Chelsea played the last dozen minutes down a man; Marcos Alonso was sent off via VAR for contact to the face of Robert Lewandowski away from the play. He’ll miss the second leg, as will Jorginho after collecting another yellow card.
Lewandowski capped off the scoring to make Chelsea’s task even more difficult heading to the Allianz Arena for the March 18 second leg.
1. Bayern loves London: Just under five months ago, Bayern Munich buried Tottenham Hotspur in North London in a seven-goal show. This wasn’t quite that, but the Bavarians out-classed a Chelsea side which had few answers for Hansi Flick’s tactics. Bayern has hung 10 on London.
2. Ex-Gunner Gnabry runs the show: Gnabry scored just one goal in 14 appearances over four years between Arsenal and West Brom, and is making up for lost time during this season’s Champions League. He scored four times and added an assist when Bayern visited his former North London Derby rivals. This time, it was two goals in four second-half minutes at Stamford Bridge, the German playmaker contributing plenty in the defensive half.
All it took was one slip from Cesar Azpilicueta to start the scoring.
¡Goool, goool, goool! Jugadón del Bayern, jugadón de Lewandowski ⚽ ¡Se abrió el marcador en Stamford Bridge! #UCL | #Chelsea | #Bayern
3. Chelsea’s backs torn apart: It’s difficult to find any fine individual performances from the Blues aside from Mateo Kovacic, though Mason Mount had his moments, but the worst days came from the back three. Bayern was credited with a half-dozen big chances via Sofascore, and the visitors took a whopping 11 shots inside the box.
Man of the Match: The 30-year-old Muller was everywhere early, but it’s difficult to give this to anyone but Gnabry or Lewandowski. We’ll give it to the German.
Kingsley Coman was the first to scare the opposition, working a long 1-2 with Thomas Muller before thumping a low shot wide of the near post in the 12th minute.
Chelsea backstop Willy Caballero made a sliding trail leg save on Robert Lewandowski in the 28th.
Muller then swirled a shot around Caballero but just past the far post before heading off the cross bar in the 35th.
Chelsea got a prime moment in the 48th minute, but Mason Mount was dispossessed and Manuel Neuer stymied Ross Barkley.
Gnabry then stole the ball in Chelsea’s half and worked a 1-2 with Lewandowski to put Bayern on the board.
Mount latched onto a big mistake from Joshua Kimmich but badly missed his bid to catch Neuer out of the goal.
Canadian phenom Alphonso Davies produced the third goal with a roaring run down the left flank, crossing to Lewandowski for the goal.
Kingsley Coman, Philippe Coutinho, and Thomas Muller scored for group-winning Bayern, who got an absolute star show out of 19-year-old Canadian left back Alphonso Davies.
Three things we learned
1. Spurs depth gets valuable time: Being a dead rubber, both teams left key components out of the fray or at least the Starting XI. Jose Mourinho left Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Jan Vertonghen out of the 18 and both Heung-Min Son and Davinson Sanchez on the bench. That didn’t stop his men from a strong showing in a very difficult venue, though Bayern rested David Alaba and put Robert Lewandowski and Leon Goretzka on the bench to start the match.
2. Coutinho beats old nemesis again: The longtime Liverpool man was at his very best on Wednesday, and his wonderful second-half goal means he’s now scored against Spurs for Liverpool, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich (also assisting against the North Londoners while with Inter Milan). That’s also because his 14 matches against Spurs are the most he’s played against one club in his senior career.
3. Canadian super show from Davies: Alphonso Davies turned 19 just over a month ago but already looks a man in his prime. He registered an assist and hit the post in addition to making seven successful dribbles and winning five tackles, also completing almost 90 percent of his passes. There are shades of teammate David Alaba in his game. That’s high praise, but Davies potential may be higher than the Austrian.
Man of the Match: Davies was absolutely electric at left back. It’d be too easy to give it to Coutinho, who was just as good, and like Spurs manager we relish the chance to be contrarian.
Early chances were there for both sides, Paulo Gazzaniga the busier of the keepers and making a fine save on Benjamin Pavard.
Serge Gnabry tried to find Philippe Coutinho through a sea of defenders, but his pass bounded off Moussa Sissoko and onto the path of back-post residing Coman for the opener.
Robert Lewandowski and Ivan Perisic were the goal scorers, and Canadian left back Alphonso Davies had a notable 90 minutes. Davies logged 3 shots, 2 successful dribbles, and four tackles to go with 88 percent passing.
PSG 1-0 Club Brugge
Mbaye Diagne saw his penalty saved by Keylor Navas, meaning Mauro Icardi’s 22nd minute goal was all PSG would need on the score sheet to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds.
Two goals in the first 12 minutes had them deadlocked in Russia, but Douglas Costa found the answer in stoppage time.
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Atletico Madrid
An own goal and Kevin Volland 55th minute marker gave Bayer a lead it would ride to three valuable points. Bayer joins Lokomotiv on three points in a bid to finish third and continue a European adventure.
Dinamo Zagreb 3-3 Shakhtar Donetsk
This one was pure chaos.
Six different goal scorers found the sheet beginning with Shakhtar’s Alan Patrick in the 13th minute. That was the Ukranian side’s only lead of the night.
It stood 1-1 in the 83rd minute when Dinamo struck twice in six minutes to set up a grandstand stoppage time time that saw a Junior Moraes goal joined by a match-leveling penalty from 19-year-old Tete in the 8th minute of stoppage time.
Wild nights, positive or negative, deserve reflection one day later. Here’s our bid to put the USMNT’s 2-0 loss to Canada in context less than 24 hours later…
The humbling of Gregg Berhalter is one of two distinct hopes for his survival as United States men’s national team coach.
The other is an unreliable route, one filled with long-term health for his best players on some pie-in-the-sky road where he utilizes the same 12-14 players per game for the rest of his tenure.
So, yeah, the first one is pretty key.
Coaches are by nature arrogant, and Berhalter earned his confidence by nurturing a suboptimal Columbus Crew roster into an over-performing playoff mainstay despite owner and former showgirl Rachel Phelps trying to move the club to Miami (Movie reference No.1, achieved).
When Berhalter beat out the field of two to lay claim to the USMNT position, he won over the media with Powerpoint slides about Pep Guardiola-inspired possession, which assumed to the delight of the American fan base that the nation had the immediate tools to out-class most of CONCACAF simply by being organized. He even had people handing him cute nicknames and defending the idea of using a Bundesliga regular defensive midfielder as a right back because he was generous with his time. Who needs La Masia when you’ve got the DA?
It should be pointed out that the philosophy’s failure through nine months doesn’t entirely destroy the idea to try it, but Berhalter’s often bizarre player selection and tactical destruction at the hands of Jamaica, Mexico, and now Canada have hastened the end of his honeymoon period almost as effectively as his the federation’s refusal to interview anyone other than Berhalter and Oscar Pareja. I mean, who needs Sergino Dest’s optimism when you can keep trying to jam a Wil Trapp-sized Wil Trapp through an Andrea Pirlo-shaped hole?
So you get what we had last night, a tire fire of a match in which his midfield had no idea what to do with the ball and his forwards might as well have been on a monastic retreat. According to the broadcast, Berhalter thought a miserable first half was due to his men not moving the ball fast enough side-to-side. His answers via subs, even before they were down, were to take off Christian Pulisic and leave creative minds Sebastian Lletget and Tyler Boyd on the bench. After the game, he claimed his players weren’t working hard enough and didn’t match Canada’s desire.
Here’s the problem, though, that’s on Berhalter, too. There were myriad articles out there, including several on this site, detailing Canada’s desperation to get results in the CONCACAF Nations League in order to move into a Top Six CONCACAF spot on the FIFA Rankings and qualify for the Hex.
All it takes is a cursory look at the Canada roster to see that their electric attackers were their hope of winning the match, and that pressing their relatively weak group of defenders — one of whom has only been a defender for a year — was probably a great idea.
But Berhalter again stuck with his idea that the United States men’s national team program, even without several of its best players, could implement his system anywhere, against anyone.
And it failed spectacularly.
The thing is that Berhalter is actually quite a decent coach, as he proved in Columbus, but whether or not he lives to show it to this American audience in this particular job depends on his accepting the shortcomings of his depleted roster.
I want to talk to you about Aaron Long, and not because of his “Stranger Things” lifeguard haircut (TV show reference No. 1, achieved).
Aaron Long is a mauler, the sort of player who’d be beloved by many segments of the USMNT community in several generations. He gets stuck in, has a good work rate, and can factor on set pieces in the attacking third.
What he does not do very well — and I’ve covered this a lot in this space — is pass the ball and aid in possession. Since breaking into MLS in 2017, the now 27-year-old center back has completed 76, 69, and 65 percent of his passes with the New York Red Bulls.
Part of that is a function of the Red Bulls’ system; The team doesn’t really care at all about possession, passing at a terrible 68.6 percent, and not one of their players had a completion rate above 80 percent this year. By comparison, 197 players in Major League Soccer completed 80 percent or more of their passes this season (WhoScored).
This is not an argument that Long shouldn’t be in the U.S. system. While he’s had a rough couple of months in the shirt, he’s in the mix for the toughest American center backs in the game.
Might this possession-based idea look a lot better when healthy? Of course, that’s what we mentioned above. John Brooks is by far the best passing center back in the pool, and has been out of the mix for sometime due to injury. The same is true for the side’s best No. 6 in Adams.
But what the Yanks were for so long was difficult to break down, a hassle to play against. Berhalter needs that right now, and he’s got the horses to do it (Watch Jordan Morris’ legs keep moving for 90 minutes if you need proof). Success could then require admitted in front of a microphone that his team can’t hack his system right now, and that he talked down to an entire room last month when they just spit facts his way. That’s humbling, and it’s not fun. But it’s needed.
Adding to the issue is that it’s easy to see the Yanks still emerging from their group by beating Canada in Orlando next month and then walloping Cuba. But if Berhalter hasn’t been humbled and sees victories against the 53rd and 145th ranked teams in EloRatings as validation, well, I’ve got some truly valuable early 1990s baseball cards to sell you for a premium price.
Arrogance does nothing for you if it’s ill-founded. That confidence has felled countless executives, coaches, and players over the years (and yes, even average writers). Being outfoxed by Tata Martino is one thing, but having no reaction to the plan of John Herdman is another (That’s not a shot at Herdman, who had done well with the New Zealand and Canada women, but let’s be real).
We won’t learn whether Berhalter has learned from his errors via results next month, rather by what he does to try and get those results. When Martino beat him in the Gold Cup Final, the rematch two months later was far worse. He gets a second chance to match wits with Herdman next month, and it really cannot get much worse. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice (Movie reference No. 2, achieved).
Last month, I wrote that Berhalter’s duties including the following bare minimum goals.
Qualify for the World Cup
Reach the final of all CONCACAF competitions
Look like an adequate footballing nation in other competitions
Make sure he doesn’t lose any talented dual nationals (also the GM’s job)
No. 1 is still far away, but 2-4… woah. We’re one Alphonso Davies star show away from finishing 2019 without a Gold Cup and no place in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal. Sergino Dest might’ve skipped town for Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands set-up either way, but being shoehorned at left back last month probably helped his decision.
Finally, a number of people on Twitter pointed out that Canada is due plenty of respect for out-dueling the USMNT on Tuesday. Absolutely! But if you think a nation with under 1 million registered soccer players should be absolutely clowning a nation with 4 million-plus, a side they hadn’t beaten let alone dominated in 34 years, then you’re not getting the point. There’s room for Canada and the U.S. to both be good, but the Yanks looked like a steaming hot mug of spoiled milk to Canada’s well-chilled bag of the fresh stuff. No good.
Your move, Gregg. Do what you did last night, and last month, and you’ll get the same results. Your only other option is Voodoo dolls of Alphonso Davies and Scott Arfield.
The USMNT had no answers and no options on Tuesday in Canada, showing no urgency and getting bossed off the pitch against a team which may not qualify for the Hex.
Time for a change? It’s not insane to consider it. The team Berhalter rolled out, with several players who aren’t even standouts in MLS, was inept in Ontario.
Either the plan or players the problem, and both point one way
Canada’s John Herdman and his desperate team were ready for a fight, and the visitors apparently thought their talent and reputation would win the day.
The book on Canada was electric attackers and suspect defense, so what did Gregg Berhalter spring for his opening salvo? No pressing on the back line and two plodding center backs. Tim Ream could work with an athlete like Matt Miazga. Aaron Long, too, but Berhalter put both players together (Long certainly grew into the game).
The result was that Alphonso Davies was shifted mainly to the side of the field with Daniel Lovitz, and man did he run wild.
So did Canada’s midfield who out-worked the Yanks up-and-down the center of the park. It was sad, and littered the match with doubt heading into the break.
Granted the U.S. is short several injured players and lost Jozy Altidore just before the international break, but Berhalter had no answers on his bench, or at least couldn’t manufacture one.
And that’s a huge part of the issue here. If you don’t have any sugar, might wanna prepare something other than cookies.
He removed Christian Pulisic at the hour mark, who had been poor and reportedly sick (see below) but still represents the best playmaker in his pool. Aside from the Chelsea man’s missed 1v1 duel with Borjan, there were no real attacking moments.
This was so bad, and absolutely according to plan by Herdman. No, not Tata Martino this time… John Herdman.
There is every reason to doubt Berhalter right now, and just as many to think that U.S. Soccer hierarchy wouldn’t consider remedying the situation on account of pride.
Given the way national team soccer works, it would not be off-color if the federation pulled the chute on Berhalter. The only possible excuse is injury, but Berhalter knew what he had in this camp and still rolled this plan out there in Toronto.
Pulisic frustrated, off-color, sick, and subbed?
Christian Pulisic didn’t have to do much in Friday’s demolition of Cuba, and he couldn’t do much of anything on Tuesday when asked to carry the team.
The Yanks were absolutely bamboozled in the first half which often had the match asking Pulisic to run wild once the ball actually found its way to him.
But he was dispossessed too often in any event, and missed a necessary goal when Jordan Morris sent him alone 1v1 with Milan Borjan. Yeah, that’s a Champions League goalkeeper with Milan Borjan, but this is the pride and joy of the program and it’s best product maybe ever.
Still, for Berhalter to pull him after 60 minutes begs the question of whether there’s an injury here. If not, well, there are a lot more questions than answers.
EDIT: Berhalter said after the game that Pulisic had been struggling with flu-like symptoms.
Gregg Berhalter said Christian Pulisic was struggling with flu-like symptoms. That was why he was subbed. Added that Pulisic wanted to continue. #usmnt
While the Yanks’ best players wasn’t in rhythm, Canada’s was borderline symphonic.
Former Vancouver Whitecaps phenom and current Bayern Munich youngster Alphonso Davies was a problem for the Americans from Moment No. 1, and the only thing that could slow him was a 53rd minute leg injury.
Davies had the U.S. back line on its toes all night, and cooked Tim Ream early in the match before doing the same to Aaron Long on a play the Red Bulls man did very well to recover and slide to safety.
Fortunately for Gregg Berhalter, Zack Steffen is used to being put in bad positions due to his starring stint on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf. The goalkeeper made a phenomenal 1v1 stop on Davies in the first half and was often forced to command his box under duress.