World Soccer Roundup 10/27/16

We’re fast approaching the busiest part of the soccer calendar, so let’s get right to it.

U.S. Players Abroad

Premier League

Stoke City once again won, and Geoff Cameron once again shined in an all-90-minute role. That’s two wins on the trot, immediately following two draws, after a very slow start for Stoke. Cameron, for his part, finished behind only brace-scoring Xherdan Shaqiri in terms of player rating for the game, completing 52 of his 65 passes, and winning all ten of his duels. Cameron has really started standing out in a positive way for Stoke, and even though he is far from a spring chicken (he’s now 31), it wouldn’t amaze me if a midtable side looked at him around the transfer window. Although the way Stoke are improving they may be there sooner than later themselves.

Lynden Gooch saw the field for a bit in the second half of yet another Sunderland loss, as the young American came on as a 75th minute sub in the loss to Southampton. Gooch was rather indistinct in his substitute appearance, only attempting six passes, and completing half of those, with none of them really opening anything up for the Black Cats. That being said, each week Sunderland is falling further and further into last. In American leagues, this might mean more time for a young prospect like Gooch; however, in England, where demotion to the Championship looms, it might mean the opposite, as David Moyes may think he needs to rely on the veterans to drag him and the club out of the relegation zone. Hopefully this is not the case, but Gooch could well continue to see his minutes limited.

Bundesliga

Over in Germany, John Brooks continued his solid play for the surprising Hertha Berlin, as he played all 90 minutes along the Blue-White backline, winning the vast majority of his one-on-one battles, and helping Berlin take the points in a 2–1 win over FC Koln. Brooks did pick up a yellow card, but drew an overall strong rating of 7.9 on FotMob.

In matchup of Americans in Hamburg, Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt prevailed 3–0 over Bobby Wood and Hamburger SV. Chandler played all 90 minutes, while Wood played just the second half. The rule as always: Play your Americans, and you shall win! (Wood did indeed have the highest rating of the entire game for Hamburger.)

While RasenBallsport Leipzig kept rolling (with Terrence Boyd not playing, sadly), Aron Johannsson and Werder Bremen could do little to stop them, as Johannsson played well in his 20 minutes (6-for-6 passes with a shot on goal), but Bremen remained near the bottom of the table, suffering a 3–1 loss. Meanwhile, Julian Green became the first American to score for Bayern Munich during their German Cup matchup on Wednesday, but he remained glued to the reserves bench over the weekend when the team dealt with Fabian Johnson and Borussia Monchengladbach, in a 2–0 win for Bayern. Johnson played all 90 minutes, and like most of Gladbach, was ineffective. (Johnson did, however, score in the German Cup in the middle of the week. As did Bobby Wood and the aforementioned Green, making it a nice midweek for the Americans in Germany.)

Saving the best for last, was a 3–3 draw between Borussia Dortmund and Ingolstadt. The game saw substitute appearances from both Alfredo Morales of Ingolstadt, and Christian Pulisic of Dortmund. It was, of course, Pulisic’s appearance that will really get the blood pumping for American soccer fans, as the young Jersey native tallied his second goal and third assist of the Bundesliga season, playing the entire second half, and helping BVB back from an early 2–0 deficit to get knick a point. Pulisic’s goal came in added time, and was one of the coolest moments of the season for American fans so far. Pulisic drew the highest rating for any Dortmund player, and would’ve been Man of the Match (per FotMob rating) if it wasn’t for a brace from Ingolstadt’s Dario Lezcano. Pulisic continues to impress.

Strange Results/Table-Glancing

Bundesliga

Things remained relatively unchanged at the top of the Bundesliga, with Bayern Munich maintaining their two-point lead thanks to a rote 2–0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach. The highest pairing of teams came in Hertha Berlin’s 2–1 victory (thanks to a 74th minute Niklas Stark goal) over FC Koln. This result allowed upstart RasenBallsport Leipzig to make their way up to second in the table, looking up only at Bayern. The club, who who in the second league just last season, are quickly making the case as the most fun club in all of Europe, and if they can maintain a Champions League spot, will be a Leicester City-esque story for the Bundesliga this season.

The slow start for Borussia Dortmund continued, as they needed Pulisic’s aforementioned late goal to nab even a point against an Ingolstadt squad that had just one point coming into the match. Dortmund sit in sixth at the moment, despite the second-best goal differential in the league. One has to imagine they will start finding results sooner than later.

There was good news for one of the slowest starting squads in the Bundesliga, as Schalke 04 had their best result of the campaign, a 3–0 dominant effort over a solid Mainz squad. Nabil Bentaleb had a brace for the Royal Blues, who are still a club I like to end the season near the top five.

La Liga

There were plenty of great games in Spain over the weekend, but not too many shock results, as Barcelona and Real Madrid both took all three points, and while Atletico Madrid lost, it was to a strong Sevilla team by a final score of 1–0. Barca had the most entertaining game of the weekend, as a Lionel Messi penalty in the fourth minute of added time was all that separated the Catalan club from Valencia. It was Messi’s second goal of the game, and was a gut shot for a Valencia team that battled Barca all day long.

For Real Madrid, it was an Alvaro Morata tally that broke a 1–1 tie with Athletic Bilbao in another tightly-contested affair. Madrid didn’t have to sweat as much as Barcelona, but it’s beginning to become clear that La Liga is a bit deeper this season.

With Sevilla’s victory over Atletico, they now sit in second, splitting Madrid (first) and Barca (third). Villarreal, Atletico, and Bilbao fill out the top six, in what is a totally reasonable guess at who the top six teams will be by season’s end.

Serie A

The top Italian league has been busy since we last met, as the league had midweek matches on Tuesday-Thursday. With that said, let’s skip ahead to the table, where the league is starting to settle into an expected order.

Juventus sits on top, with a two-point edge over Roma. The first matchup between the two is on December 17, and should be an absolute firecracker.

Napoli, Milan, and Lazio round out the top five, in that order, with Napoli bouncing back from a cold streak with a pair of wins since we last looked at the table. The Little Donkeys now sit just four points behind Juve, well within striking distance this early in the season.

The bottom of the table holds few surprises, with the possible lone exception of Fiorentina in 11th, which really isn’t that shocking this early in the campaign.

Ligue 1

The year of Nice continued over the weekend, as the redhot squad put four goals on Metz and extended their lead atop Ligue 1, as PSG was held scoreless by Marseille in a 0–0 draw. Nice now has at least a one-game cushion, as they sit on 26 points to Monaco’s 22. Monaco looked pretty mighty themselves, tallying six goals against poor Montpellier, with all six goals coming from different players. Monaco’s attack has been unreal this season, leading the league with 29 team goals, nine more than any other squad this campaign.

PSG sit in third, a spot they will undoubtedly be a bit sour about, and it’ll be interesting to see how it takes to light a fire in them.

Lyon continues to muddle in the middle of the table, as they suffered a 3–1 loss to now-fifth Guingamp. There’s simply too much talent on this Lyon team for them to sit in tenth, and the 14 goals allowed are a big part of the reason why. They have so much attacking talent, that they have been able to cover in year’s past, but they’re going to have to figure out some things in the back if they want to make it back to a Champions League spot by the end of the campaign.

Fun Players

Our final catch up of the season, after this we’ll just look at the week specifically, but this will be a look at what the fun, young players of Ligue 1 have done in the campaign so far.

Alexandre Lacazette

We’ll start with the man who has turned heads the last couple years, and is at it once again for Lyon. The 25-year-old has seven goals in six matches, and the rumors are flying fast and furious these days about a potential exit from his hometown squad.

Alassane Plea

Yet another young, goal-scoring Frenchman whose name starts with “Al,” Plea has done his damage for Nice this season, tallying six goals in ten Ligue 1 matches (seven starts). Plea has made a nice (pun intended) combination with Mario Balotelli at the top of the Nice attack, which has helped to propel the squad to a surprise spot atop the table through the first ten matches of the campaign.

Ricardo Pereira/Jean Michael Seri

Speaking of the nice (again) start to the season for Nice, Pereira, the 23-year-old defender from Portugal is the top-rated player in Ligue 1 this season, per WhoScored. Who is second? As you can probably guess, it’s the 25-year-old Ivory Coast native, Seri, as the club has been one of the most pleasant surprises across Europe this campaign.

Rodrigue Casimir Ninga

The only five-goal scorer in Ligue 1 to also have at least two assists, the 23-year-old Chad native has had a hand in nearly all of the Montpellier attack so far in 2016. Those seven combined goals and assists make up half of the club’s 14 goals for the season.

Christopher Jullien

Let’s give another defender his due, as the 23-year-old Frenchman has done a solid job helping to limit Toulouse opponents this season, as the club has allowed just seven goals all season, tied for the lowest in the league. Jullien has started all 10 matches, and even has a goal to his name.

Amine Harit

Sure, Harit doesn’t actually have a goal or an assist to his name just yet, but in his ten matches started, the 19-year-old native for Nantes is leading the league averaging 3.7 dribble-takeons per match, and if goals are the most fun part of the sport, dribble-takeons are a close second. If this kid is doing this at 19, just imagine what the future holds.

Nabil Fekir

One of the bigger names on this list, Fekir is doing his thing on the wing for Lyon, averaging nearly two and a half crosses a game for The Kids, appropriately doing so as a 23-year-old. Fekir has two goals and two assists and a whole lot of transfer rumors already this campaign.

Thomas Lemar

The 20-year-old midfielder has officially broken out in 2016–17. Lemar already has four goals, nearly matching his total of five from 2015–16, and is part of an impressive Monaco start to the campaign. Liverpool fans can now get overexcited to know that their club was at least talking to Monaco about the starlet last spring. The price is only getting higher, though.

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