American Perspective: Lots at stake in Revierderby

With more top Americans healthy, there are a lot of good games to watch for Americans fans this weekend. MLS has a bunch of interesting games on its slate and some teams are under real pressure to win. In Europe, the season has just a few weeks remaining and several players are pushing for silverware, places in Europe next year, and survival in their current league. 

The most unfortunate news for American fans is that Tyler Adams is still out for RB Leipzig with his adductor injury. The best news is that Christian Pulisic is still in contention for the Bundesliga title, Tim Weah is in line for an amazing amount of silverware in this year alone, and the FC Dallas youth brigade remains one of the best stories over the past few years in MLS. 

With all of that, here are the 10 best games to watch this weekend from an American perspective.

Borussia Dortmund – Schalke 04 

Saturday: 9:30am ET

The always intense Revierderby will be one not to miss for American fans as both U.S. internationals Weston McKennie and Pulisic returned from their injuries last weekend and should be ready to take part in this big game. 

But this is the story of teams with completely different objectives. For McKennie and Schalke, the season has been a massive disappointment. Last season the club finished second place in the Bundesliga. Right now, it is just one spot above the relegation playoff position and is coming off a terrible 5-2 loss at home to Hoffenheim. Relegation is unlikely as it has a six-point cushion on Stuttgart, but a loss could see it get too close for comfort. 

For Pulisic and Dortmund, the club still has a chance at the Bundesliga title but still trails Bayern Munich by a point and will have to hope the reigning champs stumble along the way. Bayern visits relegation-bound Nurnberg this weekend, so that is unlikely. But that only increases pressure on Dortmund to win this game. 

Seattle Sounders – Los Angeles FC 

Sunday: 3:30pm ET

These two teams met last Sunday in the City of Angels and the matchup pitted two teams who are considered to be the best in the league. The game turned out to be completely one-sided as LAFC cruised to a convincing 4-1 win while also playing some stylish soccer. 

But this game might not be the same story. For one, it will be in Seattle where the Sounders have a great home field advantage. Second, Seattle should be boosted by the return of several players who were missing in the loss last weekend. Chad Marshall played in the midweek draw against San Jose and he will boost the backline. Raul Ruidiaz would greatly help the attack but might not yet be ready to return. Forward Will Bruin could also be on the very of making a return to Seattle’s attack. 

But even with a stronger Seattle team which will play in the comfort of CenturyLink Field, it is hard to not consider LAFC to be favored. LAFC is the best team in the league and they are the most fun team to watch in MLS. Carlos Vela is the heavy favorite to win the MVP this season and the team is also boosted by U.S. internationals Christian Ramirez and Walker Zimmerman. Ramirez had a first-rate goal in the win over Seattle when he backheeled a pass and moved into the box for a return pass before making a finish. 

Ramirez and Zimmerman are both on the bubble for a spot on the Gold Cup team but continued strong outings for LAFC would boost their respective cases. 

Celtic - Kilmarnock 

Saturday: 7:30am ET

Weah, 19, has had a pretty good, albeit not great, loan to Celtic as his playing time has been reduced to consistent late-game cameos for most of the past two months. When given the opportunity, Weah has played well. 

But in 2019 Weah is pushing for an unprecedented amount of silverware for an American player of his age. Celtic will win the Scottish Premier League and it is just a question of when. That could come this weekend if Celtic defeat Kilmarnock and if Rangers fail to beat Aberdeen. Weah is eligible for an SPL medal by virtue of making 12 appearances for the club. 

But per the Scottish Sun, Weah is also eligible for a medal with Paris St. Germain which already won Ligue 1 last weekend. Ligue 1 rules are different from SPL rules regarding medals and Weah was listed among 29 players eligible for a medal despite having made just two appearances at the beginning of the season. 

But that is not all for Weah either. Celtic is also in the Scottish Cup final next month and that could be an opportunity for a third piece of silverware for Weah. Then there is the potential of winning an award for the United States at either the Gold Cup or the U-20 World Cup.

Weah is finding himself in great situations these days and he might have to make room on his trophy shelf this weekend. 

LA Galaxy – Real Salt Lake

Sunday: 10:00pm ET

The LA Galaxy under Guillermo Barros Schelotto are drastically improved from last year’s dismal campaign. They’re fun to watch and Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes their games worth watching just because of his quality and personality. But it’s not just Zlatan. The team has a lot going for it right now. 

One such player is Julian Araujo. The 17 year old fullback has played up to his enormous potential when given the opportunity and was heading towards a potentially big stage at the U-20 World Cup next month for the U.S. team. But Araujo was forced out of Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Minnesota with a scary looking injury. But Schelotto indicated it might not cost him any time. If Araujo plays, it would be welcome news for supporters of U.S. youth teams. 

The Galaxy also starts U.S. international Sebastian Lletget, who is hoping to remain in the Gold Cup picture and Joe Corona -- who is hoping to get back into the mix.

Real Salt Lake, however, will be entering this game on a two-game winning streak. Last weekend the team traveled into Cincinnati and earned a 3-0 result. Slovakian national team midfielder Albert Rusnak has four goals in seven games 

But RSL boss Mike Petke actually boasts one of the most American-flavored rosters in the league. Only Cory Baird is in the mix for the Gold Cup, however. Some of the players are former national team players in Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman while others are in play for the U.S. U-23 team -- Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo and Brooks Lennon

The Galaxy is pushing towards the top of the table and could pull even on points with its rivals LAFC if the Galaxy win and LAFC lose. RSL, meanwhile, should remain in the playoff hunt throughout this season with its homefield advantage. The Galaxy is the heavy favorite but if Real Salt Lake will be looking to steal valuable points. 

NY Red Bulls – FC Cincinnati

Saturday: 7:00pm ET

This game will reveal what the Red Bulls are made out of. Playing at home against a beatable opponent, the Red Bulls looking to avoid falling into a deep hole before the start of May. The beginning of the season has been a disaster. It has just one point from its last five games and has been shutout three times in that span. This past week, the club had to shoot down rumors of Thierry Henry returning to the Red Bulls as the head coach. 

The Red Bulls struggle mightily to score and they look like age has caught up with Bradley Wright-Phillips. That should have been expected but instead, it looks as if the Red Bulls front office did not have a back-up plan to find the back of the net. Similarly, the consecutive losses of Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Adams have taken their toll and the team is light on central midfielders.

To get a result, the Red Bulls will need a revived offense despite the suspension of Kaku. So far this season, way too much has been asked of its normally reliable defense – which includes U.S. international Aaron Long.  

Cincinnati was off to a nice start in its inaugural season but has come back to earth lately with just one point in its last four games. The most intriguing player on Cincinnati from an American perspective is Kenny Saief, who is looking to get back into the picture of the U.S. national team. But for Cincinnati, it lacks talent and its recent 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at home was particularly poor. If the Red Bulls can’t get a result in this game, it’ll be time to panic. 

Sandhausen - Holstein Kiel 

Saturday: 7:00am ET

Normally a matchup between a midtable team and a relegation-battling team in the 2.Bundesliga would not attract much interest among American fans. But this game will actually feature the hottest goal-scoring American player so far this year in Andrew Wooten. The German-born Wooten (age 29 with one U.S. national team cap) is on a torrid streak at the moment and is almost single-handily carrying Sandhausen away from the relegation zone. 

With two goals last weekend in a 2-2 draw with Duisburg, Wooten now has 14 goals on the season in 27 appearances. But eight games ago, Sandhausen was in the relegation zone. Over those eight games, Wooten has scored seven goals. The club has earned 14 points in its last six games and is now four points clear of safety – thanks largely to Wooten. With four games remaining, can he continue to carry the team?

What is actually interesting is that sixth-place Holstein Keil actually has one of the least talked-about Americans abroad who is a regular starter. Goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm, 33, was born in Virginia and has made 109 appearances for Holstein Kiel since joining the club in 2014. Kronholm will indeed have a tough task on Saturday trying to keep Wooten from getting a shot past him. 

FC Dallas - San Jose Earthquakes

Saturday: 3:30pm ET

It seems like a broken record to write this every week, but FC Dallas this season is one of the best stories in MLS in a very long time. The concept of starting three Americans (or soon-to-be Americans) in defensive midfielder Edwin Cerrillo, attacking midfielder Paxton Pomykal and forward Jesus Ferreira along with a 20-year-old right back in Reggie Cannon while being able to win big games is incredible in this league. The reputation that the league doesn’t give young Americans a chance, especially in attacking positions, has been turned on its head by Luchi Gonzalez

Pomykal will be a key member of the U.S. U-20 World Cup team and Cerrillo has made a strong case to be on the squad. Ferreira would have been if his citizenship was finalized in time. That issue should be resolved by the time of Olympic qualifying where Cannon should also take part. 

Meanwhile, San Jose was off to a terrible start but the team has finally turned around and is buying into Matías Almeyda style and message. It has two wins and a draw in its last four games – including a win over Sporting Kansas City and a draw away at Seattle. One player for American fans to watch on Seattle is central midfielder Jackson Yueill, who is making a strong case to be part of the Olympic qualifying team. 

Bristol City - Derby County 

Saturday: 10:00am ET

Georgia-born attacking midfielder Duane Holmes might back for Derby County on Saturday which would be welcome news for the club. The visit to Bristol City might just be the most important game of the season for Derby County – which is holding onto the Championship’s last promotional playoff position on goal differential over the seventh-place team, Middlesbrough, and by just a point over Saturday’s opponent, Bristol City. 

Holmes, 24, has had a great season but this is a chance to deliver in an enormous game. Holmes has missed the last three games due to injury but has been pushing to recover in time for the visit to Bristol. If he can deliver in these types of big games, it will only improve his resume as he looks to build a case for his first-ever call-up by U.S. Soccer for the full national team. 

Club Brugge - Anderlecht 

Sunday: 12:00pm ET

American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is aiming to make a return to the Champions League with Club Brugge next year and Saturday’s game is a must-win. Chasing Genk for the Belgian title (and a spot in the Champions League group stages) is a tough mountain to climb as Brugge trails Genk by six points with five games remaining. What is most important for Brugge right now is to maintain its grip on second place – which would send it to the Champions League qualifying rounds next season. 

Something will have to give in this game. Brugge has just one point from its last two games after a three-game winning streak. Anderlecht offers a big opportunity for it to get back on track as Anderlecht has just one point in its last four games. 

If Horvath wants to push Zack Steffen for the starting role on the U.S. team, continuing to play in the Champions League offers a great opportunity to make his case. 

Middlesbrough - Reading 

Saturday: 10:00am ET

If anyone wants to see the value Matt Miazga has had on Reading FC this season since joining on loan in January, this tweet is all you need to know.

The club now virtually assured of avoiding relegation and just a point against Middlesbrough (or if Rotherham fail to win at West Brom on Saturday) will formally clinch Reading’s survival. Miazga has been a part of that and Reading fans would love for the New Jersey native to remain with the club. But on loan from Chelsea, it will be interesting to see what Miazga’s next move will be. 

The worst thing to happen to Miazga would be for Chelsea to keep him as back-up central defender due to the transfer-ban that was placed on the club. Miazga has played so much over the past three seasons, he needs to progress upward and he should have several suitors. 

A successful result from Reading will also be a huge help to Holmes and Derby County as that club leads Middlesbrough by just goal differential for the final promotional playoff spot. Middlesbrough will be desperate to blow past Reading with a big result to help its goal differential, so Miazga will be heavily tested in this game.

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