Weston McKennie

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Bundesliga season preview: Bayern aims for No. 30

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Bayern Munich’s got another fight on its hands when it comes to the Bundesliga.

Sounds insane, we know; The eight-time defending league champions have seen five teams finish runner-up in Germany’s top flight, and shook off a quality challenge from Borussia Dortmund — the last team to win the league — last season to claim its 29th title.

Niko Kovac is back in the fold, as are the top stars of the team, but it’s still going to be feel a bit different with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Mats Hummels leaving town and a pair of World Cup winners — Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard — arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Robert Lewandowski is still there, as is Joshua Kimmich, and most of the club’s top minute eaters from last season’s title run. Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, and Kinglsey Coman will play even bigger roles, the club has quality young hotshots like Canadian teen Alphonso Davies, and Thiago Alcantara will be the straw that stirs the drink for young and old alike.

But BVB.

Dortmund has only lost Christian Pulisic, who’s headed “back” to Chelsea, and has again claimed an impressive summer haul (even if we knew a lot of the names prior to the end of the season).

Hummels is back, and Paco Alcacer’s loan has been made permanent. Oddly enough, those two moves might be the least impactful of the handful, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard true difference makers in the midfield and Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) a true hope for the back line.

Dortmund also added U.S. youth wunderkind Giovanni Reyna, though it’ll take time for the 16-year-old to run through the ranks.

The bookies think BVB is the only club with a prayer of claiming the title in place of Bayern, as reflected by 3/10 odds to the holders and 4/1 to the runners-up.

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are 33/1 odds, but that feels a little too much considering the additions of Ademola Lookman and Christopher Nkunku to go with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and Red Bull Salzburg star Hannes Wolf.

Bayer is a distant fourth, and has to hope that Kerem Demirbay’s move from Hoffenheim helps offset the loss of Brandt to BVB.

From Bayer on-down there’s a lot of uncertainty, as seemingly everyone lost a star of three. Eintracht Frankfurt sold Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller and is hoping Dejan Jovelijc turns out to be their next big capture from Serbia. Hoffenheim sold Demirbay, Schulz and Joelinton (Newcastle) and is yet to really address the goals aside from lower league scorer Sargis Adamyan.

Gladbach sold Hazard and is betting on a breakthrough from Schalke purchase and former next big thing Breel Embolo. Speaking of Schalke, they could be in trouble again and will need a big show from U.S. international Weston McKennie.

All of this stands to claim the following: Though surprises are possible, the league is downright unpredictable heading into the season aside from spots 1, 2, and maybe 3.

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Americans Abroad: John Brooks will lead Wolfsburg’s back line, the aformentioned McKennie is going to be terribly important to Schalke’s hopes, and Tyler Adams returns for a first full season at RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent is hopeful to make himself a league mainstay with Werder Bremen, and

Timothy Chandler’s still on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian Johnson remains at ‘Gladbach, and Alfredo Morales is still at Fortuna Dusseldorf along with Man City loanee and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

German born U.S. U-20 defender Lennard Maloney has been promoted with FC Union Berlin, while former NYCFC striker Khiry Shelton is with fellow new boys Paderborn.

And there’s an MLS connection to join Adams, Davies and Shelton: Augsburg has added FC Dallas playmaker Carlos Gruezo.

The new boys: Union Berlin has bought enough talent to rise up the table a bit, while Paderborn and Koln have more questions than Union but still some guile in their ranks. Koln in particular might have the best shot to stay up on pedigree alone.

Americans Abroad: Weekend roundup

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With the Premier League, Ligue 1 and the Eredivisie all underway, several current USMNT players and prospects got the first taste of their respective league’s competition. Leading the long list of players applying their skills at clubs abroad is Christian Pulisic, who made his Premier League debut in Manchester United’s 4-0 drubbing over Chelsea.

In France, Timothy Weah made his Lille debut, while in Holland several familiar faces continue to add minutes. Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The 20-year-old came off the bench in the 58th minute, replacing Ross Barkley and making his much-anticipated Premier League debut.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin did not feature for Steve Bruce‘s side in their opening 1-0 loss to Arsenal. The fullback continues to recover from an injury to his groin, which required surgery back in May. There’s no timeline on his return.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson started and went all 90 minutes for the Latics in their 3-0 loss to Preston North End.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old center back keeps adding valuable minutes with Reading, going for another 90 minutes in Reading’s 2-1 loss to Hull City.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers captain has been a mainstay in England, and it doesn’t seem things will be changing this year. Lichaj recorded another 90 minutes in Hull City’s victory this weekend.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The defender’s spell with the Rs is off to a good start two games in: 4 points, one assist and 180 minutes played.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream is back playing in the EFL Championship. On Saturday, he went the full 90 minutes in Fulham’s 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Wright is two matchweeks into his Eredivisie career, and he’s been quite busy. After playing 90 minutes in his league debut, the forward started and played 84 minutes against Sparta Rotterdam on Friday. VVV-Venlo lost 4-1.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Pulisic wasn’t the only American making a league debut this weekend. Dest, 18, came on as a right back for Ajax and played 36 minutes in the Dutch giants’ 5-0 win against FC Emmen. ena

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback played the final eight minutes against Ajax.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Following a $11 million move to Lille from PSG this summer, Weah finally donned Lille’s crest for the first time in a league match, starting and playing 65 minutes in a 2-1 victory against Nantes.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — The Washington D.C.-born striker featured for Rennes over the weekend, going 18 minutes against Montpellier in his side’s 1-0 win.

DFB Pokal

Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie did not captain Schalke, but he did come off the bench and play 32 minutes against SV Drochtersen/Assel. Die Königsblauen won 5-0 against the fourth-division side.

Bobby Wood, Hamburger SV — Wood continues to see very limited action (if any). On Sunday, the striker did not play in Hamburg’s shootout win over Chemnitzer FC.

Zack Steffen, Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf Steffen and Morales are slatted to be key contributors to the Bundesliga side this upcoming season. On Saturday, both players started and played 120 minutes in a 3-1 extra-time win over FC 08 Villingen.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  The 19-year-old is getting rhythm prior to the start of the Bundesliga season, starting and going for 62 minutes in Werder Bremen’s 6-1 battering of Atlas Delmenhorst.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson is going into his sixth season with Die Fohlen. On Friday, the 31-year-old versatile player was a substitute and played 27 minutes against Sandhausen.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Chandler made the 18 but did not play for Eintracht Frankfurt in their 5-3 win over SV Waldhof.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams, 20, was a no-go  for RB Leipzig in their 3-2 win over Vfl Osnabruck. There is no reason to bring out the red flags, however, the USMNT midfielder will be a vital piece in Julian Nagelsmann’s system.

Honorable Mentions:

Ventura Alvarado, Necaxa  Alvarado was Necaxa’s silver lining in their 3-1 loss to Tigres, scoring in the 43rd minute and contributing on both sides of the field for all 90 minutes.

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland It might be League One, but the winger bagged a goal for the Black Cats in their 1-1 draw against Ipswich. Gooch has now scored in Sunderland’s first two games of the new campaign.

USMNT uninspiring in Gold Cup QF win over Curacao (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team is through to the semifinals of the 2019 Gold Cup, despite having looked even the slightest bit impressive for only 45 of the 360 minutes they’ve played in the tournament.

[ HIGHLIGHTS: USWNT holds off France in riveting quarterfinal ]

Gregg Berhalter’s side did just enough — ever so slightly — to dispatch a Curacao side which entered as heavy underdogs but grew in confidence as the game wore on, 1-0 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn., on Sunday.

Christian Pulisic came within inches of opening the scoring in the 4th minute, but Eloy Room made a spectacular save to tip the ball over the crossbar. Paul Arriola sent the cross in for Pulisic and, though it was a bit behind him, Pulisic got enough on the ball to redirect it on target, but Room was up to the acrobatic task of keeping it out.

Pulisic’s fingerprints were all over the rare moment the Yanks created chances, including the game’s only goal in the 25th minute. After getting the ball out wide, the 20-year-old ran at the defender and cut the ball onto his favored right foot before lifting a delicate, curling cross over the sea of bodies inside the box. Weston McKennie arrived at the back post and the ball had eyes for his forehead, making the finish as easy as Pulisic’s ball was spectacular.

[ MORE: Jill Ellis, Phill Neville at odds over USWNT scoping out England hotel ]

Curacao dominated possession and the sparse number of scoring chances throughout the second half. While they created very little of consequence — outside of Leandro Bacuna‘s long-range strike in the 84th minute, forcing Zack Steffen into a desperate save over the bar — Curacao was the side that looked supremely comfortable in possession and in control of everything on the field.

The one time the Yanks actually threatened on the counter-attack resulted in Gyasi Zardes having the only decent chance he’d see all night. Arriola broke down the left wing and delivered a perfect cross toward the penalty spot, but Zardes skied his effort without ever looking convincing.

Up next for the USMNT is a semifinal clash with Jamaica — far and away the best team they’ve seen at this Gold Cup — on Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.

Weston McKennie signs five-year extension with Schalke

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U.S. international Weston McKennie has signed a new five-year deal with Bundesliga club Schalke, the club announced on Sunday.

The 20-year-old was set to see his current deal expire at the end of next season, prompting rumors of a move away from the German club, including links with Liverpool in January. Now with the extension he will be under club control through the summer of 2024.

McKennie is currently on international duty with the USMNT in the 2019 Gold Cup, playing in the first two group stage games before serving as an unused substitute in the third with a knockout stage spot already confirmed. At just 20 years old, he is a major part of the youth movement in midfield for the United States along with Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic.

“It was an easy decision for me to make. I love the club and everything here: my teammates, the head coach and the fans”, McKennie said after official announcement of the deal. “I’d love to stay here forever.”

After joining Schalke from the FC Dallas academy in 2016 as a 17-year-old, McKennie began a meteoric progression as he developed into a regular starter for the German side. He has made 46 appearances for Schalke in Bundesliga play over the past two seasons, scoring one goal and assisting four in a deep-lying playmaker role. He has also made six Champions League appearances for the club, scoring a critical late goal against Lokomotiv Moscow that helped the club reach the knockout stage of last season’s competition.

“Weston will develop into a key part of our first team with us. Weston has shown in the past few months that he is more than capable of contributing significantly to the future of Schalke”, said Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel in the official team release. “Thanks to his talent and his willingness to learn, Weston has made the rise from the U19s to the Bundesliga and it’s been a success from the get go. We’re very happy that Weston sees his long-term future to be at FC Schalke 04.”

Three things we learned from USMNT win

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As the U.S. men’s national team creeps ever so slowly toward delivering a 90-minute performance to be proud of, here’s what we learned as Gregg Berhalter’s side thrashed Trinidad & Tobago for five second-half goals in a 6-0 victory in the Gold Cup on Saturday…

[ MORE: USMNT starts slow, destroys T&T with five second-half goals (video) ]

The midfield still looks like a rudderless ship (at times)

It would be unwise — if temptingly easy — to overlook the USMNT’s slow start and focus solely on the final scoreline, because for much of the first 45 minutes — especially the first 15 — there were some major issues in the middle of the field.

It’s unclear whether this is due to the system — say, the forward line isn’t putting enough pressure on the ball higher up the field — or if the chemistry in midfield has just been slow to come together. In truth, it’s probably a bit of both.

Michael Bradley and Weston McKennie have had precious little time to work together and figure out the balance between themselves — a pair of high-energy midfielders who’ll cover ground from one endline to the endline if you ask them to do so. On a handful of occasions, each of them were caught much too high upfield together, which resulted in an unimpeded jaunt through the center of the field as soon as possession was lost.

These kinks will, with any luck, work themselves out as the past/present midfield general hands over the reins to the future/present midfield general. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if Panama, or any of the region’s other big boys, find plenty of joy the same way T&T did for periods on Saturday.

Real danger comes from the wings

For the time being at least, just about every meaningful USMNT attack originates from, or is directed toward, the wings. If you’re at all familiar with how the Columbus Crew played under Berhalter, that won’t come as any surprise — especially, considering the American player pool is completely devoid of a Federico Higuain-type playmaker in the middle.

On Saturday, it was a joy to behold some of the diagonal balls being played over the top (HERE, HERE and HERE) and on the ground (below) to find wide players in space. For the vast majority of the game, balls out to wide areas were the USMNT’s first, second and third option. They achieved this by overloading both the right and left sides again and again — Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola on the left, and Nick Lima and Tyler Boyd on the right.

It worked against a team like T&T, a side without aerially dominant center backs, but is unlikely to prove six-goals successful against CONCACAF’s best later in this tournament, let alone World Cup-caliber sides.

It’s not actually about winning the Gold Cup

The number of times we’ll have to remind ourselves of the following over the next months is, perhaps, infinite: the results matter very little right now, it’s all about the performances and the partnerships being cultivated with the 2022 World Cup in mind.

Would it be nice to regain the CONCACAF crown and lift the Gold Cup in a couple weeks’ time? Not really, but sure. Would it be nice to get as many of the remaining growing pains — and there are plenty, evidenced by those first 45 minutes on Saturday — out of the way as soon as possible? Absolutely.

The USMNT’s next attempt at World Cup qualifying will likely begin sometime next year, and winning this tournament at the cost of long-term progress will do them no favors then. There’s plenty of learning for the current crop of young players to do when it comes to pacing themselves for the long haul of a tournament competition and gaining experience in competitive games against teams they’ll likely see in the business rounds of WCQ, no doubt about it, but veering away from playing those young players in favor of picking veterans who can win now remains the worst possible thing Berhalter could do.

Thus far, he’s done well to resist any urge he might, or might not, have had.