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USMNT UEFA Champions League Update

What’s going on with Americans in the game’s biggest competition?

Liverpool FC v RB Salzburg: Group E - UEFA Champions League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The Champions has concluded Matchday 2 in the Group Stage, so it’s time for an update on where the American contingent stand.

Jesse Marsch (Manager, RB Salzburg)

The most impressive storyline amongst Americans abroad so far this season has to be Jesse Marsch. What he’s done both in the Austrian Bundesliga (25/27 possible points and a +31 goal differential(!) through nine games) and the Champions League with his young and talented group has been extremely impressive. On Matchday 1, Marsch became the first American to ever manage a team in the UEFA Champions League when Salzburg took on Belgian side KRC Genk. Marsch then became the first American manager to win a match as Salzburg mauled Genk 6-2 behind a hat trick from 19-year-old Erling Håland (he’s that guy that hung NINE goals on Honduras in the U-20 World Cup). Then on Matchday 2, Marsch showed more even in defeat. Heading to Anfield to face defending Champions League winners Liverpool, Salzburg found themselves down 3-0 by the 36th minute. However, Salzburg showed immense belief and continued to attack. In the 39th minute, they pulled one back through Hwang Hee-chan to give them life heading into the break. Then they flipped the game completely and scored two to level it in the second half (just look at Marsch’s reaction after the tying goal).

Predictably, Liverpool found a winner in the 69th minute to deny Marsch the famous result, but he deserves a ton of respect for coming in to that atmosphere and attacking Liverpool. Through two games the three points they have ties them with Liverpool for second place in the group, one point behind Napoli. Guess who they have next?

Sergiño Dest (Fullback, AFC Ajax)

Dest is the only US-eligible player who’s actually played in the Champions League this season. On Matchday 1, Ajax hosted Lille in Group H. The 18-year-old started and went the distance and picked up a hockey assist in a dominant 3-0 performance for the Dutch giants. He also did this:

On Matchday 2, Dest once again started at right back and went the distance as they travelled to Spain to take on Valencia. On the game’s third goal, Dest got a hockey assist with a nice first touch and good pass in to Dušan Tadić who slipped in Donny van de Beek. Ajax are in command of Group H with six points through their first two matches. Dest has taken advantage of the added opportunities from Nassir Mazraoui’s injuries and asserted himself very well with Ajax. Awaiting his decision between The Netherlands and the United States next month will be agonizing. Next up will be a matchup with Chelsea (Pulisic vs Dest?).

Christian Pulisic (Attacking Midfielder, Chelsea FC)

Pulisic was a spectator from the bench on Matchday 1 as Ross Barkley skimmed a penalty that would have tied the match late against Valencia. Instead they came into Matchday 2 needing points. They got it done on the road against Lille in a 2-1 win behind a late Willian volley. Pulisic wasn’t even on the bench for that match. It’s been a disastrous spell since returning from the September international window for him. He’s played in one game, in the league cup, in that timeframe. Next will be a trip to Amsterdam to face Sergiño Dest and Ajax. We’ll see if Pulisic can get himself back in the team.

Ethan Horvath (Goalkeeper, Club Brugge)

Horvath finally made an appearance for Club Brugge last week...in the Belgian Cup. He hasn’t featured in any of their league or Champions League matches since they signed Simon Mignolet. On Matchday 1, Mignolet kept a clean sheet as Brugge drew Galatasaray 0-0. On Matchday 2, Brugge went to the Bernabeu and gave Real Madrid all it could handle in a 2-2 draw. The only chance we realistically have of seeing Horvath in this competition this season is an injury or suspension. A move soon seems likely. The two points through two matches has them in second place behind PSG in Group A. We’ll see if they can hold on and pull off the unthinkable by qualifying for the knockout stage ahead of Real Madrid.

Tyler Adams (Central Midfielder, RB Leipzig)

The first of two players on the list who’s struggled with injuries, Adams has yet to see the field in any competition this season. However, life goes on for the club. On Matchday 1, Leipzig travelled to Portugal to face SL Benfica, and, as has been the case often this year, it was the Timo Werner show. He scored a brace to lead them to a 2-1 win. On Matchday 2, however, French club Olympique Lyonnais came to town and left 0-2 winners. All is not lost though as the three points has them in third place in Group G, but only a point behind Lyon and Zenit. Their next two matches against Zenit will be massive. And we may get to see Tyler Adams, since he is expected to finally return following the international break.

Timothy Weah (Striker/Winger, LOSC Lille)

Weah is the other player struggling with injuries. He remains out as he recovers from the hamstring tear he suffered in late August. As previously mentioned, Lille is struggling in the Champions League with losses in each of their first two matches against Ajax and Chelsea. Their next two matches will be against Valencia and they will need positive results in both matches if they hope to qualify for the knockout round. Hopefully Weah can get back on the field soon. These are precious opportunities to play at the game’s highest levels.

NOTE: Despite being named to Ajax’s Champions League squad, Alex Mendez has yet to make a matchday squad for either of their first two games. Likewise, Gio Reyna was named to Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League squad, but he has yet to make a matchday squad. Dortmund is tied for first place with Barcelona in Group F.

Hit the comment section to discuss the Americans so far in this competition and what you are looking for as the group stage continues.