Getting on the field for a star-studded team like Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager is something a player will never forget, but for Timothy Weah, his debut for the Ligue 1 leaders almost turned into something beyond special.
Weah entered in the 79th minute with PSG up 2-0 over Troyes, nearly 23 years after his father George Weah last suited up for the French giants, and was given the central forward role for the side. He used his pace to create a great opportunity for himself in stoppage time as he was able to simply outrun defenders to a ball just over the halfway line, getting into a one-on-one against the Troyes goalkeeper.
Unfortunately for Weah, he put his shot straight at the keeper, denying him the chance to cap his debut with his first ever senior team goal. The whistle blew soon after.
"I was really happy to play in Ligue 1 today,” Weah told PSG’s official website after the game . “I would like to thank the coach, the staff and the other players who have been really nice. I came close to scoring, that would have been the icing on the cake.
“I hope to be able to play again and score goals. Coming just after my 18th birthday, it's like a birthday present. I'm happy to play for the club of my heart."
The 18-year-old United States youth international has featured for PSG’s youth side and reserve side this year and impressed enough to earn this opportunity. While it is important to note this was a unique chance - PSG was without Neymar and Kylian Mbappe due to injury while the second leg of their tie against Real Madrid on Tuesday made Unai Emery rest numerous other players - Weah put himself in position to earn it by his strong play outside of the first team this season.
Whether or not he gets another run out this year for PSG remains to be seen. But it was a great moment for the youngster, and showed a glimpse of the talent that helped get him there.
Johannsson renaissance continues with equalizer
Aron Johannsson’s journey from forgotten man to important team member continued this past weekend with the reward he’s been searching for.
Johannsson has been impactful in Werder Bremen’s last month of games, making key plays in the buildup to important goals in the Bundesliga. But while those moments could prove key in keeping Bremen in the Bundesliga for next season, Johannsson had yet to record a goal or assist in the league. His one tally came in the DFB Pokal, in a match Bremen ultimately lost.
But that changed this past weekend when Johannsson came on as a substitute at the half against Borussia Monchengladbach, with Bremen trailing 2-0 on the road. Thomas Delaney would get the first goal back for Bremen but it would be Johannsson who secured the club with a share of the points.
A low cross was played into the area. Jerome Gondorf, with his back to goal, laid it into the path of the oncoming Johannsson, who blasted it into the net to level the scoreline at 2-2.
It’s exactly what Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt is aiming for with Johannsson. The manager was quoted by BILD as saying : "Aron has a very high priority for us when he comes on. He always creates openings and is very dangerous."
Likewise his teammates are pleased for him.
"Aron was a great help to us," Milos Veljkovic said in quotes published by kreiszeitung.de . "He works very hard on himself."
Johannsson, for his part, hopes to be a starter, but right now is pleased to have found the net once more. It was his first league goal since September 2016, and he knew he needed to capitalize on an opportunity to help Bremen secure a result.
"I'm so glad that we got ourselves back into the game," Johannsson told Bundesliga.com after the game . "I had already had two good chances, so I'm really pleased I managed to put the third away."
And Johannsson, 27, hasn’t given up hopes of representing the United States again on the international stage. He has not played for the U.S. since September 2015, thanks to injuries limiting his time on the field.
"The biggest thing for me in football is to play for and represent my country so I hope I can continue to get some minutes on the pitch and to score some goals," Johannsson said. "In the end, I hope to play for the national team again."
The thought of Johannsson representing the U.S. once more seemed like a far likier thing a few months ago than a successful return into the Bremen side. Now that he’s managed the latter, it’s certainly possible the former could happen as well.
But in the meantime, he’ll just need to keep impressing his coaches and teammates. If he can, starts and his desired national team call-up may follow.
Pulisic drops to the bench for Dortmund
For most of Christian Pulisic’s time as a professional, he’s been on the upswing, earning praise and playing time as he continued to develop at Borussia Dortmund. But now the teenager has suffered through a loss of form, and it’s handed him arguably the first piece of adversity at the club level in his career.
Pulisic has found himself relegated to the bench for Dortmund’s last two league games — dropped in favor of an attacking midfield trio of Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, who support central striker Michy Batshuayi. Reus, in particular, has been in sparkling form since his return from injury, as he has now scored three times in his four Bundesliga games.
While Pulisic has been on the bench for multiple games before, that was when he was seen as a young player who was more of a key rotation option than as a starter. Under Peter Bosz he had become an important starter, so the loss of his spot under Peter Stoger really cannot be looked at any other way than as a setback.
It is worth remembering that this has been the concern for Pulisic for two years. When Marco Reus is healthy, he is an automatic starter. While he can play across attacking midfield, he ideally deployed on the wing. That leaves one spot for Pulisic, and that spot is taken by Schurrle at the moment.
Also in the mix for Pulisic is Maximilian Philipp, who showed very well early in the season before missing substantial time with injury. Philipp was the first player off the bench this past weekend in the 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig, replacing Gotze, with Pulisic coming on for a late cameo.
Dortmund has a busy slate over the next two weeks. There is a Europa League last-16 tie with Red Bull Salzburg. That tie sandwiches a battle against Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt in a match that has top-four importance, as both Dortmund and Frankfurt are locked on 42 points, with BVB in third due to its superior goal difference. Then finally, a clash against Hannover.
There’s not a match in there that Dortmund can afford to lose, so Stoger will likely have to rotate starters or make plenty of use of his substitutes. That should mean chances for Pulisic to make a case as to why he should return to the Dortmund XI.
McKennie makes Schalke return
Though many of the big American names in the Bundesliga have fallen on hard times of late due to form issues (Pulisic and Bobby Wood) or injury (John Brooks and Fabian Johnson), there was some good news for another American beside Johannsson this past weekend. Weston McKennie made his way back from injury.
McKennie made the bench for Schalke’s match against Hertha Berlin and came on in the 80th minute in the 1-0 win. He had last appeared on Jan. 21 when he suffered a partial tear of his medial collateral ligament in his right knee, which was to sideline him for six weeks.
The midfielder made an impressive recovery from the injury, returning to games in five weeks, rather than just to training, something he was anxious to do.
“It was tough,” McKennie told Schalke’s official website late last week when asked how his rehab was. “I couldn’t do what I love doing most and had to work my way back instead. Running on a treadmill in front of a mirror isn’t as fun as being out on the pitch with the team. You’ve just got to get through it.”
McKennie also described what happened when he first suffered the injury and the support he received from his teammates in the early going.
“Normally, I always try to get straight back up on my feet and carry on when I’m fouled as I don’t want to get substituted!” McKennie said. “However, in that moment, I thought I’d really seriously injured myself. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I first feared.
“What really helped was the support I received from my teammates. The whole team asked after me and wanted to know how I was getting on. Leon [Goretzka] surprised me when I had my MRI scan and came along with me. Naldo, Breel [Embolo] and Thilo [Kehrer] kept asking me how I’m doing and that was great. It helped me concentrate on my rehabilitation.”
McKennie returns to a Schalke side in second in the Bundesliga table, though the club is just two points out of fifth place and four from sixth. The teen will look to make a positive impact in that tight race for a top-four spot, with the optimism that perhaps his time away may have helped him grow.
“I feel great,” McKennie said. “I’ve been able to train fully for the first time this week and I feel like a brand-new player. Maybe the injury has actually turned me into a better player.”