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USMNT weekend viewing guide: Center of attention

Is a historically strong position becoming an area of weakness?

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

In an unusual turn of events, it seems that just as fans of the USMNT are seeing offensive output in Europe’s top leagues reach new levels, the center of the defense is taking some hits. It’s a real mixed bag for USMNT players in Europe, as some of our best offensive and midfield players are playing high impact soccer in the top leagues, scoring goals and making an impact. Meanwhile, some of the top centerbacks for the national team are making their way in the top league in the world, but that doesn’t mean the results are all positive. Tim Ream got beat for a tying goal last weekend, Chris Richards is being played all around the back with mixed results, and Auston Trusty’s Sheffield United are on a historically bad pace. There’s quite a bit to keep track of this weekend, so let’s get to it.


Cadiz v Real Betis - 3p on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+

Johnny Cardoso has started three straight league matches for Real Betis and went 90 minutes the previous two weeks, but he did miss the team’s Copa Del Ray loss to Deportivo Alavés on Tuesday due to an ongoing ankle injury. He has been included in the initial squad list for Friday’s matchup with 18th place Cadiz, who are three points from relegation safety. Betis are currently in 8th place, just two points back of Real Sociedad for a top six finish that would qualify them for Europa Conference League play next season.


Union Berlin v Wolfsburg - 9:30a on ESPN+

Brendan Aaronson played just eight minutes for Union Berlin on Wednesday as the team drew 1-1 with Mainz and remained in 15th place in the Bundesliga standings, three points out of relegation. Aaronson’s Union side will be taking on Kevin Paredes and Wolfsburg, who have drawn four straight matches. Paredes has started the past two matches and gone the full 90 for Wolfsburg, who are currently in 11th place, just five points ahead of Berlin.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Darmstadt - 9:30a on ESPN+

Joe Scally is once again on pace to play over 2,000 minutes in a season for Borussia Mönchengladbach, a mark he will have achieved in each of his three seasons since joining the club. Still just 21 (and having only turned that on New Years Eve), it’s remarkable that Scally has already played over 5,500 Bundesliga minutes in his young career. Scally has started twelve straight for ‘Gladbach, while his USMNT teammate Jordan Pefok has started three straight and has goal contributions in three of the last four matches. The club needs to get back on the winning track, as they have just one win in their past seven matches and are coming off a 3-1 loss to Bayern Munich. This weekend, they will face a Darmstadt team that is bottom of the table with just 11 points in 20 matches.

Werder Bremen v Heidenheim - 9:30a on ESPN+

Lennard Maloney has started every match for Heidenheim this season, and the club is currently in 10th place on a seven game unbeaten streak, though the past four have all been draws. The team has been playing stout defense as of late but have lacked a goal scoring threat.

Fulham v Bournemouth - 10a on Peacock

Antonee Robinson, Tim Ream and Fulham will look to bounce back against Bournemouth on Saturday after giving up a stoppage time goal to Burnley last week that saw the chance for a win slip away. Robinson picked up an assist in the draw while Tim Ream got his first start in two months but was beaten on the final goal as Burnley drew level. 13th place Fulham, who are just seven points clear of the relegation zone, will face a Bournemouth side that are just ahead of them in the table and coming off back to back 1-1 draws.

Luton Town v Sheffield United - 10a on Peacock

Auston Trusty continues to get EPL starts with Sheffield United, but the team has been incredibly leaky at the back, giving up 59 goals through 23 matches, including five last weekend to Aston Villa. The 2.56 goals per game has them on pace to give up 97 goals which would smash the previous high (low?) in a 38 match season, a mark which was set by Derby County in the 2007-08 season when they gave up 89 goals. Perhaps not all hope is lost for USMNT fans, who may remember the 2018-19 Fulham team featuring Tim Ream at centerback. That team gave up 81 goals on their way to relegation, with Ream starting in 24 of those matches. That team was also on pace to break the goals allowed mark before shutting out their opponents in three of their last five matches, though the 81 goals still put them in pretty dubious territory. Sheffield are going to need to find a similar streak if they are to avoid infamy on their way to relegation this season. They face a Luton Town side that is very close to the relegation zone themselves, though they have scored 32 goals this season, a mark which puts them close to the top 10. The teams just played on Boxing Day with Luton Town picking up a 3-2 win.

Nottingham Forest v Newcastle United - 12:30p on NBC

Gio Reyna saw twelve minutes off the bench last weekend in his Nottingham Forest debut, a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth. As expected, Matt Turner was benched in favor of newcomer Matz Sels. Turner was back between the sticks on Wednesday as Sels and Reyna were both ineligible for the FA Cup replay. Turner stopped six shots, plus a penalty during the shootout as his team advanced over Bristol City. It seems unlikely that was enough to return to his starting spot for league play, but Sels was not rock solid last weekend either so the opportunity could return for Turner at some point if he’s able to stay sharp. Callum Hudson-Odoi was injured last weekend, which could accelerate the team’s plans for getting Reyna minutes as well.


Getafe v Celta Vigo - 8a on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+

Luca de la Torre notched a goal and an assist last weekend as Celta Vigo picked up three crucial points against Osasuna last weekend and moved three points out of the relegation zone. It was de la Torre’s third straight start and the team’s third win in seven matches as they look to claw themselves to middle of the table. They will face 10th place Getafe this weekend, who are coming off a 1-1 draw with Real Betis.

Volendam v PSV Eindhoven - 10:45a on ESPN+

Sergiño Dest and PSV Eindhoven came back from a goal down against Ajax last weekend to maintain their unbeaten season in Eredivise play, though it was the second time in three matches that the team has settled for a 1-1 draw. Ricardo Pepi and Malik Tillman both missed the match but are expected to return soon.

Hoffenheim v Koln - 11:30a on ESPN+

John Brooks started his second straight match for Hoffenheim last weekend in a 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg, but picked up another late yellow card and is suspended for this weekend’s matchup with Köln.

Nice v Monaco - 2:45p on beIN Sports

Folarin Balogun broke his scoreless streak as he drew and converted a penalty on Thursday in Monaco’s Coupe de France match with FC Rouen. Unfortunately, the match went to a penalty shootout after ending regulation tied 1-1 and Balogun missed his kick as Monaco lost 5-6. The goal that Balogun scored did break a scoreless drought that has lasted over two months, with his last goal coming in a late November loss to PSG. Despite Balogun’s struggles, Monaco have scored the second most goals in league play but are currently in fifth place as defending has let them down. They take on second place Nice this weekend, a team they trail by just four points.

AC Milan v Napoli - 2:45p on Paramount+

Christian Pulisic and AC Milan defeated Frosinone 3-2 last weekend and remain in third place, though well behind league-leading Inter Milan. Pulisic and AC Milan will have a tough matchup this weekend against seventh place Napoli. Yunus Musah saw just four minutes off the bench last weekend and hasn’t started a match since early December.


Juventus v Udinese - 2:45p on Paramount+

Weston McKennie, Tim Weah and Juventus will need to keep the disappointment of last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Inter from building into a losing streak as they face Udinese this weekend. The loss saw Inter take a commanding four point lead for the league title with a game in hand. With Inter having lost just one match so far this season, it seems unlikely that they will slip up. Juventus will have to keep the pressure on, which can start by picking up all three points against 16th place Udinese this weekend.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea FC - 3p on USA Network

Chris Richards and Crystal Palace suffered an ugly 4-1 loss to Brighton last weekend and have given up 11 goals in their past three matches. They face a Chelsea side that defeated Aston Villa 3-1 midweek in FA Cup play but has lost their last two league matches while giving up four goals in each.

Discuss all the weekend action in the comments.