CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Monday, July 23, 2012
The long awaited opening day weekend for many leagues is now in the books and it was an amazing few days for American players abroad.
Mexico, Austria and 3. Bundesliga kicked off with Americans at the helm on Friday night, and it has been non-stop action with mostly positive results for the Yanks involved.
It started with the Liga MX kickoff between Tijuana and Puebla, that featured four Americans. Unfortunately, DaMarcus Beasley was subbed out as a precaution after taking a knock to his ankle in the 22nd minute, but for the rest of the Americans there could not have been a better evening. Joe Corona came within inches of opening up the scoring, but his volley off of a cross went agonizingly high of the crossbar.
Edgar Castillo ran with blistering pace up and down the left flank and was a constant threat to the Puebla defense. His inch-perfect through ball set up Alfredo Moreno for a clean break on goal, but he was dragged down for a foul. On the resulting free kick, Fernando Arce stepped up and blasted home a goal to put Tijuana in the lead.
Corona and Castillo both had very positive games, but were subbed out early in the second half to make way for more players. Greg Garza came on for Castillo, in a straight American-for-American swap. Garza played solidly in the defense and participated in some nice passing combinations in the middle and offensive third.
In Saturday nights game between Santos Laguna and San Luis, Herculez Gomez and Michael Orozco both played 90 minutes, with Gomez putting in the star performance. In the fourth minute, with Santos already trailing by a goal, Gomez headed the ball into Carlos Quintero's path, resulting in a goal for Santos and assist for the fan favorite Herc.
Gomez himself got on the board with the game winner in the 72nd minute, capping off his usual tireless game. Gomez was tipped in the Apertura Preview to have a big season, continuing his output from last year where he had the best scoring rate in Mexico. The game against San Luis was the perfect start to the season.
To make matters more interesting and to continue with the good news of the weekend in Mexico, Jonathan Bornstein made a cameo appearance for Tigres, playing the final four minutes against Jaguares. This marks the first time he has made a league appearance in two years.
One more interesting factoid from Mexico that could spell more good news for the near future is Phoenix, Arizona native Ventura Alvarado making the bench for Club America. Alvarado was last with America's Under-20 team, that won the 2012 Clausura.
In Austria, the long-awaited professional debut of Terrence Boyd finally occurred, as FC Wacker Innsbruck rode into town to face Rapid Vienna. Boyd was up to the task, scoring in the fourth minute off of a cross from the left flank, setting the tone for an incredibly dangerous and confident performance. Vienna's second goal started from a hustle play by Boyd, coming back into the defensive third to muscle the ball away from Wacker. The ball was then played upfield, eventually resulting in a goal.
Boyd made highlight reels last week with his bicycle kick goal against AS Roma, and he nearly repeated with a bicycle kick in the second half going wide. Boyd assisted on goal number three for Vienna, as he hustled once again to turn the tables on Wacker. Tackling the ball away from an unsuspecting defender, Boyd took possession 30 yards out and ran clean onto goal, drawing the goalkeeper off his line. Boyd then passed the ball left to Christopher Drazan who easily put the ball into the open net.
Boyd's spectacular day continued as he netted Vienna's fourth and final goal, taking a bouncing pass just inside the top of the 18. Boyd's turning shot was deflected by the goalkeeper's foot, and the ball looped up and off the bottom of the cross bar, appearing that it was going to stay out. However, there was enough backspin on the ball that it bounced back over the goal line and in. Boyd would be subbed out just a couple minutes later to a standing ovation.
In Norway, Josh Gatt was a halftime substitute for Molde who were losing 2-0 to Viking, and it took the speedy winger only a minute to convert a goal to put Molde back in the game. Unfortunately, Gatt went down with an injury only a few minutes after that, and he did not return to the game.
Also in Norway, Steve Clark has emerged as one of the top goalkeepers in the country and he posted another shutout in a 2-0 win over Fredrikstad on Sunday. Could a January callup for Clark be in the fold? He's certainly making a strong case.
In Germany, the third division kicked off with Royal-Dominique Fennell and Stuttgart Kickers playing Hansa Rostock in the battle between newly promoted and newly relegated teams. Fennell had a strong game for the Kickers, and was one of the few to consistently have a positive impact on the field. He created a clear opportunity in the second half to go ahead in the game 2-1, by putting a perfectly weighted pass behind the defense for his teammate to run onto. Unfortunately, the goal was not converted, and the Kickers ended up losing the game 2-1 as Rostock grabbed the winner late in the game.
Elsewhere in the 3. Bundesliga, Matt Taylor and Pruessen Munster opened up against Wacker Burghausen. Taylor scored the clinching goal of a 2-0 result in the 44th minute.
Adding to the American joys of the weekend was action in Denmark, as Conor O'Brien fantastic start to the season continued as he provided the assist for Sonderjyske in a 1-1 tie with Superliga-powers Copenhagen. Only a couple of hours prior to this, Charlie Davies made his debut for Randers, playing 22 minutes in a 1-0 win over OB. Davies has ambitions to climb back to the top, and finding regular minutes with Randers could be his recipe for success.
While the season openers and Danish performances were grabbing headlines, preseason is still in progress in England and Germany's top flight. Youngster Will Packwood played 90 minutes in defense for Birmingham City in a 2-2 tie with Borussia Monchengladbach, while Joe Gyau came on as a substitute for Hoffenheim and bagged a goal in a 2-0 victory over Waldhof Mannheim. Completing the preseason success, John Anthony Brooks and Alfredo Morales both started and played 90 minutes for Hertha Berlin in a 3-2 victory over Norwich City.
On a final note, the once promising Bobby Wood looked like he might have been on his way out of professional soccer after sustaining a series of injuries that kept him off the field for Stuart Holden-esque periods of time. Wood has bounced back, however, and with quite the spring in his step. He scored two goals for 1860 Munich II on Friday, signalling that perhaps the worst is behind him, and he can finally resume his development.
If this weekend held so much good news, what will next weekend bring?