Pulisic aiming to continue Dortmund dream start, LA & Crew look to clinch
It's a busy weekend in American soccer and that is especially true on the domestic front as MLS has its final weekend of the regular season and playoff spots are up for grabs. Brian Sciaretta looks at it all and gives you the top 10 things to watch in American soccer.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedTHE FINAL WEEKEND of the MLS regular season is here and this weekend features games with playoff spots on the line. For Americans abroad, last weekend was ugly and many players will be looking to rebound with strong performances and wins.
October 26, 2018
October 26, 2018
As we do every weekend here on ASN, here are the top 10 things to watch in American soccer this weekend.
Yedlin & Newcastle seek first winSaturday 10am ET
As horrendous as Newcastle United’s start to the season has been, DeAndre Yedlin has actually played pretty well and has not been part of the club’s problems. But the questions now is whether the U.S. national team right back can be part of the club’s solution.
Newcastle is quickly approaching a time when games can be labeled as critical. An away trip to Southampton on Saturday is winnable – and it will be interesting to see if Yedlin and company can deliver.
Can Borussa Dortmund extend Bundesliga lead?Saturday 9:30am ET
Borussia Dortmund is on top of the world these days. It is sitting atop the Bundesliga table with 20 points through eight games. It also has a perfect nine points through three games in the Champions League group stage.
Dortmund has yet to register a loss but sixth-place Hertha Berlin will be a tough opponent. If Dortmund can keep it up, Pulisic will be in line to compete for very impressive silverware this season.
First place for Sporting KC v LAFC winnerSunday 4:30pm ET
This game will have a ton of pressure. The winner between Sporting and LAFC will get the first overall seed in the Western Conference – a draw will give it to current leaders Sporting. But there is a very good chance Dallas beats Colorado on Sunday as well. What that means is that the loser of this game will likely tumble to third place and no longer be in a position for a first round bye.
To make matters worse, the first round opponent will likely be the red hot LA Galaxy. So a win is very critical.
So for Dallas, Sporting KC, and LAFC – win and they get a first round bye. But a loss for any of them probably forces them to play midweek in a knockout round.
But for the Sporting – LAFC game, tune in to watch two of the top American coaches in Bob Bradley and Peter Vermes go to work. Bradley should absolutely be a strong contender for the league’s coach of the year after leading LAFC to a remarkable inaugural season.
Can the Crew clinch vs. MinnesotaSunday 4:30pm ET
The big story for the Crew this season was saving the club’s existence. On Sunday, the players and head coach Gregg Berhalter will try to save the season – needing a win over a terrible Minnesota team at home to clinch a postseason berth.
Berhalter needs this win. It will be a bad look if he gets the U.S. head coaching gig while failing to make the playoffs. It will be a bad look for U.S. Soccer as it will appear as if the entire search was geared towards Berhalter and performances played no part.
For Crew SC fans, it will be important that they show up to this game. They made the #SavetheCrew campaign known and it looks as if it worked. Now the ball is in their court to show up and prove that it was worth it. A playoff spot is on the line in this important game. If they don’t show up for this, what will they show up for?
Struggling Morales meets struggling BrooksSaturday 9:30am ET
Something has gotta give when Alfredo Morales Fortuna Dusseldorf hosts John Brooks Wolfsburg. The two German-born Americans are long-time friends dating back to their days at Hertha’s academy together but both are playing for struggling Bundesliga teams at the moment.
Fortuna has lost four in a row and is winless in five and is coming off an embarrassing 7-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt last Friday. That loss sent the club into last place. After a hot start to the season, John Brooks and Wolfsburg have tumbled down the standings are now in 11th place while in the middle of a six game winless skid.
So this game will be about which player can regain his confidence and revive the fortunes of his team.
RB Leipzig hosts McKennie and SchalkeSunday 10:30am ET
Schalke had a dreadful start to the season with losses in its first six games. But after two wins in a row, it looked as if Schalke had regained the form from last year which saw it finish in second place. But last week was a step back with a 2-0 loss at home to Werder Bremen.
So which Schalke team will show up? Will McKennie start or come off the bench? Those questions will be on the mind of many American fans who tune in on Sunday. But awaiting Schalke will be a very solid Leipzig team which has Jesse Marsch on the coaching staff. Leipzig currently sits in fifth place and has just one loss on the season and is coming off a 2-0 midweek win over Celtic in the Europa League.
Old guard Toronto hosts new guard AtlantaSunday 4:30pm ET
This game will determine who wins the Supporters Shield. If Atlanta wins, it will take the Shield. If it loses, the Red Bulls probably overtake United as it faces a woeful Orlando team at home on Sunday.
Atlanta will be without Miguel Almiron and the big story will be how the club responds following the announcement that head coach Tata Martino will not return next year.
What is interesting is that Atlanta might turn to American teenager Andrew Carleton in the absence of Almiron – who is also rumored to be a record sale for an MLS player this winter.
Meanwhile, Toronto won the Supporters Shield last year but crumbled this year and won’t make the playoffs. Jozy Altidore is out with a foot injury but Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco should play. Will this be their final game in Toronto?
Miazga returns for Nantes to visit AimesSaturday 2pm ET
New Jersey’s Matt Miazga served a yellow card accumulation suspension last weekend as struggling Nantes pounded Toulouse 4-0. But Miazga will be back in uniform on Saturday when 18th place Nantes visit 17th place Aimes with a good opportunity to make it two wins in a row. The bottom half of the Ligue 1 table is crowded and Nantes could move up several spaces with a win.
For Miazga, it was unfortunate that he could not play in last week’s win but if he earn the start against Aimes, it will be a huge opportunity for him to put a positive stamp on the team’s progress.
Horsens host Amon & NordsjaellandSaturday 10am ET
Jonathan Amon, 19, will likely join the U.S. U-20 team for World Cup qualifying in just a few weeks and at that tournament, he will be expected to be a key contributor to help the team book a spot in Poland next year. It should be a familiar role for the South Carolina native winger who is one of Nordsjaelland’s most dangerous offensive threads.
From a U.S. perspective, it is therefore important that he continues to play well. Last weekend he picked up an assist for Nordsjaelland which still fell to league leaders Midtjylland 4-1. Saturday’s opponent, fifth-place Horsens, is more manageable for Nordsjaelland which is in ninth place of the Danish Superliga.
Zlatan and the Galaxy ready to take down HoustonSunday 4:30pm ET
The Galaxy currently sit in seventh place and outside of the playoff positions. But with sixth place Real Salt Lake’s regular season complete, all the Galaxy need is a win or a draw to overtake RSL for the final playoff spot.
With the way Zlatan Ibrahimovic is playing right now, does anyone doubt the Galaxy will get it done on Sunday? Zlatan has 22 goals and 10 assist in 2053 minutes this year, he has scored at least one goal in each of his last five games (six goals in that span). He just about singlehandedly beating teams himself and carrying an otherwise bad Galaxy team into the playoffs.
The Houston Dynamo will serve the role of anonymous henchman on Sunday to the megastar Zlatan who will no doubt expose Houston’s backline without much trouble.
This game is almost a foregone conclusion but watching a player like Zlatan do what he is doing is a must-watch.