Peak of the Week: Columbus Crew craziness, Kazakhstan chaos, Bayern bombshell
International breaks are back but the drama certainly hasn’t stopped. Not one bit.
While this period usually deprives fans of some quality action across Europe, last week produced some stellar games, especially in North America, and also during the odd Euro 2024 qualification games.
Here are some of the big moments you might have missed.
Result of the week: Columbus Crew 6-1 Atlanta United
Columbus Crew had a rocky start to the 2023 MLS season, taking just four points from their first four games. And then they lost a few key players to international call-ups right before a big game against Atlanta United.
How did the new-look Crew respond? By scoring six goals in a game for the first time in almost 20 years.
The 2006 movie ‘Superman Returns’ didn’t perform too well at the box office but when Christian “Superman” Ramirez returned for his third MLS stint, he was a hit.
The 33-year-old attacker got a chance after Lucas Zelarayán was called up by Armenia, and he made the most of it, scoring twice during the 6-1 rout to become the fifth player in league history to score on debut for at least three different teams.
Coach Wilfried Nancy will also be pleased after Aidan Morris, Philip Quinton, Canadian Jacen Russell-Rowe, and Max Arfsten got their first career MLS goals as well.
1-0 to Columbus at half-time, it was a tale of two halves as a second-half romp killed any chance of an Atlanta comeback. A brutal result for Gonzalo Pineda’s side, who will be hoping for home comfort when they face the New York Red Bulls in their next game.
Team performance of the week: Kazakhstan vs. Denmark
Kazakhstan, a team ranked 115th in the world, took on 18th-ranked Denmark on Sunday. And they beat them.
In one of the most sensational upsets over the past week, the underdogs Kazakhstan not only overcame the Danes but did it with an amazing 3-2 comeback win.
Unsurprisingly, Denmark took a 2-0 first-half lead, thanks to a brace from the red-hot Rasmus Højlund. They were cruising and in control of the game but the game flipped on its head after a poor start to the second half by the Danes saw a controversial penalty giveaway offer Kazakhstan some momentum.
Then, in the 86th minute, captain Askhat Tagybergen unleashed a missile from outside the box to tie the game in spectacular fashion.
By now, Kazakhstan were a runaway train and completed arguably the biggest result in their history when Abat Aimbetov scored the game-winning goal from a perfectly executed cross in the 89th minute.
Kazakhstan held on despite losing Aimbetov to a red card in the dying moments to complete this massive upset. Very nice!
Honourable mention: Morocco vs. Brazil
Morocco had a dream run in the World Cup in Qatar when they reached the semi-finals, becoming the first African nation to do so. It appears that dream run is still going on as they upset Brazil 2-1, becoming the first Arab team to defeat the Seleção.
Brazil may have been missing some key players, but the 65,000-plus fans at the packed Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier couldn’t care less, as their team created history on home soil.
Player of the week: Jordan Morris
The “Erling Haaland at home” jokes might have gone overboard but Seattle Sounders striker Jordan Morris certainly had a Haaland-esque performance against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
The USA international entered the history books with his performance, becoming the first player in club history to score four goals in a game.
After not receiving a call-up from the USMNT for this week’s fixtures, Morris had the perfect response, burying KC with a poaching masterclass. The 28-year-old had four shots in the box, and scored every single one, while creating four chances for his teammates as well.
Three of his goals came via assists from Leo Chu, who seemed like he could have found Morris even with a blindfold.
The USMNT have had striker problems for a while now; this performance should be a reminder that Morris can be serviceable at least for squad depth.
Goal of the week: Iván Morante
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a few other notable names had some fantastic strikes over the past week. But if I had to pick one goal out of all this week which could potentially be a Puskás nominee this year, former Real Madrid academy product Iván Morante takes the honours.
The 20-year-old is now playing for Spanish second-division side UD Ibiza, after leaving Madrid last year. And in his most recent game for Ibiza in the Segunda division against Burgos, Morante produced a bit of magic, perhaps a reminder of why Madrid signed him in the first place.
The Spaniard was the first to the ball after the Burgos defence headed the ball away. Morante controlled the ball with his chest, cleverly flicked it away from the defender, once again controlled it with his chest, before unleashing a vicious volley into the top corner.
The type of goal you wouldn’t believe without seeing, Morante’s strike was only done justice by the never-disappointing Spanish commentators.
Spanish midfielders and technique… name a better combo. I’ll wait.
Honourable mention: Alyssa Thompson
The pressure of being drafted No. 1 gets to some players, but Alyssa Thompson is a different breed.
The 18-year-old American took just 11 minutes to announce herself to the Angel City FC fans after scoring a banger from outside the box during her side’s National Women’s Soccer League season opener against Gotham FC.
The game might have ended in a loss, but Thompson’s goal and performance in her professional debut will give fans enough reasons to stay positive.
Drama of the week: Bayern Munich managerial saga
There may be no club in the top five leagues in Europe that are as accustomed to winning as Bayern Munich. The Bavarian giants have won the last 10 league titles in a row, and have also lifted the Champions League trophy twice in that span. Expectations are always sky-high,
So when Bayern lost 1-2 to Bayer Leverkusen in their last league game, allowing rivals Borussia Dortmund to go top, it didn’t sit right with the club officials. Despite being only one point behind, with nine games to go, the fear of falling behind led the team to make one of the most shocking managerial decisions in recent history, sacking Julian Nagelsmann, a move that seemed to come came out of nowhere. FC Hollywood, indeed.
The club had paid a compensation fee of €25 million ($36 million CAD) to RB Leipzig back in 2021 to appoint Nagelsmann. And now, less than two years since his arrival, the 35-year-old was given the boot. There were reports about him losing the dressing room which led to his departure. However, multiple players like Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka have come out and denied those reports.
Bayern have since replaced Nagelsmann with Thomas Tuchel, who was last in charge of Chelsea before his dismissal earlier in the season. Tuchel, who signed a contract until 2025, will now be in charge of the club that tried to bring him in five years ago unsuccessfully. Maybe second time’s the charm? Bayern fans will certainly hope so.
Phew, what a week!