Sargent vs Pulisic, Wood vs. Bayern, Liga MX final highlight weekend
Hopefully 2019 will be a better year for Americans abroad but 2018 still might end on a high note as two of the most promising young American players meet in a big Bundesliga matchup on Saturday - and that's just the start.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedAS 2018 draws to a close, most European leagues will soon be entering the winter break. But in the second to last game before the Bundesliga takes its annual midseason hiatus, it will offer up a matchup that is hopefully like a positive version of the Ghost of Christmas Future for American fans.
December 14, 2018
December 14, 2018
Few would argue with the fact that the first half of the European season hasn’t been a good one for Americans. It started off well, but there have been injuries, benchings, and poor performances from too many American players.
This weekend will be more of the same, unfortunately. DeAndre Yedlin will serve his red card suspension. Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Erik Palmer-Brown haven’t played enough. Injuries have limited prospective breakout players like Emerson Hyndman and Andrija Novakovich. Friday revealed the news that Anderlecht might be looking to sell Kenny Saief this winter.
But this weekend will offer a clean slate for players to step up. Here are some key games to watch.
Borussia Dortmund – Werder BremenSaturday: 12:30pm ET
Without a doubt, the game most American fans will be watching will be Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen. It’s the top American young player of last season in Christian Pulisic to the top American young player of this season in Josh Sargent. Werder announced that Sargent was going to be part of the matchday roster this weekend after the St. Louis native scored on the first touch of his debut last weekend.
Christian Pulisic, meanwhile, will likely be involved for Borussia Dortmund but it is an open question whether or not he will be in the starting lineup or come off the bench.
But it is a great platform for both American players as Borussia Dortmund is sitting atop the Bundesliga by seven points and Werder Bremen sits in a respectable eighth place – which is a big improvement from last year when it was in the relegation zone up to the winter break.
From a national team perspective, Sargent has a lot of expectations on him given that many American forward prospects (based either domestically or abroad) are not playing up to expectations. Meanwhile Pulisic is featuring for Dortmund although rumors continue to swirl that he could be on his way to the Premier League. Will Dortmund sell over the winter or try to hold on to him as it chases a Bundesliga title?
Kortrijk - Club BruggeSaturday: 12:00pm ET
Two American players from Colorado will face off against each other in Belgium when defender Brendan Hines-Ike and Kortrijk hosts Ethan Horvath and Club Brugge on Saturday. The small Kortrijk team is trying to push into the top half of the table but needs to pick up wins to make climb. Club Brugge, meanwhile, is the defending champion but is in third place. A win could see it leapfrog Antwerp into second.
For Brenand Hines-Ike, he is outside the U.S. national team picture but could make a case for Ireland once he secures an Irish passport. He has work to do with either team but for the U.S. team, he could take advantage of the current struggles of American central defenders in Europe. His problem, however, is that the American central defenders in MLS are continuing to play well.
Esbjerg - FC NordsjaelllandSunday: 6:00am ET
U.S. U-20 winger Jonathan Amon recently returned from an ankle injury last week where he came off the bench and helped in the build-up to the winning goal in a 1-0 win over AGF.
But this is a big game for the young Nordsjaelland team which is in ninth place who take on Esbjerg which sits in sixth. A win could see Nordsjaelland move as high as four places with a win due to the tight standings in the Danish Superliga. For a team with the youngest roster of any top-flight team in Europe, climbing into the top half of the standings would be enormous for the value of its young players – which it eventually hopes to sell.
Hannover - Bayern MunichSaturday: 9:30am ET
With every great challenge there is an equally great opportunity. That applies for the relegation-battling Hannover team on Saturday when it hosts the struggling defending champions Bayern Munich. Bayern his in third place but has won its last two and still boasts an enormously talented roster.
For the second straight season, Bobby Wood is in a relegation battle and his Hannover team is in 17th place in the 18 team Bundesliga. One win, however, could conceivably send it to 14th place. But even hosting on Saturday, Hannover is the heavy underdog. If Bobby can find a goal in this game or just be effective in his hold-up play, Hannover might just have a chance.
Augsburg - SchalkeSaturday: 9:30am ET
It hasn’t been the Bundesliga season that Schalke was hoping for after it finished second in 2017/18. But Saturday will be an opportunity to push towards midtable heading into the winter break. Schalke is currently in 13th place and Augsburg sits just one place below in 14th.
Weston McKennie has dealt with injuries but should be healthy and ready to go after starting in the Revierderby last weekend in a loss to Borussia Dortmund (he was a an unused sub in the Champions League midweek but Schalke had already secured advancing to the knockout stages).
These are the games Schalke needs to start winning to convince management to not go on major spending sprees this winter.
Cruz Azul - Club AmericaSunday: 7:30pm ET
On Thursday, Club America and Cruz Azul played to a scoreless draw in the first leg of the Liga MX final at Azteca Stadium. San Diego and U.S. international Joe Corona started for Club America in the game where he played in central midfield.
Now Club America will be forced to win on the road against the favored Cruz Azul. Corona, meanwhile, struggled to earn much playing time for Club America during most of the season but has become a starter in the playoffs and final.
While he has never factored into a World Cup or been an integral part of the U.S. national team, Corona has put together a nice career in Liga MX where his legendary goal helped Club Tijuana earn promotion to Liga MX for its first time and he later won a Liga MX title with the club. Now on loan with Club America, he’s looking for his second Liga MX title.