Bundesliga

Jordan Pefok thriving at Union Berlin, but USMNT call-up eludes in-form striker

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BERLIN — Jordan Pefok’s bid to make the USMNT for the World Cup is helping Union Berlin to an unprecedented spell at the top of the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Jordan Pefok a massive snub from USMNT friendly roster ]

Pefok scored the opening goal in Union’s win over Wolfsburg on Sunday, only four days after he was omitted from USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man roster for games against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

“Who doesn’t hope to play at the World Cup when his country is qualified?” Pefok asked.

Berhalter said he already knows what Pefok can do. But with only two months to go before the tournament in the Qatar, Pefok wants to make sure.

The 26-year-old forward tormented Wolfsburg’s defense, tracked back time and again, and then capped his display with a glancing header that brought his tally to three goals in six Bundesliga appearances this season so far.

Union went on to win 2-0, opening a two-point lead over Borussia Dortmund after seven matches. It’s the first time the Kopenick-based club has ever been at the top. Union was only promoted to the Bundesliga in 2019.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew how well it would go,” said Pefok, who joined Union in the offseason from Young Boys, with whom he was the Swiss league’s top scorer with 22 goals last season.

“I joined a fantastic group — the staff at the club, the fans, a truly superb environment. And I think all of that is what makes us successful today,” Pefok said. “We really are a family who like to spend time together, who like to have fun together. Even after defeats, we get them out of our heads quickly, we talk, we rest, and we carry on. I hope it continues like this.”

[ MORE: USMNT roster for World Cup tune-ups ]

Union has only experienced defeat in European competition this season — both narrow losses to Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Braga in the Europa League, which Union is playing for the first time after its remarkable fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga last season.

This season, it’s the only remaining unbeaten team in the German league.

Pefok has played a key role in that, forming an exciting partnership with Suriname forward Sheraldo Becker, who scored the other goal Sunday, helping in defense and setting up two goals in addition to the three he scored.

Pefok was speaking after Sunday’s game when Wolfsburg sporting director Jorg Schmadtke stopped to congratulate the player on his display.

The French-speaking American hopes Berhalter was paying attention, too.

[ MORE: Jordan Pefok scores for leaders Union Berlin; McKennie, Juve lose ]

The USMNT coach selected Josh Sargent of second-division club Norwich, Jesus Ferreira of Dallas and Ricardo Pepi, loaned to Groningen by Augsburg, for the friendlies against Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Friday and Saudi Arabia four days later in Murcia, Spain.

“We’ve been consistent in saying it may not be the best forward that is in the group. It’s a guy that fits what we’re doing the best,” Berhalter said.

Pefok said he’ll stay ready for the World Cup.

“The coach decides,” Pefok said. “Me, I play the games with happiness. I keep trying to give my best. Afterward, as we say in France, it’s at the end of the ball that we pay the musicians.”

Pefok, who has one goal in nine appearances for the USMNT, added: “I think it’s up to me to keep doing what I’m trying to do. Stay focused. I wasn’t called up this training camp but there you go, my chances are not at zero. We’ll see in the end who’s called up for the World Cup.”

USMNT, European review: Pefok scores for leaders Union Berlin; McKennie’s Juve lose

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This was a heck of a weekend in European football, and the USMNT players abroad played their parts well.

Also a heck of a weekend for Borussias (Borussium? Plural police?), but that’s nothing compared to the vibes in Berlin.

Union Berlin remains first in the Bundesliga as USMNT man Jordan Pefok continues his dynamic duo with Sheraldo Becker.

Borussia Dortmund won a derby and sits first after Bayern Munich suffered a surprise loss.

Borussia Monchengladbach thumped RB Leipzig to move back within shouting distance of the top of the table.

[ MORE: Premier League hub -> Fixtures, results, highlights ]

Over in La Liga, Robert Lewandowski proved his shooting boots are still fine while the latest Barcelona teen to raise eyebrows picked up two assists.

Serie A saw another loss for Juventus, whose last season swoon might’ve been a harbinger of what’s to come for Weston McKennie and Co.

And Ricardo Pepi had a little more pep in his step after being called up to USMNT camp and bagged his first Eredivisie goal.

Read on!


Bundesliga: USMNT youngsters play roles in major wins; Bayern loses

Giovanni Reyna in a Revierderby. Joe Scally In a top-four tilt (most years) versus RB Leipzig. Jordan Pefok (Siebatcheu) keeeping Union Berlin in first!!!!!?!?!?!?!111

Oooh, this is why we like our best and brightest sliding into historic club.

Reyna again had to come off the bench for injured Marco Reus, the latter part being a disheartening trend and a possibly World Cup-ending injury for the BVB bright light, but Borussia Dortmund won the first Revierderby in a few seasons by a 1-0 score at home to Schalke.

Reyna entered in the 32nd minute and went 52 minutes before Thorgan Hazard brought a more veteran presence to the field with BVB in the lead with six minutes to play at the Westfalenstadion.

He finished with a key passes, two completed dribbles, and two shots (neither was on target).

As for Scally, Borussia Monchengladbach seized a bit of momentum by putting a 3-0 beating on Leipzig. The right back won 7-of-10 duels and drew two fouls while registering a key pass

By the way, Bayern lost to Augsburg despite Manuel Neuer’s best efforts.

And Union Berlin won again, with uncalled USMNT striker Jordan Pefok continuing his electric introduction to the Bundesliga and an incredible partnership with Union forward Sheraldo Becker.

Becker had a goal and an assist in Union’s 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, registering five shots and two key passes in a performance that would raise the eyebrows of any national team boss (though maybe any says too much, as Pefok’s only played 30 minutes for Gregg Berhalter since Sept. 9, 2021.

In a nice addition, Wolfsburg deployed 19-year-old American left back Kevin Paredes for the final 11 minutes. The diminutive DC United product has made three first-team appearances this young season.

Union sits first with 17 points, two ahead of Dortmund, and four clear of Freiburg. Bayern, Hoffenheim, and Gladbach follow with 12 each.

Serie A: What?!? 10-man Juventus loses at Monza

What’s more surprising:

  1. Monza has its first Serie A win after entering the game with a minus-11 goal differential through six outings
  2. Juventus has just two points and sits eighth going into the international break?

Wow.

An early Angel Di Maria red card put Weston McKennie and Juve behind the 8-ball away from home but surely winless Monza’s only hope was a point, yes?

Wrong.

Outshot 17-10, Juve’s attack struggled despite McKennie’s best effort. The USMNT man was pretty good and registered two key passes in the loss.

La Liga: Lewandowski shines with latest Barcelona teenager

Robert Lewandowski is going to get a whole ton of headlines after bagging a pair of goals in La Liga following his chance-frittering day against former club Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.

But look at Xavi doing Barca things, bringing a teenage-year-old left back into the fold for a two-assist day in a 3-0 win over 10-man Elche.

Balde turns 19 next month and has made a handful of senior appearances in each of the last two seasons, but appearance No. 6 was a magic one on Saturday (video below).

La Masi-you later!

Elsewhere in La Liga, USMNT man Yunus Musah remained out through injury for Valencia and that meant we did not have USMNT vs USMNT when Luca de la Torre came off Celta Vigo’s bench late in Valencia’s 3-0 win.

Americans Abroad: Ricardo Pepi scores first Eredivisie goal

Even as Augsburg scores a historic win over Bayern Munich, Ricardo Pepi is enjoying life on loan from the Bundesliga set.

Called up to the USMNT for friendlies versus Japan and Saudi Arabia later this month while in-form Union Berlin striker Jordan Pefok was not, his form is clearly joining his national team stock while on loan in the Netherlands.

An assist on debut in a draw versus Cambuur was nice and now the lone Groningen goal in a 2-1 loss to Sparta Rotterdam gave him goal contributions in consecutive games.

Look out Saudi Arabia and Japan? Look out Wales? Here’s where I embed the video at top of my questioning Pefok’s omission and Pepi’s inclusion. Because honesty is good.

Really classy header here:

Man City vs Dortmund: Haaland scores winner vs former club (video)

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Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund recap: Erling Haaland scored the winning goal as the Norwegian’s new side beat his old side at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Dortmund took the lead through Jude Bellingham’s header in the 56th minute, but Edin Terzic’s side came under immense pressure almost immediately thereafter with a triple-change that brought on three fresh attackers in Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Julian Alvarez. In the 80th minute, John Stones unleashed a thunderbolt from the edge of the penalty area, and Haaland went airborne and acrobatic to poke home the winner just four minutes later.

The victory keeps Man City (6 points) atop Group G, with Dortmund (3) currently in 2nd.


What we learned from Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund

Erling Haaland scoring goals is inevitable

Even when the ball is close to eight feet in the air, floating toward the back post and there’s one or two defenders properly positioned to deal with the cross, he might just score anyway.

It was clear that Dortmund frustrated Man City for much of Wednesday’s game, but speaking after the game Haaland felt that things changed drastically not long after the hour mark as he continues to adjust to his new team, and them to him.

“In the end we showed what we are. This is what we are. This is how we have to play. I’m proud of the last 25 minutes.”

“They didn’t stop me… I scored. They played well. They were good. I was quite sure I was going to be followed the whole game because Edin [Dortmund boss Terzic] knows me very well. Dortmund were really good today. Three points is what matters.”

Jude Bellingham more than ready for Premier League move

He just turned 19 not even three months ago, and Bellingham already looks like one of the best central midfielders in the world — certainly the brightest, surest prospect. With each passing performance in the Champions League, the Birmingham City academy product looks likelier and likelier to move to the Premier League next summer.

Whether it’s to Man City, Chelsea, Manchester City or Liverpool, the PL will immediately be better for his arrival. Similar to Haaland, Bellingham brings an incredible blend of all the requisite physical tools, but most importantly he’s tactically brilliant and quickly reads the game as if he’s been playing professionally for four years already. (He has been.) Bellingham should be the breakout star for England at this summer’s winter’s World Cup, at which point his transfer fee should increase another 40 or $50 million. Unlike Haaland, Bellingham does not have a release clause in his current contract.

Follow @AndyEdMLS


How to watch Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund live, updates and start time

Date: Wednesday, September 14
Kick off time: 3pm ET
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+


Key storylines

It doesn’t get more key than this: One of Man City, Sevilla, or Dortmund will not reach the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds. With Dortmund yet to face Sevilla, a Man City win on Wednesday would make for a comfortable-enough 2-0 start to the group stage with a pair against Copenhagen to follow and a guarantee that Sevilla and/or BVB will drop more points.

Guardiola is not the apple of Dortmund’s eye following his time at heated rivals Bayern Munich, and the trio of Dortmund players at City are unlikely to make him any more liked in Germany (though this match is set for the cozier confines of the Etihad, of course).


Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund head-to-head record

Man City won both legs of the clubs’ 2020-21 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal tie, while Dortmund took four of six points in the 2012-13 group stage.


The lowdown on Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund’s terrific start to the season reached into the first UCL matchday, as Giovanni Reyna set up two of BVB’s three goals in a clean sheet win over Copenhagen, but the weekend proved too much of a depth test against stung and ready RB Leipzig. Dortmund’s 12 points through six matches are equal to Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim, and Freiburg. Union Berlin can join BVB or lead the quartet by two points depending on Sunday morning’s result versus Koln.


Manchester City team news, injuries, lineup options

Aymeric Laporte (knee) will be out through the international break at the end of September, while Kyle Walker and John Stones are touch-and-go. Pep Guardiola has said they could return for any game or have to wait beyond the international break.

USMNT, European review: Pepi stars on debut; great weekend for Belgian contingent

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USMNT players are in action across Europe this weekend but it was a disappointing few days for Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah and their respective teams.

On a more positive note, in the Netherlands Ricardo Pepi grabbed a debut assist, while Mark McKenzie, Sam Vines and Bryan Reynolds all got wins in Belgium’s top-flight.

[ MORE: Global soccer scoreboard ]

With the 2022 World Cup fast approaching (just over two months to go, everyone), the scramble for spots in Gregg Berhalter’s squad is well and truly on and that is leading to some really good performance from USMNT youngsters all across Europe.

From Germany to Italy and Spain to Turkey, there is a lot going on with these American talents.

[ MORE: USMNT player pool rankings ]

Below is a look at how things are going for the USMNT players in Europe, plus a general roundup up of the top-flight leagues they’re playing in.


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
Group stage game kick off times: 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
Location: Qatar
TV channel in English: Fox
TV channel in Spanish: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock


Yunus Musah plays 90 but Valencia stumble

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

After grabbing two assists in the win against Getafe last week, U.S. midfielder Yunus Musah started but couldn’t stop Valencia losing 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano. Musah was his typical self, buzzing around and making forward runs to try and help get Valencia back in the game. His cross led to a huge chance early in the second half but Nico Gonzalez couldn’t convert and moments later scored an own goal to seal the win for Rayo. Musah, still just 19, was booked in the second half and played the full 90 minutes. Valencia have lost three of their first five games in La Liga and Musah has started all five and played the full 90 in four games.


Gio Reyna, Dortmund lose at Leipzig; Bayern’s record-breaker

[ MORE: Bundesliga scores, schedule

Marco Rose got off to the perfect start as RB Leipzig’s new manager, as he saw his new side thump his former side Borussia Dortmund 3-0. Two first half goals from Willi Orban and a stunner from Dominik Szoboszlai put Leipzig in a commanding position as substitute Amadou Haidara scored a late goal to clinch it. USMNT attacking midfielder Gio Reyna, 19, came on in the second half as he continues his recovery from long-term injury issues. Reyna (who grabbed two assists in their midweek Champions League win) was subbed on in the 59th minute and had a shot blocked and tried to get his side going, but they finished the day with zero shots on goal. Not great.

Elsewhere in Germany’s top-flight, Mathys Tel made Bayern history as the 17-year-old made his first Bundesliga start against Stuttgart and became their youngest-ever goalscorer in the Bundesliga. He also became the fourth-youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history. What a moment. Bayern did cough up a stoppage time equlalizer, though, as Matthijs de Ligt gave away a penalty kick and Stuttgart snatched the 2-2 draw. Bayern have won three and drawn three of their opening six games this season.


Pefok misses PK, McKennie starts in draw; Dest, De La Torre unused subs

Jordan Pefok missed a first half penalty kick but he continues to help Union Berlin as they secured a 1-0 win against FC Cologne and they sit top of the Bundesliga table on 14 points after six games. With Union already 1-0 up, Pefok hit his penalty kick straight at goalkeeper Marvin Schwabe in the 10th minute. It was a very poor penalty kick. Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Joe Scally started at right back and played the full 90 as Borussia Monchengladbach drew 0-0 at second-place SC Freiburg.

In Serie A, Weston McKennie started and played 85 minutes for Juventus who were 2-0 down at home to Salernitana but Juve fought back to make it 2-2 in the 93rd minute. They thought they had won it when Arkadiusz Milik scored late on but the goal was chalked off by VAR and Milik was then sent off as he was shown a second yellow card for taking his shirt off in celebration. Oh dear. Juve sit in 8th place on 10 points, while Napoli, Atalanta and AC Milan all have 14 points atop the table. Speaking of AC Milan, Sergino Dest was an unused sub as 10-man Milan battled to a 2-1 win at Sampdoria, as Olivier Giroud was the hero for the reigning champs.

In La Liga, midfielder Luca de la Torre, 24, was an unused sub as Celta Vigo were smashed 4-1 by Atletico Madrid. Their crosstown rivals Real Madrid continue to set the early-season pace as they roared back from 1-0 down at home to Real Mallorca and won 4-1 thanks to a stunner from Federico Valverde, plus a Vinicius Jr go-ahead goal and goals from Rodrygo and Antonio Rudiger. Barcelona also continued their fine start to the new season as they won 4-0 at Cadiz and sit in second-place, two points behind Real Madrid.


Wrapping up the best of the rest

Bryan Reynolds started and played the full 90 at right back for Westerlo as they beat Belgian giants Anderlecht 1-0, while elsewhere in Belgium Sam Vines played the full 90 at left back as Royal Antwerp won 2-0 against Cercle Brugge to remain perfect at the top of the table with eight wins from eight this season. Staying in Belgium’s top-flight, center back Mark McKenzie put in another fine display as Genk won 2-1 at Union Saint-Gilloise.

Across the border in the Netherlands, Ricardo Pepi marked his first appearance for new club Groningen with an assist on their winning goal against Cambuur. The FC Dallas product left Augsburg on a season-long loan to Groningen and it looks like the striker may get on pretty well in the Eredivisie. Coming on as a half time sub, Pepi set up the winner with 20 minutes to go as he won the ball back and set up a counter.

In Greece, Konrad de la Fuente came on as a second half sub for Olympiacos as they drew at home to Volos and sit in second place in the table. While in Turkey, Haji Wright started up top and played the full 90 minutes for Antalyaspor but they lost 1-0 at Kayserispor. Finally, in Portugal Reggie Cannon started but was subbed off at half time as Boavista came from behind to win 2-1 at Arouca. Benfica lead the way in Portugal’s top-flight with six wins from six to start the season.


Giovanni Reyna assists twice in Champions League (video)

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Giovanni Reyna’s 2022-23 UEFA Champions League campaign started with a surprising early substitution and terrific production as the USMNT man had two assists in Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 win over Copenhagen on Tuesday.

That was the good news for Americans abroad in two early kickoffs, as Christian Pulisic wasn’t put into Chelsea’s 1-0 loss at Dinamo Zagreb until the final 15 minutes.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  

More on that in another post, but Reyna and his fans are going to feel great about his performance on Tuesday.

The teenager had three key passes on the day, completing 82 percent of his passes in the three-goal victory.

Giovanni Reyna jumpstarts Borussia Dortmund season

Injured for much of last season, Reyna had only seen 35 minutes for Edin Terzic’s BVB heading into the Tuesday’s UCL opener.

And the 19-year-old was given no guarantee he’d add to that total as Dortmund welcomed Copenhagen into the Westfalenstadion.

But an injury to Thorgan Hazard meant Reyna would enter the fray 23 minutes into a scoreless game.

Dortmund went ahead 1-0 through Marco Reus in the 35th minute, then Reyna worked a 1-2 with Raphael Guerreiro to make it 2-0 just seven minutes later.

USA to England: Reyna cues up Jude Bellingham goal video

It was teenager to teenager for Reyna’s second assist, as Dortmund closed out their Danish guests in style.

The 82nd minute saw Bellingham work the ball wide to the right, where Reyna was waiting to serve.

A low cut back toward the penalty spot was essentially served on the dot, an

Follow @NicholasMendola