World soccer weekend roundup
This is a new feature I’m going to start running on Tuesdays, with a look back at the weekend that was in the world of soccer. Anyone who is reading this is likely going to know about the Premier League, so instead we’re going to focus elsewhere (Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1, namely). There will be three sections to start, with more on the way as they present themselves. Let’s get this thing going.
U.S. Players Abroad
This section will deal with how our boys in blue, across the great wide blue (ocean), did over the weekend. We won’t cover every single one of the U.S. players abroad, because there are more than you would think, but usually if a player or two had a strong game, they’ll get a shoutout here.
Since this is the first week of doing this, though, let’s take a broad look at how some U.S. players are doing on the young season, as a whole.
There are only two U.S. players getting real run in the Premier League: Geoff Cameron and Lynden Gooch. The two currently ply their trade for the two teams at the bottom of the Premier League table, but it’s fun to see Americans in the Premier League, regardless. Cameron has started four of the Potters six Premier League matches and a pair of League Cup matches for Stoke City this season, and has acquitted himself well. Despite the team’s porous defensive effort to start the season, Cameron has the highest rating of any Stoke defender on WhoScored, and the fourth-highest rating of any player, overall. Only Joe Allen has averaged more tackles won per game for Stoke this season, while Cameron ranks close to the bottom of the team in actual fouls committed. He’s been a lone bright spot.
Lynden Gooch has made six appearances for Sunderland already in 2016–17, as the 20-year-old Santa Cruz native has made a big of a name for himself. Sunderland are another team struggling early in the campaign, but Gooch has been above-average by his WhoScored ratings. Gooch is an aggressive midfielder, and is always looking to create chances for his teammates. He is yet to score or assist on a goal, but is averaging one key pass per game in the Premier League, so it’s just a matter of time.
There are far more U.S. players in the Bundesliga, as the top German league has become a talent pipeline of sorts for young U.S. soccer players. Since there are five U.S. players getting regular run in the Bundesliga, we won’t go as in-depth with them as the Premier League duo, but here’s a brief rundown of their seasons so far:
Christian Pulisic: Easily the breakout U.S. player of 2016, the recently-turned 18-year-old has scored for both club (Borussia Dortmund, no less) and country (the U.S., of course) in the past month, and is now being hyped as the next U.S. soccer savior. Lord have mercy on his soul.
Bobby Wood: The 23-year-old Hawaiian forward is also quietly having a nice start to the season, as his two goals for Hamburg lead the team right now.
Aron Johannsson: The only other American with a goal in the Bundesliga so far is the 25-year-old from Mobile, Alabama. Johannson has played in three of Werder Bremen’s five league matches, with his goal coming on matchday two against Augsburg, in a 2–1 defeat.
Alfredo Morales: The 26-year-old midfielder has started four of five league matches for Ingolstadt, a club with whom he has played since 2013. Morales in a regular in the squad, although he has picked up two yellow cards already this season.
Julian Green: Green is still only 21 years old, and while his star has faded a bit, he made a league cup appearance for Bayern Munich this season, and hopefully is learning plenty with some of the most talented teammates in the world.
Strange Results/Table Glancing
In this section, we will look back at the weekend, and note how the big teams did, and if there were any upsets in the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1. Then we’ll take a glance at whether there are any teams in surprising positions in the overall table.
Both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund won over the weekend, although Munich needed an 89th minute goal from Joshua Kimmich to top Hamburg. Hamburg has struggled this season, so that was a bit surprising. Bayer Leverkusen continued to try to get back on track, as Chicharito netted a hat trick, and Bayer needed all three goals to top Mainz 05.
Looking at the table, the biggest surprises five matches into the season are the slow starts for Wolfsburg and Schalke 04. These are a pair of teams loaded with talent. Wolfsburg sports names like: Ricardo Rodriguez, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Luis Gustavo, Julian Draxler, and Mario Gomez. Schalke’s starting eleven is graced with: Naldo, Coke, and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. That these teams have combined for just three points through ten games is insane. Wolfsburg are currently in 13th, with Schalke sitting at the bottom of the table in 18th. It would be great to see them turn their fortunes around.
Easily the biggest surprise of the weekend came in the form of a 2–2 draw between Real Madrid and one of this season’s fast starters, Las Palmas. Palmas now have 14 goals on the season, through just six matches, and are getting goals from all sources. Barcelona was all business, with a 5–0 victory, while Atletico Madrid stole a 1–0 victory in the 70th minute.
The only thing surprising about La Liga table right now is how few surprises there are. We are only six matches in, and it is business as usual. Real Madrid are on top with Barca and Atletico nipping at their heels. Behind the Big Three, are Villarreal, Bilbao, and Sevilla in that order. Basically all the names you’d expect. The only slight surprise is Valencia sitting on just six points, with their schedule not having been that difficult, either. When that’s the extent of surprise, there’s a whole lot of continuity going on, though.
Juventus and Napoli both took care of business in the only two Saturday matches, before a busy Sunday was headlined by Roma falling 3–1 to Torino. Torino has showed some goal-scoring prowess this season, however, as their 11 goals through six games ranks fourth in Serie A.
Similar to La Liga, the table seems to have sorted itself relatively well through just six games, with Fiorentina the only top-tier team residing in the lower half of the table right now. AC Milan currently sit sixth, but that’s actually an improvement from last season’s 10th place finish. This will likely be a two-horse race between Juventus and Napoli, with Juve holding a one-point lead early on.
Friday kicked off the Ligue 1 weekend in style, as Toulouse and PSG battled, with the giants out of Paris falling 2–0. Toulouse is a decent squad who are off to a strong start, but whenever PSG fall it is still a major upset, especially against the team that finished 17th last season, barely avoiding the drop. Then on Saturday, Lorient continued Lyon’s less-than-ideal start to 2016–17, as they held The Kids scoreless, winning a 1–0 match.
The two teams that fell over the weekend (PSG and Lyon) are the two biggest surprises right now, with PSG sitting in fourth and Lyon sitting in ninth. PSG has won the last four Ligue 1 titles, and sport a lineup filled half with the French National Team and half with dope superstars from across the globe (Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani, to name a few). Lyon has arguably the best history of any club in France, and certainly the best recent history, with a top-three finish in 16 of the last 18 Ligue 1 campaigns. They have one of the best goal scorers on earth (Alexandre Lacazette), and were runner-up to PSG each of the last two seasons. These two teams will likely rise to the top sooner-than-later, but with the last two leagues being so settled already, it’s nice to see a bit of surprise here.
This section will take a look at some of the best, but more importantly young and potential-laden, talents in Europe, and how they did over the past weekend. This will deal with domestic leagues, not Champions League, since I figured you have enough to read here anyways. Since we’re catching up on the entire season so far, this week we’ll look at just the Bundesliga talents with the other leagues coming in future weeks:
David Alaba: Alaba has one assist in four starts so far for Bayern Munich
Joshua Kimmich: The 21-year-old German has two goals in four matches for Munich, only two of which were starts.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: The Gabon national has picked up right where he left off, with five goals in just four matches on the young season for Dortmund.
Thorgan Hazard: Eden Hazard’s younger brother is starting to make a name for himself, scoring three goals and tallying an assist in five matches this season for Borussia Monchengladbach.
Timo Werner: The 20-year-old German forward is starting to hit his stride, with three goals in just five matches for RasenBallsport Leipzig this season.
Yunus Malli: The Turkish national, and Mainz 05 forward, has been trending upwards for a couple years now, and his three goals and two assists this season show he might just continue on that track in 2016–17.
Andrej Kramaric/Mark Uth: The Croat and German (Uth is the German) are forming a nice, young duo at the front of the Hoffenheim attack, with Kramaric tallying two goals and three assists, while Uth has three goals in the early season.
Joel Pohjanpalo: After a couple seasons on loan, the 22-year-old Finnish attacker is proving his worth with four goals in four games for Bayer Leverkusen. It’s nice having Chicharito to work next to, as well.
Maximilian Philipp: The 22-year-old German (yes, Germany has more young talent than the rest of the world combined) has started all five matches so far, and has three goals to show for it, half of Freiburg’s goal output of the season so far.
So there you have it. Hope you liked the debut of this column, it’ll be much shorter in weeks to come, as we’ll have just one week to cover instead of five or six. Leave a comment if you think there is another U.S./fun talent to be mentioned, or if you have any suggestions to make this column better in future weeks.