PREVIEW: BUNDESLIGA RETURNS
After weeks on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the German Bundesliga makes its return this weekend. What can we expect for the Americans when they take the field?
The sports world will certainly be keeping a close eye on Germany as the country's top-flight division becomes the first of the major league's in Europe to attempt to finish out their season. With the German Football Association and German Football League working together to develop a set of stringent safety protocols, its success could lead to the lower divisions and the women's league to play out the rest of their games. This could also likely set a roadmap for other European leagues to follow.
However, it's important to remember that this experiment has to get through this weekend, and if the results are positive, there could be more soccer to come despite the lack of spectators in the stands.
The return of the Bundesliga should bring a bit of a reprieve for many still at home due to the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed the lives of many around the world. And it should be an exciting race as the league title is still very much up for grabs along with the European spots.
As for the Americans, most of them could play vital role in their respective team's outcomes as there are nine games left to play out the current season.
Here is a rundown of the scheduled games involving the American players.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke
There is no doubt that the Revierderby is the big game to watch this weekend as the Gelsenkirchen rivals face off at Signal Iduna Park.
In the first half of the season, both teams had to settle for a point following a 0-0 tie. But this time around both sides will be chomping at the bit to gain bragging rights for the season. A win would come in handy for Dortmund as they remain in the hunt for the Bundesliga crown. Only four points separate them from leaders Bayern Munich, so they will want to keep the pressure on the Bavarians and hope that they crack under the pressure to inch them closer to the summit.
Schalke may not be chasing for the title, but a European place is in their sights. After a string of disappointments last season, the Royal Blues have made slight improvements under head coach David Wagner which has led them to contend for a Europa League spot. However, it's not been guaranteed as they currently sit in sixth place, only a point ahead of Wolfsburg and Freiburg, with a few other teams trailing close as well.
Weston McKennie should be a no-brainer to be in the starting eleven for the Royal Blues. The midfielder has played an important role in the team this season and should the energy the team needs moving from box-to-box. One of the weak points for Schalke this season has been a lack of goal-scoring power, so the Texas-native could be one to give them a lift if their forwards are not on target.
On the other side, Giovanni Reyna will be looking to regain the momentum he had going for him before the season's hiatus. He's proven to be a spark off the bench when his number is called, and he has formed an excellent partnership up top with Norwegian forward Haaland. If the 17-year-old gets his first start, Schalke could have headaches trying to stop a three-man attack which includes Jadon Sancho.
Normally, games between these two teams don't disappoint, and with the league restarting both will most likely go all out to keep viewers at home glued to their televisions.
RB Leipzig vs. Freiburg
The race for the Bundesliga title is a three-team race this season and RB Leipzig will be looking to get their pursuit of their first domestic crown back on track when they play host to Freiburg at Red Bull Arena.
Everything seemed to be going the way of Die Roten when the season reached its midway point as they sat atop of the standings, earning the title of "autumn champions". But a minor slip at the restart of the season saw them lose ground to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund as they fell to third place.
A five-point deficit does not put Leipzig out of contention for the title, but they will have to be on top of their game coming into this weekend's games if they want to remain in the conversation.
Tyler Adams, who had made his return to the first team before the winter break, should be at full fitness as the team will need every player available to make the final push for the title.
Leipzig have been a tough team to beat at home as their high-pressing attack has made them one of the top-scoring teams in the Bundesliga this season.
They should have no problems beating Freiburg, but anything can happen, especially with both teams come off the long layoff.
Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg will be looking to get into the win column to keep up in the race for a Europa League place as they head to the WWK Arena to take on Augsburg.
They are very much in the hunt for a spot in the Europa League and a win on Saturday would be a great start to keep the pressure on Schalke.
John Brooks has had a up and down season for the Wolves as he was benched for a time. However, prior to the suspension of the league, he made his way back into the starting eleven to help them maintain a six-game unbeaten run.
The center-back should keep his spot in the starting lineup.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Eintracht Frankfurt will be looking to get things back on track when they face Champions League hopefuls Borussia Monchengladbach at the Commerzbank Arena.
The Eagles will need all the points they can get from the remaining nine games as they are only six points clear from the relegation zone. Entering this game on a three-game losing streak, it's not going to be an easy task as they will face the Foals whose main intent is locking down a spot in Europe's biggest club competition for next season.
Timothy Chandler, who was moved up to midfield from his normal position in the back line, will hope his goal-scoring touch has not abandoned him as he went on a surge after the winter break.
As for Fabian Johnson, he will play no part in the game for 'Gladbach. With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, it's highly unlikely he will ever set foot on the field for the team for their final games.
Werder Bremen vs. Bayer Leverkusen
It's all hands on deck for Werder Bremen as they hope the restart will be a positive one for them when they welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Weserstadion.
Bremen are in a deep hole as they sit second from bottom in the standings with 18 points. This makes it very crucial for them to collect as many points as possible to avoid the drop to the 2. Bundesliga. Looking at their schedule, it does not look favorable for them.
With survival in the minds of every Bremen player, this may be the opportune time for Josh Sargent to come through and provide the goals that the team needs.
There's no doubt the 20-year-old forward has the potential, which he has shown in flashes, but now would be the best time for him to put in consistent performances that pull his team out of the drop zone.
Fortuna Dusseldorf vs. Paderborn
Fortuna Dusseldorf will continue their fight for survival when they square off against Paderborn at the Merkur Spiel Arena.
Sitting third from bottom in the standings, Dusseldorf have a tough road ahead of them.
Zack Steffen will unfortunately not be in those plans at the moment as he suffered a knee injury in training during the run up for this weekend's games. Alfredo Morales, may come off the bench, as head coach Uwe Rosler opted for other players in the starting lineup when took over the team.
The 2. Bundesliga will also return to action this weekend, with several Americans looking to get back on the field.