When the UEFA Champions League group stage draw took place in September, the October 2nd date was shaping up to be a special day for American soccer.
Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea was facing Tim Weah’s Lille. Tyler Adams RB Leipzig was at home against underdog Lyon, and Sergino Dest’s Ajax would be in action in a big clash against Valencia. Throw in Jesse Marsch’s scheduled trip to Anfield for his Red Bull Salzburg against reigning champion Liverpool, and the day would have been one to circle on the calendar as a reason to call in sick from work and park yourself in front of a few television screens.
Things didn’t go at all according to plan though, and instead of a dream day, Wednesday turned into a heaping pile of disappointment for American soccer fans.
Pulisic went from being stuck on the Chelsea bench to not even dressing for Wednesday’s win against Lille, a match Weah missed with the same injury that has derailed the start of his season. Chelsea earned a 2-1 win, with Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi – two of the players eating away at Pulisic’s dwindling playing time — combining on Willian’s winning goal.
Tyler Adams didn’t make his return to action for RB Leipzig, remaining on the shelf as his recovering from an offseason groin injury continues to drag on. To make matters worse, the German club suffered a 2-0 home loss to Lyon that dropped Leipzig to third in its group.
One U.S. Men’s National Team player did take part in a Champions League victory, only it was the player who may never play for the USMNT again. On the same day it was revealed Sergino Dest wouldn’t take part in the October Nations League matches in order to avoid being cap-tied — and in order to consider the possibility of playing for the Netherlands — Dest started in Ajax’s impressive 3-0 road win against Valencia. Dest put in a passable shift, but on a day when the rest of the American contingent was injured or otherwise sidelined, Dest’s performance would have have been something for American fans to feel good about.
Instead, it only served to provide a reminder that Dest could be moving closer to a switch to the Dutch National Team.
The only saving grace for American fans came from Marsch, who led his team into Anfield against Liverpool and, after erasing a 3-0 deficit in dramatic fashion to pull even at 3-3, eventually suffered a 4-3 loss. Marsch hunched over at the final whistle, letting out a sigh as he knew how close his team came to pulling off a shocker, but even in defeat both he and Salzburg earned serious respect for the way they went after mighty Liverpool.
Given Pulisic’s predicament at Chelsea, and the slow recoveries of Adams and Weah, and Dest’s uncertain national team future, American soccer fans desperate for something to feel good about on Champions League match days might want to start paying more attention to Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg.
While he may not be playing, Marsch is still representing American soccer well, and doing so at a time when American soccer fans are in need of something to feel good about.