My 3 Thoughts on Paris Saint-Germain-Juventus
Weston McKennie scores for Juventus, but it's not enough to overcome Kylian Mbappé's two early strikes in a 2-1 Paris victory.
On the first matchday of the men’s UEFA Champions League group stage, USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie scored with a thumping second-half header to cut the lead to 2-1, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Kylian Mbappé’s two goals in the opening 22 minutes as the home side triumphed. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• Mbappé’s manifold gifts were a difference-maker (again). What can you say about the two goals that Mbappé finished? They were absolute class and revealed so many of the attributes that he brings to the table: Speed of thought, a ruthless finishing ability and an almost telepathic connection with his Paris teammates. Mbappé’s opener, just five minutes in, came off a gorgeous combination with Neymar, who lobbed a pass toward him that Mbappé took right off the volley into the net. Then 14 minutes later, Mbappé worked a glorious give-and-go with Achraf Hakimi at speed and finished once again. Two chances, two goals. On a day when Lionel Messi was more subdued than he has been during PSG’s Ligue 1 campaign and Neymar had a couple standout moments but not much beyond that, it was Mbappé who proved once again that he is the star of the show in the City of Light. With Erling Haaland scoring his own brace in Man City’s 4-0 win at Sevilla, get ready for even more talk than we’ve seen in previous years of Haaland and Mbappé taking over for Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
• McKennie scored Juve’s goal, but he also helped make the team better on his arrival. Juventus was outplayed in the first half, though the Old Lady should have had one goal off the golden-chance header that Arkadiusz Milik somehow hit right at Gigi Donnarumma that could have equalized at 1-1. But McKennie came on for Fabio Miretti to start the second half and scored on a trademark Wes Header in the 53rd minute to bring Juve back into the game. (No, I’m not sure what Donnarumma was doing on the play.) McKennie did more than just score, though. He brought a much-needed energy in the second half at both ends of the field—take that hard foul, Mbappé!—that helped result in a more evenly-played 45 minutes in which a Juve equalizer wouldn’t have been undeserved. Four current USMNT players came on as subs in the MUCL on Tuesday—McKennie, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Milan’s Sergiño Dest and Dortmund’s Gio Reyna—and McKennie and Reyna both had quality games that could help them see more starter’s minutes in the near future.
• Tuesday was a huge United States media day for Mbappé. The Frenchman, who doesn’t give that many interviews, had two big ones appear in U.S. publications on the same day for stories in the Wall Street Journal (by Joshua Robinson) and the New York Times (by Tariq Panja). It’s a reminder to me that when a World Cup comes near, there’s always such a glut of premium soccer content in the U.S. media (newspapers, magazines, books, documentary films) that you wish it could be spread out more evenly over a four-year period. Anyway, take the time to read the stories; they’re both good. And the WSJ story has my favorite quote of the entire day:
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
That last point was sooo prescient. US Media really just cares about soccer when the World Cup is around, but should pay it more attention throughout the entire qualifying cycle.
Good to see Gio Reyna on the pitch for Dortmund and contributing. He’s a special talent.