News analysis

Pulisic & Chelsea advance, Marsch & Dest come up short, SKC inks Pulido & CCL Draw

Tuesday was a huge day for Americans in the Champions League and in MLS, Sporting Kansas City made an enormous move. ASN's Brian Sciaretta walks you through the news with his thoughts this Wednesday morning. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 11, 2019
5:10 AM
THE MIDDLE of the week has brought us a flurry of news and on-field transfer activity. The Champions League was the center of attention and two American players and one American coach had huge games. Domestically, Sporting Kansas City made its biggest move ever.

Here is ASN’s take one the news

Marsch and Salzburg bow out

Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg came into this Champions League campaign as a long-shot to advance to the knockout stages. On Tuesday, they controlled their own destiny in the final game of the group stage but the odds were slim as it needed to defeat one of the world’s best teams in Liverpool.

Salzburg had its chances and squandered some huge opportunities in the first half. The game was scoreless at halftime but Liverpool struck twice quickly inside of the first 15 minutes of the second half. The 2-0 result would hold.

In the end, Salzburg finished third in the group behind Napoli and Liverpool but ahead of Genk. That third place finish qualifies it for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

But this was still a great tournament for Jesse Marsch whose team played hard and was competitive with Napoli and Liverpool in every matchup. The American manager earned the respect of anyone who watch his team play in the tournament.

Marsch will also have the challenge of maintaining its lead atop the Austrian Bundesliga – which is just two points over LASK. But a league title, a respectable showing in the Champions League, and a deep run in the Europa League would be outstanding for Marsch who could be in line for a very big job inside of the next few years.

Dest and Ajax come up short

The mission for Ajax was clear – it needed a result at home against Valencia to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Sergino Dest did not start and the game started poorly for Ajax which conceded a 24th minute to Rodrigo Moreno.

Dest came into the game to start the second half when he replaced Nicholas Tagliafico and the American brought some spark to the game but it wasn’t enough. His teammates and coaches are warry of his giveaways and had to hedge their bets on his side of the field.

In the end, Ajax and Dest came up short and will now head to the Europa League. It is a bit disappointing after the club’s legendary run last year but Ajax will return to the Champions League next season as it is cruising in the Eredividie.

Overall, it was a great experience for Dest to gain Champions League experience in these big games at this stage of his career. He has plenty to work on (mostly on the defensive side) but he is in an excellent spot to see his career take-off.

Pulisic strong as Chelsea advances

Christian Pulisic and Chelsea are into the knockout stages of the Champions League thanks to a 1-0 win against Lille – in a result they needed. Chelsea came into this game without much momentum having lost three of its last four Champions League games.

Frank Lampard started Pulisic in the must win game – which was yet another positive sign for the American at the club. Pulisic ended up playing 62 minutes.

Chelsea delivered in this game and came away with a 2-1 win. The most important goal was the first goal and Pulisic was instrumental in the buildup as he collected the ball in the middle and sprung it out wide to Willian who set up Tammy Abraham for a tap in.

Chelsea took a 2-0 lead into the break and Lille cut the deficit in half in the 78th minute but it was too late for the French team.

But Pulisic will now return to the Champions League knockout stages. He has played at this level before with Borussia Dortmund but the spotlight is now even stronger. At just 21 years old, Pulisic has played in 26 Champions League games, remarkable.

Sporting KC signs Pulido

One of the biggest moves in the MLS offseason was made when Chivas and Mexican international Alan Pulido signed for Sporting Kansas City. The 28 year old had 34 goals in 97 appearances for Chivas and has five goals in 13 games for Mexico.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Pulido is SKC bound. ????<br> <br>¡Bienvenido a <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SportingKC</a>, <a href="">@alanpulido</a>!<br> <br>????????????</p>&mdash; Sporting KC (@SportingKC) <a href="">December 10, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

The get is huge for Sporting as it missed the playoffs and finished with just 38 points from 34 games on the season. Pulido will dramatically help the offensive production as the club had a need at forward.

Will Sporting return to the playoffs in an ambitious Western Conference? Maybe. But its defense is aging and unless there are upgrades there, Pulido might not be enough.

Concacaf Champions League draw

The CONCACAF Champions league draw took place on Monday and the five MLS teams learned their fate.

Among the storylines: The Seattle Sounders had the easiest draw for an MLS team as it can advance as far as the semifinals before it faces a Liga Mx team.

LAFC has the hardest draw as it drew Club Leon in the opening round and could potentially face a Liga Mx team at every round.

Finally, Thierry Henry will coach his first official game for the Montreal Impact in the opening round against a dangerous Club Saprissa team.

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