Welcome, everyone, to a brand-new feature on MLSsoccer.com: With just three months to go until the US men’s national team’s opening match at the 2022 World Cup, we’re going to keep you briefed on the biggest weekend goings-on around the USMNT player pool every Monday.
From Adams to Zimmerman, there’s plenty of ground to cover and we’ll do our best to keep things moving. You, dear reader, can always make yourself heard by dropping a line to Charles.Boehm@MLSsoccer.com or via Twitter: @cboehm.
We’ll start in West Yorkshire, England, for obvious reasons.
It’s a fine Monday indeed in the Leeds United States of America, as Jesse Marsch & Co. start the week in the rarified air of third place in the English Premier League table thanks to their 3-0 mollywhopping of mighty Chelsea on Sunday, a stunner of a result spearheaded by the relentless Brenden Aaronson’s embarrassment of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
It’s very early, of course, and the odds say Leeds are unlikely to remain long in such elevated terrain. But that standings snapshot feels justified, considering the scale of LUFC’s triumph over a hated rival during the bygone years of their 20th-century pomp – one they hadn’t defeated in nearly 20 years.
Aaronson got things started with his aggressive pressing of Mendy just past the half-hour mark, dispossessing the Blues’ goalkeeper deep in his own penalty box to earn himself the simplest of tap-ins for his first career EPL goal.
The Philadelphia Union product also created two chances with his passing, posted a 69% overall completion rate, drew pricey Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly into a silly yellow card that set the stage for his eventual ejection and was his usual buzzing self on the defensive side. Meanwhile his compatriot, former New York Red Bulls homegrown midfielder Tyler Adams, simply devoured CFC’s vaunted central midfield:
Former NYCFC starlet Jack Harrison also chipped in a goal and an assist, while Marsch’s emotion and enthusiasm has stoked demand for alternate camera angles along the touchlines:
Thomas Tuchel gave Christian Pulisic nearly half an hour off the bench in search of a second-half rescue but the USMNT’s talisman was quiet by his standards, completing 9/12 passes amid 16 touches overall. Questions and rumors continue to swirl regarding Pulisic’s future and he could well be roaming pastures new by the time the British transfer window closes on the evening of Sept. 1.
Nashville SC exploded out of their GEODIS Park funk in one of the more USMNT-rich MLS Week 26 matchups, as Walker Zimmerman, Shaq Moore & Co. took Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget and their FC Dallas teammates to the woodshed for a 4-0 beating Sunday night.
Moore continues to find his feet in his first weeks in MLS but was promising here, working right next to the assured Zimmerman on the right side of a four-man defense. This game was all about Hany Mukhtar, as NSC’s playmaking talisman provided the inspiration with two goals and an assist to put the game out of reach by halftime.
The rest of the home team played angry, too, limiting FCD to a paltry 0.1 expected goals as they snapped a frustrating and costly six-game winless slump blighted by a skid of 11 of 12 points dropped at home.
HIGHLIGHTS: Nashville SC vs. FC Dallas | August 21, 2022
It was a night to forget for Dallas, who lacked MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi hunter Jesus Ferreira up top due to caution accumulations, and looked it.
The normally-influential Arriola was restricted to a modest 35 touches, playing one key pass and completing 22/29 passes overall, while Lletget was tidy (38/40 passing) and committed, but unable to truly change the game when coming off the bench after halftime. This might’ve been a chance for young center mid Paxton Pomykal to grab the attention of the USMNT staff, but the FCD homegrown could do little to disrupt Nashville’s low block and swift transitions.
There was always a hangover risk here for the Texans, considering their impressive 1-0 midweek ambush of East-leading Philly at Toyota Stadium at midweek. Check out the Arriola-Ferreira connection that decided that one:
“Maybe because he is American. It is his accent. Everyone always uses an American accent around him. He is just a great lad; works hard for the group.”
That’s why Josh Sargent is so well-liked among his Norwich City teammates, in the words of midfielder Kieran Dowell, after Sargent’s brace in the Canaries’ 2-0 home win over Millwall on Friday. The kid from St. Louis had also hit the net in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Huddersfield Town, delivering NCFC’s first two wins of the year in the English Championship as they find their feet in the second tier following last season’s unsightly relegation from the EPL.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blared over the sound system at Carrow Road on Friday night after Sargent’s virtuoso display, a mix of technique, intelligence and brave physical commitment that should help him thrive in the rough-and-tumble of the Champo. He certainly deserves this opportunity after his resilience and selflessness in the face of doom in 2021-22.
Watch not only his goals but his movement and work rate in the above highlights package, and remind yourself Sargent once topped the USMNT’s No. 9 depth chart. There’s nothing to say he can’t get back there with more of this in the coming weeks. The Athletic’s Michael Bailey penned an in-depth breakdown of what he and his Norwich teammates did to bank the win, and it’s a worthy read for Yanks supporters as well.
The kid – whose dad was visiting from Missouri and got to witness the goals in person – is still just 22, by the way!
Union Berlin have been, and remain, one of German soccer’s best stories of the past few years, and today they find themselves tied for second in the early Bundesliga table, powered by the scoring exploits of one Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu Pefok.
Over the weekend the French-Cameroonian-American frontrunner from Washington, D.C. hit RB Leipzig for a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win, looking deadly in transition and flashing a promising understanding with his Dutch-Surinamese strike partner Sheraldo Becker:
Pefok, 26, has bagged three goals in his first four games with the Berlin upstarts, making a glorious start to his life in the BuLi and surely giving Gregg Berhalter at least something new to think about him. Berhalter has generally used “big guy up top”-type language to describe him, but his work for Die Eisernen (“The Iron Ones”) points to a richer palette of skills than that.
It’s safe to say Pefok has been firmly on the USMNT roster bubble since his nightmare outing in the World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico at Estadio Azteca back in the spring. Perhaps that’s about to change?
The USMNT’s lavishly-talented, injury-afflicted young attacker marked a huge milestone in his journey back to health on Saturday, coming off the bench for the last 28-plus minutes of Borussia Dortmund’s home clash with promoted side Werder Bremen.
It’s Reyna’s first competitive appearance for club or country since April 8, when yet another soft-tissue problem cut short yet another return to the pitch for the 19-year-old. Entering in place of Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, the NYCFC academy product logged 12 touches, completed one dribble, won his only duel and created a scoring chance – overall, an encouraging return.
Well, except for the final score.
Incredibly, BVB contrived to lose this game 3-2 after leading 2-0 as the clock ticked past the 88th minute, with Werder cutting the deficit in half near the end of regulation before stunning the Westfalenstadion with two goals in five minutes of injury time via Niklas Schmidt and Oliver Burke.
So much for Dortmund’s unblemished start to the BuLi season! While US observers not clad in black and yellow will probably care a lot more about the individual fortunes (and hamstring and groin muscles) of Reyna, this was a true gut punch for his club and we’ll wait eagerly to see if he’s involved in the response of manager Edin Terzic.
We’ll close with a quick word about USMNT goalkeeping, since it’s shaping up to be one of the most closely-watched, unsettled areas of the roster for Qatar.
It hasn’t been a great August for Zack Steffen’s Middlesbrough, who sit second from bottom in the Championship table thanks to a winless start in league play. They leaked a stoppage-time equalizer to drop two points in a 2-2 draw at Stoke City on Wednesday night, then fell 1-0 at Reading on Saturday. Steffen made two saves and completed 15/18 passes, but can’t be happy about being unsighted and helpless on Tyrese Fornah’s winner.
Meanwhile Ethan Horvath and Luton Town split their week’s slate, falling 2-0 at Bristol City on Tuesday before defeating Swansea City 2-0 in Wales on Saturday; they sit in 18th place in the 24-team Championship. Horvath made one save in the first match and two in the second. Matt Turner was a DNP for 3W-0L-0D Arsenal, and has yet to make his Premier League debut.
Back Stateside, Sean Johnson posted his MLS-leading 13th clean sheet of the season as New York City FC snapped an ugly three-game losing streak with a 2-0 road win at Chicago Fire FC, though SeanJohn didn’t have a single save to make at SeatGeek Stadium. The Cityzens remain in third place in the East.