKennie & Schalke host Sargent & Werder Bremen
Saturday 12:30pm

This game could either be monumental for Americans abroad or it could turn out to be a big nothing-burger. No doubt it will have many American fans checking-in to see what is happening.

Yesterday, the big news came when Werder coach said Florian Kohfeldt said Josh Sargent was no longer going to be exclusively with the club’s U-23 team and that he would begin a transition that would include time with the first team.

The big question is whether or not that means a first team debut could be in the cards for Saturday’s visit to Schalke.

Meanwhile for Schalke, Weston McKennie’s involvement is another matter to follow. The Texan suffered an injury in win over Stuttgart before the international window and did not make the trip back to the United States. But his return this weekend is possible for a Schalke team that struggled at the start but has been improving with two recent wins. Meanwhile, Werder is off to a solid fourth place start through seven games.

It is possible that Sargent makes his first team professional debut against McKennie. It’s also possible neither play. 

Borussia Dortmund visit Stuttgart
Saturday 9:30am ET

To the chagrin of U.S. national team fans, the international window provided an opportunity to heal instead of play for the Stars & Stripes. But the Hershey native is expected back on Saturday for a Borussia Dortmund team that has now taken over the top spot in the Bundesliga standings. While Pulisic has played in the Champions League, this could be his first time participating in a real race for German’s top trophy.

After a slow start, Pulisic, 20, has played well for Dortmund with two goals and an assist in all competitions. He has been an important offensive contributor at key moments – such as providing the winning goal in the Champions League against Club Brugge and a late equalizer in the Bundesliga against Hoffenheim.

Saturday will be a good opportunity for Pulisic and Dortmund as Stuttgart sit in last place.

FC Dallas – Sporting KC
Sunday 5pm

The most high-profile match in MLS this weekend will feature a race for the top of the Western Conference when first place FC Dallas hosts second place Sporting Kansas City. Right now just a point separate the two teams – which are both also battling an upstart Los Angeles FC which is even with Sporting on points. A draw could even see LAFC surge into first with a win over fading Vancouver on Sunday. 

For FC Dallas, Reggie Cannon will return to the team after a strong first cap for the U.S. national team on Tuesday in the 1-1 draw vs. Peru. Cannon has had a stellar breakout season for Dallas where he has become one of the league’s best right backs. 

Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City is coming off an impressive 4-1 road win over Vancouver to close the gap on Dallas. That game featured the first professional goal from U.S. U-17 international Gianluca Busio. 

DC United vs. NYCFC
Sunday 1pm

The rise of DC United has been so exciting that it has been one of the best stories in MLS this year. One of the league’s original teams was not given much of a chance this year. But in moving into its new grounds at Audi Field, it has turned things around dramatically and breathed much needed life into the team.

With a win on Sunday against New York City, DC United will clinch a playoff spot – which was unthinkable as late as July. 

But the team is winning with a wonderful combination of emerging American players, exciting young South American talent, and European stars who still have plenty left in the tank. 

Defensive midfielder Russell Canouse should be on the verge of a U.S. national team call-up after his breakthrough this year after returning from injury. Paul Arriola has polished off his game and will be returning after missing the last two games due to the death of his father. U.S. U-20 midfielder Chris Durkin has filled in well for Junior Moreno in his two games during the international window. Luciano Acosta was the MLS player the of the month for September.

And then, of course, you have Wayne Rooney who has exceeded the lofty expectations on him since joining midseason. 

Hyndman & Hibs visit Celtic
Saturday 10am

Emerson Hyndman has been improving during his time at Hibernian in recent weeks and he has helped the club surge into second place in the Scottish Premier League.

Saturday will be his biggest test so far of this loan when Hibs visits third place Celtic in Glasgow. When Hyndman was with Rangers in early 2017 on loan, he performed well but struggled against a more talented and more physical Celtic team. This will be a huge opportunity to show his growth as a player and that he can help take command of a midfield in a high-profile Scottish game.

Robinson & Wigan host 2nd place West Brom
Saturday 10am

Antonee Robinson, 21, had some tough lessons during the international break where he was exposed at times against a very talented Colombian team. But he remains a very important part of Wigan’s team while on loan from Everton.

The newly-promoted Wigan team is off to a decent start in the Championship and sits in 12th place but on Saturday it will host promotion contending West Bromwich which is in second place. It will be an important test for Robinson to shake off the difficulties of the past two weeks and return to the important and rigorous task ahead in the Championship.

Brooks & Wolfsburg host Bayern
Saturday 9:30am

After years of winning the Bundesliga seemingly on autopilot things aren’t rosy with Bayern Munich at this start of this year where it finds itself in fifth place.

It’s bad right now at Bayern when you hear asinine quotes such as this.

But Bayern’s struggles opens the door for Wolfsburg to make things even worse for the German giants. John Brooks started for the United States and had a rough outing in a 4-2 loss to Colombia. But the U.S international is expected to be a big part of Wolfsburg’s turnaround this year and this is a great stage for him to boost his team’s chances to earn a spot in Europe.

Novakovich & Fortuna Sittard host De Graffschap
Sunday 10:45am

The goal for newly promoted Fortuna Sittard this entire season is simple: survive in the Eredivisie. American forward Andrija Novakovich is critical towards its chances to remain in Holland’s top flight. Thus far, Novakovich has four goals in eight games.

But De Graffschap is also a team with a simple goal of survival. And both teams have just seven points on the year with Sittard sitting in 15th place, one spot ahead of De Graffschap due to goal differential.

If Fortuna Sittard wants to stay in the Eredivisie, winning games at home against the likes of De Graffschap is critical and getting the ball to Novakovich in dangerous positions is key.

Nordsjaelland - Midtjylland
Saturday 10am

Just days after making his U.S. national team debut, Jonathan Amon will return to Denmark for one of his biggest games of the first half of the Danish Superliga season. On Saturday, Amon and eighth place Nordsjaelland will host Superliga leaders Midtjylland.

Amon, 19, has had a great start to the season where he has four goals and an assist across 10 games in all competitions.

In his first U.S. national team game on Tuesday where he started in a 1-1 draw against Peru, Amon showed big upside but also some areas where he needs to improve (such as situational awareness, familiarity with his teammates, and defense). It is expected that next month he will play with the U.S. U-20 team for World Cup qualifying.

A strong performance against a Midtjylland team would be a huge confidence booster ahead of a U-20 tournament where he is expected to be a big impact player.

Esbjerg FB - Hobro
Friday 1pm

On Wednesday, Danish Superliga club Hobro announced that American forward Emmanuel Sabbi, 20, is now fit and ready to return to action after a month away due to injury. Sabbi has been off to a stellar start with five goals and an assist through nine Superliga games.

But Hobro sit in dead last in the Superliga and desperately need the American to return in strong form if it wants to climb out of the league’s basement. For Sabbi, continued strong performances could also get him a look for the U.S. national team.

On Friday, Hobro will have a tough assignment when it visits fourth-place Esbjerg.

Philadelphia host the New York Red Bulls
Sunday 1pm

The Philadelphia Union have three wins and a draw in its last four games and has quickly become a team that nobody wants to face. The fact that the Union are in the playoffs is incredible given that it has done so without much production from David Accam or CJ Sapoing and has played two very young American central defenders. Success under those circumstances has made Jim Curtin a candidate for coach of the year.

The Red Bulls need to win this game to keep its Supporters Shield hopes alive. Atlanta is playing this weekend without Miguel Almiron and Tito Villalba, so the opportunity could be there for Chris Armas’ team. Which will welcome back U.S. international Tyler Adams who missed two games due to a bad back.

From an American perspective, this game has a lot going for it beyond the return of Adams. New York’s backline features Tim Parker and Aaron Long who have both made their U.S. national team debuts in 2018. Aaron Long, in particular, was solid in the 1-1 win over Peru and both are two of the best central defenders in the league.

For Philadelphia, Auston Trusty, 20, was part of the U.S. U-20 World Cup team in 2017 and is in line to be part of the Olympic team after a very impressive 2018 season. Similarly, Mark McKenzie, 19, has made enormous inroads in 2018 and could emerge as the U.S. U-20 captain for World Cup qualifying next month or perhaps the 2019 U-20 World Cup.

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