Morning update: Milan's bad day, MLS Best XI, Haji scores, Fletcher's future, and more
November 29, 2023
IT’S WEDNESDAY and we’re already in the middle of the week and we’re almost in December. And as always, there is a lot of news both on and off the field to write about.
In case you were wondering, I missed the Americans abroad weekly column this week. It fell victim to the MLS playoff games and the Thanksgiving holiday, to make writing about 5000 words possible. It turned out to be mostly a quiet week anyway, so it worked out. Anyway, we’ll do it next week.
In the meantime, there are other things planned this week. But here is a Wednesday morning update.
MLS Best XI
MLS released the league’s Best XI for 2023. For the most part, it is hard to argue with any of it. It was refreshing to see three American defenders make the cut. Walker Zimmerman made it for the third year in a row Han Mukhtar made it for the second year.
Some notable cuts were Daniel Gazdag in Philadelphia or Nkosi Tafari with Dallas.
Four teams have two players in Atlanta, Nashville, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.
Forwards: Dénis Bouanga (LAFC), Giorgos Giakoumakis (ATL), Cucho Hernández (CLB)
Midfielders: Luciano Acosta (CIN), Thiago Almada (ATL), Héctor Herrera (HOU), Hany Mukhtar (NSH)
Defenders: Matt Miazga (CIN), Tim Parker (STL), Walker Zimmerman (NSH)
Goalkeeper: Roman Bürki (STL)
Tough day in the Champions League
It wasn’t a great day for the Americans in the Champions League on Tuesday.
First, AC Milan lost at home to Borussia Dortmund 3-1 to essentially ruin their chances of advancing to the knockouts (and possibly out of the Europa too). The game featured just one American player in Christian Pulisic who started and went the full 90. Yunus Musah was suspended and Gio Reyna went as an unused substitute for Dortmund.
Pulisic was okay in this game. He had some sharp passes in the end of the first half and also was dangerous late after Milan was already down two goals. But surely it was disappointing for him to fall to his former team.
Milan will need a win on the final matchday away at Newcastle to have any hope of even playing in the Europa.
As for Dortmund, they look great but Reyna continues to be a non-factor who might occasionally start but is typically a decent option off the bench if needed. We’ll see how long he stays.
Also in Italy, Lazio defeated Celtic 2-0 which meant the Scottish champions will finish in last place in the group with just one point from five games before the group finale. Cameron Carter-Vickers was decent for Celtic in the loss but it was par for the course. Celtic is a team that dominates in the Premiership, gets outclassed in Europe, and faces just a few important games all season (Old Firm, and a few in Europe before they’re eliminated).
At some point, Carter-Vickers might consider a return to England or somewhere where the big games happen frequently.
On Wednesday, the Yank Trio of Sergino Dest, Malik Tillman, and Ricardo Pepi at PSV will take on Sevilla in Spain. A win would continue what has been a dream season for PSV. They are perfect in the Eredivisie (39 points form 13 games) and are second in their Champions League group. Now they have a big chance to take a step towards the knockouts. For Dest, he might be a hot head (as we’ve just seen) but he’s one of the most in-form American players right now.
On the flip side, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin head to Braga. It has been a nightmare of a season for Union which are in last of the Champions League group and sit in the Bundesliga relegation zone. In all competitions, they are winless in 15 games. The priority for Union right now is simply to learn to compete again and not be their own worst enemy.
Yanks in the Championship
In England’s second tier, it was a busy day for Americans.
The best moment was by Haji Wright who scored the match-winner for Coventry in a 1-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle. It was the second win in a row for Coventry which moved to 15th with the win. It was also the fifth goal of the season for Wright. His goals typically haven’t been of impressive quality, but there is a huge skill towards being in the right place at the right time. If anyone could do it, they would.
Wright has fallen out of the USMNT picture and he just needs to keep scoring to get back there. He doesn’t seem like the striker who fits Berhalter’s style, but goals are goals. Wright can force his way back into the squad.
Haji’s match-winning moment ???????? pic.twitter.com/E6Qwd05AKL— Coventry City (@Coventry_City) November 28, 2023
Preston North End dropped a terrible 4-0 decision away to Middlesbrough. Duane Holmes was fortunate to go as an unused substitute for PNE, which fell to seventh.
Queen Park Rangers started to climb towards safety with a 4-2 win over Stoke City thanks to two late goals (89th and 90+4) to win it. Reggie Cannon came into the game in the 63rd minute and Charlie Kelman came into the game in the 73rd as QPR was chasing. Cannon took advantage of a lot of space left by Stoke City who were reduced to 10 men in the 53rd when the score was 1-1. QPR is now just three points from clawing out of relegation.
Lynden Gooch went 90 minutes in the Stoke City loss.
Finally, Norwich lost to Watford 3-2 and former USMNT forward David Wagner’s side fell to 13th in the Championship.
Finally, DC United forward Kristen Fletcher continues to score goals in droves for Swansea City’s U-21 team where he is on loan. He scored another three goals for Swansea City in a 4-0 win over Ipswich Town’s U-21 team. Don’t be surprised if he gets called up to the first team soon.
Charles Bohem reported on this matter for MLS Soccer and DC United right now expects that he’ll be back perhaps to take on a big role with DC United next year (along with the U.S. U-20 team).
“I think it's fantastic that Kristian is having the success he’s having and the experience he's having,” D.C. co-chairman and CEO Jason Levien told Boehm on Tuesday. “We want him playing first-team soccer or football to get that experience as well. So right now we expect that he'll be back with D.C. United.
“We're going to talk to him and both clubs about that, figure out what's the best path for his development. But I think with a new coach coming into D.C. and new leadership in soccer operations, I think it's a great opportunity for Kristian.”
Fletcher wants to play in the top leagues in Europe. But what is the best way for him to get there? Through DC United or Swansea. The two clubs have links with common owners, so it should be a decision made by people with the same interest.