My 3 Thoughts on the Men's Champions League Matchday
Haaland's outrageous game-winner, thoughts on USMNT players and a call for Zidane to come back to Juventus
The hyper-compressed men’s UEFA Champions League schedule is already two matchdays in. Here are my three thoughts on Wednesday’s games:
• On a day when Manchester City was there for the taking, Borussia Dortmund couldn’t seal the deal. The game I watched most closely was City hosting BVB, which deservedly went ahead through Jude Bellingham in the 56th minute but then saw City’s talent win out in the end. John Stones equalized with a long-distance strike, and João Cancelo pulled out a trivela assist to Erling Haaland, whose outrageously skillful finish saw him hit the ball karate-kick style with his boot at a crazy height in a goal that reminded me of prime-years Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Good news for U.S. fans: Gio Reyna started, went 62 minutes and played well, which is a good portent for his role in the upcoming national-team games. Gio, still 19, just doesn’t look out of place at all in games of this magnitude, and the U.S. needs as much of that fearlessness as humanly possible for the World Cup. Another note: Jack Grealish is a shadow of his Aston Villa self for Man City. He keeps getting chances and started this game, but his City tenure has been entirely underwhelming so far, and that continued today.
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• Reyna and Cameron Carter-Vickers aside, it was an underwhelming Champions League day for USMNT players. Christian Pulisic got just six minutes in Chelsea’s disappointing 1-1 tie against Salzburg in Graham Potter’s coaching debut. (Todd Boehly presumably thought there should have been a penalty-kick shootout to determine a winner on the day.) Weston McKennie played all 90 minutes for Juventus, but it resulted in a 2-1 home loss to Benfica that left Juve six points behind PSG and Benfica and home fans booing their own team in Turin. And James Sands, who was left off today’s U.S. roster, got yellow cards two minutes apart to be sent off as Rangers lost 3-0 at home to Napoli. At least Cameron Carter-Vickers, freshly off being included on the U.S. roster, had a mostly solid 90 minutes for Celtic as it got a point on the road against Shakhtar in a 1-1 tie. Also, save a thought for American goalkeeper Josh Cohen, whose Maccabi Haifa team went up 1-0 at home against might PSG, only for PSG’s trio of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar to score in a 3-1 comeback win. I’d lose my nerve if I was a keeper playing against those guys, so I’m raising a glass to Cohen tonight.
• Is it time for Zinédine Zidane to replace Max Allegri at Juventus? Heck yes. We saw two coach firings after Matchday 1 (at Chelsea and Leipzig), and Juventus really should consider becoming the third team to make a change. Juve needs a different direction, and if Zizou is interested the club should make it happen. Juve just isn’t a very good team this season, if we’re being honest, and it’s only partly about the players.
What are your thoughts on the games? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
Just want to say Grant that I absolutely respect how you identify this matchday as "Men's Champion League". That's a very equitable and respectful way to differentiate between UCL and UWCL.
The first thing I thought when I saw the Juve result was that Allegri is gone. Not too "Cheerful" a thought. I know you are not into body language, Grant, but Juve's has looked awful this season, with McKennie looking downright depressed. They are definitely not the sum of their parts these days.