THE INTERNATIONAL window is over, MLS is in full swing, and most of the European leagues are heading into the home stretch. With that, there is plenty of interesting games from an American perspective that fans will want to check out.
Celtic – Rangers
Sunday 7:00am ET
The Old Firm are games that everyone should want to watch, regardless of which players are on the field. Are there derby matches in the world with higher quality? Yes. But Old Firm games match the intensity and emotion of any rivalry in the game.
Plenty of Americans have played in Old Firm games but only for Rangers. Never has an American played for Celtic in the event. On Sunday, there is a chance that two Americans could take part – one for each team.
Tim Weah recently played for the U.S. U-23 team and has seen his minutes dwindle for Celtic over the past months. The New York native is on loan at Celtic from Paris St. Germain and did well early on his loan but has not seen much of the field lately.
Still, he could be a late game sub for Celtic if the team needs a an offensive boost.
For Rangers, Matt Polster could also make his debut. The former Chicago Fire right back and central midfielder joined the club in January but picked up a groin injury which has prevented him from making his debut. Earlier this week, Polster told the media he was now fit and could be an option for Steven Gerrard’s team – likely off the bench.
It would be a massive stage for Polster to make the debut. He has never seen an Old Firm game and was not with the club when Rangers defeated Celtic in December.
“I’d love to be a part of the derby,” Polster said this week. “Obviously it's a big match. I haven't even seen it live. I was away when we played them at the end of the year. It'll be quite a day. The expectation is always the same, you want to beat them.”
Of course it is possible that neither Polster nor Weah play. But it if one or both take the field, it will be a special event in either of their lives as neither of the player have ever played in a game of this magnitude.
RB Leipzig - Hertha BSC
Saturday 1:30pm ET
RB Leipzig currently sits in third place in the Bundesliga and is trying to book a spot next year’s Champions League with a top four finish. Tyler Adams left the recent national team camp early to return to Germany and prepare for this big game against 10th-place Hertha.
Adams has been terrific for Leipzig since joining the club in January from the New York Red Bulls. The numbers that jump out are on the defensive side where opposing teams have a difficult time scoring with Adams on the field.
With Leipzig’s 1-0 win over Schalke just before the break, Leipzig has five Bundesliga wins, one German cup win, and one Bundesliga draw in the seven games Adams has started. He has played 657 Bundesliga minutes and 747 total minutes for Leipzig since joining and the club has conceded just once with Adams on the field (and that was from a very fluky penalty).
Hertha Berlin should provide a solid test for Leipzig.
Real Salt Lake – FC Dallas
Saturday 9:00pm ET
MLS has played an increased number of young American players at the start of this season but Saturday’s game between Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas could feature plenty of U.S. youth national team players and a record number of homegrown players.
Paxton Pomykal is one of the brightest young American players in the league and should be a big part of the U.S. team at the U-20 World Cup. Luchi Gonzalez’s team also regularly features Reggie Cannon, who will likely be part of the U.S. U-23 team and Jesus Ferreira, who will likely join the U.S. youth setup once his citizenship comes through. U-20 eligible midfielder Edwin Cerrillo is also coming off his first start last week in a 2-1 win over Colorado.
Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, lead the league in a total number of minutes played by academy products. Key among them are likely U.S. U-23 players in Aaron Herrera, Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo.
Despite the youth approach, Dallas is off to a nice start in the league and its seven points through four games has it in fourth place. Meanwhile, RSL has four points through four games and will be looking to narrow the gap at the start of the season.
Talleres - River Plate
Saturday 5:00pm ET
Joel Sonora, the 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup midfielder, has been a regular for Talleres since January – sometimes starting, sometimes coming off the bench. But if he gets on the field on Saturday, it will be the biggest test of his career when River Plate visits. The reigning Copa Libertadores champions have won four in a row and have moved into fourth place in Argentina’s Superliga. A win could move it closer to rival Boca Juniors which sits in third.
Sonora and Talleres have had a nice season and sit in eighth place in the big 26-team league. Sonora started midweek in a 5-0 cup win over third-tier Deportive Lafferrere. So far the Dallas native has made 16 Superliga appearances this season and has one goal.
Borussia Dortmund – Wolfsburg
Saturday 10:30am ET
A lot will be on the line for both teams when Borussia Dortmund hosts Wolfsburg on Saturday. While the injured Christian Pulisic won’t take part, United States national team central defender John Brooks will likely start for Wolfsburg.
The game is critical for Wolfsburg which is in seventh place in the Bundesliga and trails Bayer Leverkusen on just goal differential for sixth place and the league’s final Europa League spot. After a 2017-18 season where Wolfsburg was nearly relegated, the push for Europe has been a dramatic improvement and Brooks’ solid play has played a major role in that.
Meanwhile Borussia Dortmund still have a chance to win the Bundesliga title and trail leader Bayern Munich on only goal differential. Bayern has won six league games in a row and visits Freiburg. Pulisic is trying to claim his first major trophy before he leaves next season for Chelsea.
Arsenal - Newcastle United
Monday 3:00pm ET
DeAndre Yedlin, Miguel Almiron and Newcastle United will travel to London on Monday and visit Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
To say that both Almiron and Yedlin had eventful international breaks would be a huge understatement. Yedlin played in both of the United States national team’s two games and in the first game he came off the bench to play right wing -- a position he might have to become familiar with as Tyler Adams might be the right back.
Meanwhile, Almiron and Paraguay played Mexico at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. For Almiron, he got to play against his former coach at Atlanta United, Tata Martino, who took the Mexican national team gig. Almiron came in as a sub and was shown a red card for a blatant step on Jose Juan Vazquez.
The game is important for both clubs but especially Arsenal which will be looking to stay two points clear of Manchester United for fourth place and the final Champions League spot out of the Premier League.
Since Almiron’s arrival, Newcastle has moved safely out of the relegation zone although a result against Arsenal would move it firmly into midtable and big a sign that the club’s troubles are behind and it can now set higher ambitions moving forward.
Reading – Preston North End
Saturday 11:00 am ET
Reading is going to be in for a nail-biting finish in its bid to avoid relegation out of the Championship. Entering the weekend, it sits in 21st-place and is just one point clear of Rotherham United for the relegation zone.
Matt Miazga is returning to Reading after starting and playing the full 90 for the United States national team in a 1-1 draw against Chile. The New Jersey native has been very popular with Reading and its supporters since joining the club on loan from Chelsea in January. The club’s defense has improved under Miazga but its offense has often been the main reason why it has squandered some points.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Miazga once his season is over but with continued strong performances from Reading and successfully avoiding relegation, he should have plenty of options for 2019-20 -– including possibly staying at Reading.
Facing Reading on Saturday with be seventh place Preston North End which is just one point out of the promotional playoff places.
Derby County – Rotherham United
Saturday 11:00am ET
American attacking midfielder Duane Holmes did not receive his first-ever call-up to the United States national team (or U.S. call-up at any level) during the past international break. The Georgia-born, English-raised Holmes has been a consistent starter for Frank Lampard’s Derby County since the end of December and has also been an important part of the team’s play making.
Two consecutive draws before the international window saw Derby fall to eighth-place. But Derby only trails sixth place Aston Villa by a point for the final promotional playoff spot and Derby holds a game in hand on both Villa and seventh place Preston North End.
In their respective favors, both Duane Holmes and Matt Miazga can do each other favors. If Miazga and Reading defeat Preston North End, it clears the way for Holmes and Derby to leapfrog the standings into the playoff positions. If Holmes and Derby win, it will give Miazga and Reading a chance to move further away from Rotherham for safety.
FC Cincinnati – Philadelphia Union
Saturday 7:30pm ET
Expectations were not high for FC Cincinnati heading into this season, but the expansion team has two straight clean sheet wins which followed a draw in its last three games. Last weekend, Cincinnati easily got past a bad New England team by a 2-0 score. The week before it dominated Portland in a 3-0 win for its home opener.
U.S. national team fans will want to watch midfielder Kenny Saief, who has impressed since joining Cincinnati on loan from Anderlecht and last weekend he had a goal and an assist in the win. If he continues to improve, Saief could find himself in the picture for the Gold Cup team.
A huge crowd is expected in Ohio to watch their team take on a Philadelphia Union team that defeated Columbus, 3-0, last weekend in a surprisingly impressive performance. Marco Fabian will be returning to Philadelphia after serving a two game suspension for a red card he picked up in a loss to Sporting Kansas City. In his absence, American teenager Brenden Aaronson performed well in the No. 10 position.
Columbus Crew – Atlanta United
Saturday 7:30pm ET
The two biggest stories in MLS in 2018 was the phenomenon of Atlanta United and the “Save the Crew” movement to prevent a relocation. Both stories had happy endings for their respective supporters as Atlanta won MLS Cup and the Crew found new ownership that will keep the team in Columbus.
In 2019, the biggest story in the season’s opening month has been the struggles of Atlanta United which has struggled mightily under new manager Frank de Boer with two draws and a loss in its first three league games. Playmaker Pity Martinez (out with a hamstring injury) still is yet to hit his stride and the offense as a whole has just two goals in three games.
Columbus began the season in impressive fashion with two wins and draw but its 3-0 loss last weekend was a terrible reversal of fortune.
But Columbus should be far more improved with the international window over as captain Wil Trapp, winger Justin Meram and Gyasi Zardes will return from international duty. Zack Steffen will likely still be missing due to a knee injury.
From an American perspective, this game has plenty to watch. U.S. national team players Trapp and Zardes played in each of the two recent friendlies. Atlanta United does not have anyone who was called up to the full U.S. national team in March although Darlington Nagbe, when healthy, is in the picture and Brad Guzan could be in the mix as a backup keeper. Michael Parkhurst used to be a regular in the early Klinsmann-era.
Atlanta does have important U.S. youth internationals. George Bello (out with a groin injury) played for the team in the Concacaf Champions League and the left back is a top prospect with the U-17 national team. Attacking midfielder Andrew Carleton had a strong set of performances with the U.S. U-20 team during the international break and scored in a 2-1 win over Japan. Central defender Miles Robinon has been one of Atlanta’s best players this season and he returns to the team from playing with the U.S. U-23 team.