The 2021-22 UEFA Champions League season certainly promises to be another intriguing one for U.S. Men's National Team players.
At least nine USMNT players and their teams are headed for Europe's most prestigious club competition after the dust settled on the final day of action in many of the continent's top leagues on Sunday.
Two players - Chelsea's Christian Pulisic and Juventus' Weston McKennie - learned that their respective sides were headed for the UCL.
The teams of Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Tim Weah (Lille) and Zack Steffen (Manchester City) had already qualified.
That doesn't include five other players whose teams still have a chance to compete against Europe’s elite. Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys) and DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray) can book a spot through a qualifying tournament this summer. Defender Chris Richards, loaned by Bayern Munich to Hoffenheim this season, could return to the Bundesliga champions.
That could mean as many as 14 USMNT players in Europe’s prime club competition next season.Not too shabby.
BY THE SKIN OF THEIR TEETH
The score line said that Chelsea and Christian Pulisic were losers on the final day of the English Premier League on Sunday. In reality, they turned out big winners as they survived a rollercoaster ride to finish fourth place in the league and book another spot in the UCL next season.
For the record, the Blues dropped a 2-1 decision to Aston Villa at Villa Park, but thanks to Tottenham recording a 4-2 win at Leicester City, Chelsea secured a spot. Three minutes into stoppage time, Chelsea manager Tom Tuchel learned of the result and signaled a thumb's up several times to the players on the field that his team was safe for next season.
Depending on the time of the day and because of fluctuating scores in the Tottenham-Leicester and Liverpool-Crystal Palace matches, Chelsea was either in, out, in, out and eventually in again. Chelsea finished a point ahead of Leicester.
Pulisic played a major role in the visitors' lone goal as his right-wing feed set up Ben Chilwell in the 70th minute. The assist was his sixth in the Premier League, tying him with Landon Donovan and Roy Wegerle for third all-time among USMNT players.
Chelsea and Pulisic will have the present-day Champions League competition on their minds later this week as they take on Manchester City and Zack Steffen in the final in Porto, Portugal this Saturday. Both players will miss the USMNT's friendly against Switzerland in St. Gallen on Sunday.
Juventus started the day in fifth place but finished in fourth and clinched a UCL berth after its 4-1 victory against host Bologna. Midfielder Weston McKennie helped close out the win, playing the final 32 minutes. On Wednesday, he went the entire way and assisted on a goal as Juve captured the Coppa Italia behind a 2-1 triumph over Atalanta.
Juve needed to better Napoli’s result as the latter could only record a 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona on Sunday. The Turin-based team beat out Napoli by a point to claim Serie A’s final Champions League place.
McKennie played in 34 Serie A matches for the Italian power this season, the second most by a USMNT, second only to Michael Bradley who appeared in 35 for Chievo in 2011-12.
UP, UP AND AWAY
Three years after Julian Green scored a goal on the final day to save Greuther Fürth from relegation to the German third division, the U.S. midfielder put home a goal that helped push the club up to the Bundesliga on Sunday. This on the eve of his first USMNT camp appearance since 2018.
Needing a win against Fortuna Düsseldorf to have any chance of automatic promotion, they finished the first half down 1-0 and with 10 men the rest of the way when Anton Stach was sent off in stoppage time. A penalty from Branimir Hrgota pulled them level in the 53rd minute, but Düsseldorf jumped back ahead just three minutes later.
The Julian Green goal (his 10th of the season) that would earn Greuther Fürth promotion to the Bundesliga if Fürth can hold on the 2-2 draw or take the lead: pic.twitter.com/jov7GAKdva— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) May 23, 2021
Around the same time in northern Germany, Fürth’s promotion rivals Holstein Kiel also went down 2-1 to visiting Darmstadt. That score line set the stage for Green’s 69th minute equalizer, the USMNT midfielder putting home Marco Meyerhofer’s centering pass from six yards out to push Fürth into second place.
Substitute Dickson Abiama added a third goal for Fürth to ensure their victory and Kiel eventually fell 3-2 to Darmstadt, securing Green and his club a rise back to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2012-13.
THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen became the first USMNT player to win an English Premier League medal as Manchester City celebrated its achievement with a 5-0 home win against Everton. Steffen, who did not play in the match, had a ringside seat on the bench.
What a team 💙— Zack Steffen (@zacksteffen_) May 23, 2021
Amazing to have all of you fans back in the stadium and celebrate with you 💯 One last game to go now! 👊🏾 pic.twitter.com/JoEy1XUbxv
Tim Weah didn't play for Lille, which clinched the French Ligue 1 crown with a 2-1 win over Angers SCO on Sunday. Lille edged Paris Saint-Germain by a point for the title. He is the only U.S. international to win Ligue 1, having also played for PSG's championship sides in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Weah had a much bigger impact for Lille this season, appearing in 28 matches and providing three goals for the Ligue 1 champs.
🇺🇸 𝗬𝗘𝗦 𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗢 🇺🇸 🏆 pic.twitter.com/rm1U0h3z6Z— LOSC Lille EN (@LOSC_EN) May 23, 2021
PERFORMANCES OF NOTE
Brenden Aaronson capped a memorable season for Red Bull Salzburg, setting up Mërgim Berisha’s goals in the 26th and 66th minutes of a 4-0 win against Swarovski Tirol in the Austrian Bundesliga finale Saturday.
The 20-year-old attacker finished his first half season on European soil with seven goals and five assists in 25 matches across all competitions, helping Salzburg to the Austrian league and cup double.
After Club Brugge clinched the Belgian Jupiler league title at midweek, goalkeeper Ethan Horvath received a rare start for the newly crowned leagued champions in its 2-1 loss to Genk on Sunday. USMNT teammate Mark McKenzie went the distance for Genk.
Defender Tim Ream captained Fulham in its final two Premier League matches this season, playing to a 1-1 draw at second-place Manchester United on Tuesday before a 2-0 loss to Newcastle United on Sunday.
On loan from Orlando City, Daryl Dike, who helped spark Barnsley's late season run into the EFL Championship promotion playoffs, fell short with his team. Barnsley lost its aggregate goals semifinal series to Swansea City, 2-1.
The 20-year-old forward played 88 minutes in a 1-0 home defeat last Monday and came on as a halftime substitute in the 1-1 draw at Swansea on Saturday. Dike finished the season with nine goals in 21 appearances for the English Championship side.
It also was heartbreak for Cameron Carter-Vickers and Bournemouth as they lost their semifinal series to Brentford, 3-2. Carter-Vickers went the entire way in both matches. He played in the 1-0 first-leg victory on Monday, May 17 and the 3-1 away defeat on Saturday. He assisted on Arnaut Groeneveld's fifth-minute goal in the second leg to give Bournemouth a two-goal lead before Brentford rattled off three successive goals to win.
THEY'RE GOING DOWN
Striker Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen, who needed a win to keep their hopes up, were relegated to the Second Bundesliga after its 4-2 home loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday. Sargent played 67 minutes in the match and finished the season with five goals in 32 appearances.
Last-place Schalke, whose relegation fate had been determined weeks ago, and Matthew Hoppe, dropped a 1-0 decision at Köln to close out the season on Saturday. Hoppe, the first American to register a Bundesliga hat-trick, scored six goals in 22 games.
-- Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; MLS) - 90 minutes in 2-1 loss at LAFC (May 22)
-- Paul Arriola (D.C. United; MLS) – 90 minutes in 1-0 loss to Philadelphia Union (May 23)
-- Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig; German Bundesliga) – Injured, DNP in 2-1 loss at Union Berlin (May 22)
-- Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg; Austrian Bundesliga) - 90 minutes and TWO ASSISTS in 4-0 win vs. Swarovski Tirol (May 22)
-- Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; MLS) - 70 minutes in 1-0 loss at Orlando City SC (May 22)
-- Julian Araujo (Los Angeles Galaxy; MLS) - 90 minutes in 3-0 loss at Portland Timbers (May 22)
-- George Bello (Atlanta United; MLS) – 90 minutes in 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders (May 23)
-- John Brooks (Wolfsburg; Bundesliga) - 57 minutes in 3-2 loss vs. Mainz 05 (May 22)
-- Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; MLS) - 90 minutes in 1-0 loss at Orlando City SC (May 22)
-- Johnny Cardoso (Internacional; Brazilian Serie A) - DNP in 1-1 draw at Gremio (May 23); In 18, DNP in 1-0 at Olimpia in Copa Libertadores Cup (May 20)
-- Reggie Cannon (Boavista; Portuguese Primeira) – 90 minutes in 2-0 win at Gil Vicente (May 19)
-- Cameron Carter-Vickers (Bournemouth; England Championship) - 90 minutes in 3-1 loss at Brentford in EFL playoffs (May 22); 90 minutes and ASSIST in 1-0 win vs. Brentford in EFL playoffs (May 17)
-- Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; MLS) - 8 minutes in 3-1 loss vs. Sporting Kansas City (May 22)
-- Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona; Spain La Liga/Segunda B) - In 18, DNP in 1-0 win at Eibar (May 22)
-- Sergiño Dest (Barcelona; Spain La Liga) – 90 minutes in 1-0 win at Eibar (May 22)
-- Daryl Dike (Barnsley; English Championship) - 45 minutes as a substitute in 1-1 draw at Swansea City in EFL playoffs (May 22); 88 minutes in 1-0 loss vs. Swansea City in EFL playoffs (May 17)
-- Julian Green (Greuther Fürth; German Second Bundesliga) – 89 minutes and a GOAL in 3-2 win vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf (May 23)
-- Brad Guzan (Atlanta United) – 90 minutes in 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders (May 23)
-- Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04; German Bundesliga) - 89 minutes in a 1-0 loss at Köln (May 22)
-- Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge; Belgian Pro League) - 90 minutes in 2-1 loss vs. Genk (May 23); In 18, DNP in 3-3 draw at Anderlecht (May 20)
-- Sean Johnson (New York City FC; MLS) - 90 minutes in 2-1 loss vs. Columbus Crew (May 22)
-- Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; MLS) - 27 minutes as a substitute in 2-1 loss at Los Angeles FC (May 22)
-- Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; MLS) - 80 minutes in 3-0 loss at Portland Timbers (May 22)
-- Weston McKennie (Juventus; Italian Serie A) – 32 minutes as a substitute in 4-1 win at Bologna (May 23); 90 minutes and ASSIST in 2-1 win vs. Atalanta in Coppa Italia (May 19)
-- Mark McKenzie (Genk; Belgian Pro League) - 90 minutes in 2-1 win at Club Brugge (May 23); 90 minutes in 4-0 win at Antwerp (May 20)
-- Matt Miazga (Anderlecht; Belgian Pro League) - 13 minutes and a RED CARD in 1-0 loss at Antwerp (May 23); 90 minutes and ASSIST in 3-3 draw vs. Club Brugge (May 20)
-- Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal; MLS) - 90 minutes and GOAL in 2-1 loss vs. FC Cincinnati (May 22)
-- Chris Mueller (Orlando City; MLS) - 20 minutes as a substitute in 1-0 win vs. Toronto FC (May 22)
-- Yunus Musah (Valencia; Spain La Liga) - 9 minutes as a substitute in 0-0 draw at Huesca (May 22)
-- David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; MLS) - 90 minutes in 2-2 draw at FC Dallas (May 22)
-- Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers; English Premier League) - Injured, DNP in 2-1 loss vs. Manchester United (May 23); Injured, DNP in 1-0 loss at Everton (May 19)
-- Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien; Austrian Bundesliga) – Not in 18, DNP in 3-2 loss at Ried (May 21);
-- Andrés Perea (Orlando City; MLS) - 31 minutes as a substitute in 1-0 win vs. Toronto FC (May 22)
-- Christian Pulisic (Chelsea; English Premier League) – 90 minutes and ASSIST in 2-1 loss at Aston Villa (May 23); 90 minutes in 2-1 win vs. Leicester City (May 18)
-- Tim Ream (Fulham; English Premier League) - 90 minutes in 2-0 loss vs. Newcastle United (May 23); 90 minutes in 1-1 draw at Manchester United (May 18)
-- Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund; German Bundesliga) – 11 minutes as a substitute in 3-1 win vs. Bayer Leverkusen (May 22)
-- Bryan Reynolds (AS Roma, Italy Serie A) - 45 minutes as a substitute in 2-2 draw at Spezia (May 23)
-- Chris Richards (Hoffenheim; German Bundesliga) - Injured, DNP in 2-1 win vs. Hertha BSC (May 22)
-- Antonee Robinson (Fulham; English Premier League) - Injured, DNP in 2-0 loss vs. Newcastle United (May 23); Injured, DNP in 1-1 draw at Manchester United (May 18)
-- Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; MLS) – 90 minutes in 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders (May 23)
-- Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; MLS) – 90 minutes in 1-1 draw with Atlanta United (May 23)
-- Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen; German Bundesliga) – 67 minutes in 4-2 loss vs. Borussia Moenchengladbach (May 22)
-- Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys; Swiss Super League) - Not in 18, DNP in Lausanne Sport (May 21)
-- Zack Steffen (Manchester City; English Premier League) – In 18, DNP in 5-0 win vs. Everton (May 23); In 18, DNP in 3-2 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion (May 18)
-- Matt Turner (New England Revolution; MLS) - 90 minutes in 3-1 win vs. New York Red Bulls (May 22)
-- Tim Weah (Lille; French Ligue 1) – In 18, DNP in 2-1 win at Angers SCO (May 23)
-- Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; MLS) - 90 minutes in 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City (May 22)
-- Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; MLS) - 90 minutes in 2-1 loss at Los Angeles FC (May 22)
-- Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; MLS) - 90 minutes in 2-1 win at New York City FC (May 22)
-- Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; MLS) – 90 minutes in 1-0 win vs. Austin FC (May 23)