My 3 Thoughts on Leeds United-Chelsea
Leeds wallops Chelsea 3-0 in a huge win with Americans Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Jesse Marsch playing central roles
In a stunning result, Leeds United beat Chelsea 3-0 in the most convincing of ways on Sunday, unleashing a barrage of energy against one of the Premier League’s top teams. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• Brenden Aaronson is designed for the Premier League. The 21-year-old American was a devastating mix of skill and energy again, providing constant threats with his passing and turns (see you later, Kalidou Koulibaly, enjoy that yellow card!) while injecting energy and defensive pressure whenever Leeds lost the ball. That resulted in the game’s opening goal, when Aaronson picked the pocket of Chelsea keeper Édouard Mendy in front of an adoring Elland Road crowd. When I interviewed Aaronson in Leeds for my recent magazine story on the Americans there, I asked him what position he would play. “Not the striker,” he said, “but the three under the striker. Any position there. Left mid, center attacking mid, or right mid.” On Sunday Aaronson was deployed in the number 10 role for the first time, and while not everything he tried came off, the sheer verticality of some of his menacing through-balls reminded me of Michael Laudrup. Aaronson’s is also crazy fit. He went 82 minutes at a breakneck pace and has been on the field for all but 13 minutes in Leeds’s first three games. Hats off to one of the Premier League’s top newcomers so far this season.
• This game was a distillation of MarschBall. The philosophy of Leeds’s American coach, Jesse Marsch, is all about constant energy, full-field pressure and striking quickly in transition once you win the ball, especially when it’s in the opponent’s end of the field. Marsch, who emphasizes data analysis, also invests lots of training time into an array of intricate set-piece routines. Look how Leeds scored its goals on Sunday: The first (by Aaronson) came as the direct result of pressure on Mendy. The second (by Rodrigo, his league-leading fourth of the season) came on a well-executed set-piece corner kick. The third (by Jack Harrison) came on a decisive counterattack with Daniel James delivering a terrific cross with zero Chelsea pressure from the left side. No Leeds player knows MarschBall better than Tyler Adams, the 23-year-old American who started playing for Marsch at age 15, and Adams was sneaky-phenomenal on Sunday, seemingly everywhere to win balls in the midfield and showing his smarts to know exactly when to insert himself to stop Chelsea counters. (A particular moment happened in the second half when Adams dispossessed Raheem Sterling on a post-set-piece counter without even drawing a foul.) MarschBall is heavy-metal football, a 90-minute rush, and it was especially fun to see Marsch celebrating that way on the sideline after Leeds goals. (And you know what’s crazy? Leeds really should have a perfect nine points in the league instead of seven after losing a 2-0 lead at Southampton last week.)
• What must Christian Pulisic be thinking right now? Chelsea’s American No. 10 once again didn’t start, even though the ineffective Ruben Loftus-Cheek did in a position where Pulisic could certainly play, and losing to the Premier League’s America’s Team (with Aaronson, Adams and Marsch playing central roles) has to have Pulisic wondering about greener pastures elsewhere. Pulisic didn’t have much impact once he came on in the second half, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t have Thomas Tuchel’s trust. If he did, Chelsea wouldn’t be looking to acquire more players in his position. I would almost rather see Pulisic move on loan to Newcastle than to the dumpster fire of Manchester United, but he needs to make a move and get playing time ahead of the World Cup if he wants to have the biggest impact he could at the tournament. That’s the only bummer of an otherwise phenomenal day for fans of United States soccer.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
What a match. Mendy will never do that again. When Aaronson is in sight, he'll boot it in the future. Tuchel have second thoughts about not serving suspension?! Great job by NBC/USA to go to natural sound after the match. Leeds was joyous and nobody left. The Man of the Match, Jesse Marsch, soaked it in. This is the best of the Premiership!
Grant, Christian sifting his way through the United dumpster fire would be better than him rotting away on Tuchel’s bench. The only reason he’s still there is to sell #10 Chelsea shirts in the US. Tuchel didn’t really respect him at Dortmund, obviously doesn’t now, and won’t going forward. Time to go.
Great game from Leeds. If you’re a USMNT fan, or a “homer” American, Leeds have got to be your “side chick” team, no matter who your favorite team is.