The influx of U.S. men's national team players at top European clubs has resulted in a number of new standards being set at the highest level of competition, and Tuesday brought more evidence of that, when a record seven U.S. internationals featured on a single UEFA Champions League matchday.
A record six of the seven started and one scored a goal, with Jordan Pefok tallying Young Boys' first in a wild 3–3 draw vs. Atalanta.
Two matches featured head-to-head battles. Chelsea's 4–0 thrashing of Juventus saw Christian Pulisic started on one side (playing 72 minutes) and Weston McKennie on the other (all 90), while Lille's 1–0 win over Salzburg had U.S. wingers Tim Weah (84 minutes) and Brenden Aaronson (85) opposing each other. That match was decided by an early goal from in-form New York-born Canadian international Jonathan David.
Chelsea's win sent the reigning European champion to the top of the group, though both the Blues and Juventus are assured of places in the last 16, while Lille and Salzburg's group is wide open, with all four teams separated by no more than three points heading into the final matchday.
Another U.S. player in that group, John Brooks (who was omitted from the last set of U.S. World Cup qualifiers despite being healthy, unlike his exclusion in October), started and played 88 minutes in Wolfsburg's 2–0 defeat to Sevilla. The only U.S. substitute on the day, Sergiño Dest, was a late entrant for the final four minutes, plus stoppage time, in Barcelona's 0–0 draw vs. Benfica, which leaves the club likely needing a result vs. Bayern Munich to ward off the Portuguese side for second in the group. Barcelona leads by two points, but Benfica enjoys the better head-to-head mark after their two meetings.
As for Pefok, his goal was a welcome one from a personal standpoint. It was his second in the Champions League this season—the first gave Young Boys a shocking win over Manchester United—and his second in as many games in all competitions after a six-week scoring slump. Like Brooks, he hasn't been in U.S. camp since the September window, but a robust run between now and the January window could put him back in frame for a recall.
Wednesday's U.S. output from a performance quantity standpoint won't be as robust at all, with Tyler Adams suspended for RB Leipzig's match at Club Brugge. His manager, American Jesse Marsch, will also miss the match after testing positive for COVID-19. Leipzig is already out of contention to reach the knockout stage but is still playing for third place and a spot in the Europa League's last 32.
Zack Steffen, meanwhile, is set to deputize as Ederson's backup for Manchester
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