Friday Newsletter: On Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Much More
Plus my answers to a large Mailbag-full of your questions
It’s a great day. I’m sitting in front of my TV watching Crystal Palace-Arsenal in the opening game of the Premier League season, and I’m preparing to park myself in the same place tomorrow to watch a few more games and get a handle on where teams are to kick off the new season.
First off, a couple thoughts about Friday’s league openers:
CRYSTAL PALACE 0, ARSENAL 2
Maybe it’s because I just watched the start of the Arsenal All or Nothing series last night, but the absolute debacle of a start to last season is still on my mind. So winning deservedly at a pretty good Palace side to kick off the new season is a sea change that will no doubt raise the expectations of Arsenal fans around the world that this, indeed, will be the year.
FRANKFURT 1, BAYERN MUNICH 6
You thought the Europa League champion, the team that eliminated Barcelona from that competition, would be ready to make a statement in the Bundesliga’s opening game against the 10-time-defending champion? Well, a statement got made. Congrats to Bayern on winning the title. (This isn’t good, at all, for the Bundesliga.)
Let’s make this Friday Newsletter a full mailbag. You all sent in some fun questions, so I’ll dive in:
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When do you think Laporta and crew will take all the trophies down to the local pawn shop or put them on eBay? (Seriously, very sad to be watching Barcelona and its legacy crumble before our eyes.)
I wrote this tweet a couple nights ago:
Look, I don’t have any problem saying that I have always felt positive vibes toward FC Barcelona. At one point they really did have some of the best teams we’ve ever seen in this sport, and there really was a sense that it stood for something more than just a sports team. But those days seem gone. No sane person would think the solution to being in more than a billion dollars in debt would be to try to pressure current players into taking salary cuts, mortgage future TV earnings and then spend without end to bring more stars into the team. As much as anything, Barcelona is showing why having member-owned clubs and elections (as opposed to an actual owner) is a bad idea in the modern game.
The funny thing is, La Liga might not let Barcelona register all their new signings. Stay tuned.
Which European-based USMNT player will raise their profile the most by their club performance leading up to the World Cup? (I think Brenden Aaronson will hit the ground running at Leeds and surprise a lot of people who haven't seen him play.)
I agree with you on Aarsonson. For starters, not that many people saw him play in the Austrian Bundesliga last season, and in Champions League (and during Leeds United’s preseason) he really has shown that he has taken a steep step upward in quality since his MLS days. The training session I saw Aaronson in last week in Leeds showed he’s ready to break out and be an absolute star, a player who produces goals and assists on a regular basis.
What's going on with John Brooks? Are many clubs averse to signing him for the same reason(s) he hasn't gotten a USMNT callup in nearly a year?
For anyone who doesn’t know, Brooks remains an unsigned free agent for now after his contract expired with Wolfsburg. The latest reports have linked him to Feyenoord in the Netherlands, but Brooks really does need to find a landing spot so that 1) he can resurrect his club career, and 2) he can at least make a case to be part of the USMNT for the World Cup. My sense is he wants a certain level of income—remember, he has made a lot of money in his career—but I was personally hoping he would come to an MLS team during the window, which didn’t happen.
Will Jesse Marsch be scapegoated at Leeds for WC fatigue in fellow Americans Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson (with home supporters blaming the Americans for failing to live up to replacement expectations for fan favorites Marcelo Bielsa, Kalvin Phillips and Raphinia)?
The word “scapegoated” suggests you’re already making an assumption that something bad will happen and/or that Aaronson and Adams won’t have enough energy or stamina. I’m not so sure that’s the case. What I would say are a couple things: 1) There is a wide variation of potential outcomes for Leeds United in my mind. I think LUFC could end up in another relegation battle, or it might finish as high as eighth or ninth in the league; 2) Aaronson and Adams are already viewed as big additions inside the team (I learned that in person last week), though I think it’s important to note that Phillips left for Man City and Raphinia for Barcelona. As for Bielsa, he’ll always be remembered for improving Leeds’s culture and getting them back to the Premier League, but it was crystal clear that he needed to go when he did. His approach on a daily basis just isn’t sustainable for very long, and he’s not missed by people inside the club (players or staff).
Ronaldo wants to leave a messed up Man U. His perfect move is to MLS where he will be made extremely welcome for a couple of years and will continue to be a star. In MLS he will be a bigger star than Beckham and help grow the game in USA.
I’m not 100 percent sold that Ronaldo at 37 would be a bigger star in MLS than Beckham was at 31. But I do agree with you, Alan, that MLS would be the right move for Ronaldo to make right now. He wants to play in the Champions League, but there’s not a Champions League team that appears to want Ronaldo right now (correctly viewing Ronaldo’s net-negative impact at Man United and Juventus). That’s why I think he’ll stay at United in the end this season.
How do you think USWNT will fare against the Lionesses? Will be interesting to see Vlatko's lineup. They certainly won't be as dialed in as England's squad. A loss won't be fatal but will throw shade on his progress and whether he is the ONE.
If I had to pick a winner for the October 7 England-USA game at Wembley, I’d lean toward England. The atmosphere and 90,000 crowd will be intensely supportive of the hosts, and I feel like England is farther along in terms of its chemistry than this U.S. team is right now. But I think it’s important to add that this showdown is the kind that the U.S. players really get up for. If any team in the women’s game would be called (to use Jürgen Klopp’s words) “mentality monsters,” it would be the USWNT. And we might well see that again in October.
Who do you see as surprise candidates to surface for the USMNT or the USWNT in time for their respective World Cup competitions?
Forward Brandon Vázquez from Cincinnati (13 goals, 4 assists) is making a great case to be included in the USMNT squad for the World Cup, especially if there are 26 spots. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw (recently signed by San Diego) has a rocket next to her name and could be hard to keep off the World Cup roster next year.
Riqui Puig has a better, longer and less controversial run in LA than Yasiel Puig. Yes or no?
Yes! (These are my readers.)
What are your thoughts on the work Pablo Mauer has done for The Athletic? I have really enjoyed his long pieces on the stories and quirks regarding the history of US soccer.
Pablo is not only a friend, but he’s also a tremendous journalist and photographer (and mechanic!). Anytime someone can write so many good stories of a certain type that there becomes a genre associated with their name is a great sign for someone. This job isn’t easy, but Pablo has a great sense for what would make a good story, and then he goes completely down the rabbit hole to report it before executing a well-written and organized piece. All of those things are challenging, and he does them.
How do you think limited travel at this year’s World Cup will impact the experience of teams and fans?
There are a bunch of huge issues with Qatar hosting the World Cup, but the limited travel is not one of them. Travel ordeals inside big World Cup countries can really take away from enjoying the experience, and that shouldn’t be a big problem later this year. (That is, as long as everyone can find hotel rooms.)
Would Gregg Berhalter benefit the USMNT by bringing on someone like Landon Donovan as part of the staff for the World Cup? In a similar way Argentina is bringing Sergio Aguero along? Not just for the experience, and inspiration he can impart on the young group, but also since he's now a coach in his own right?
It’s not a bad idea, since Donovan has had World Cup experiences like very few Americans. I just don’t see it happening, not least because Berhalter himself has competed in World Cups, and he’s very data-oriented, which is why he added a set-piece coach ahead of the World Cup but not someone like Donovan. Besides, we need Landon for our podcast discussions!
What's your take on the Miazga move back to MLS? Will he partner with or replace Cameron at FCC? Any chance of getting back into the USMNT mix? Were all those years loaned out by CFC lost, or has he improved while doing so?
I’m glad to see MIazga back in MLS. I think he still has the potential to return to the national team, and I wish he hadn’t gone the Chelsea route (hence: loans) a few years ago. I figure he’ll play with Geoff Cameron at Cincinnati, not in place of him, and this is another step in Cincy becoming a regular playoff contender instead of a league doormat.
Is your mind blown by the attendance numbers for women's soccer this year, especially in Europe? I love this and really hope it continues.
Big crowds really have been a theme of the year in women’s soccer, from England’s games at the Euros to Barcelona drawing 90,000-plus twice for home Champions League games to Morocco getting nearly 50,000 for home AFCON games to Colombia drawing 28,000 for the Copa América final to Angel City regularly filling up its stadium in Los Angeles. You can be certain England-USA will get upwards of 90,000 in October for their friendly. This will only continue.
Have a great weekend!
I read that Wembley is already sold out for USWNT vs The Lionesses. Great to see
I like Jesse Marsch he’s a good manager and he’s completely his own man. His Leeds trade moves show he knows more about US players than most PL managers. He will be gone at Leeds before Xmas if he struggles.