Three games, no wins.
A difficult tour ended in underwhelming fashion for Liverpool, who drew 2-2 with Sporting CP at New York’s iconic Yankee Stadium. The first trophy of the season is to be shared, although the Reds of course have their eyes on bigger prizes than the Western Union Cup.
Jurgen Klopp wore a rather weary look here, and no wonder. Average performances on awful pitches, in front of half-full stadiums; this was not the kind of trip he had in mind. Throw in a few injuries and a pair of opponents for whom a ‘friendly match’ appears to be an alien concept, and you can understand why he’ll be glad to be heading back across the Atlantic.
Liverpool take on Napoli in Edinburgh on Sunday, but it is their week-long training camp in Evian that will be in Klopp’s mind. He will welcome back three of his star men, with Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah set to join up with the squad in France.
Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri, absent in America due to injury, should also return.
What a welcome boost that will be as the new season hurtles into view. Because if we learned anything on this tour, it’s that the Reds’ squad is going to be tested over the course of this campaign. They are up there to be shot at.
Beaten by Dortmund and Sevilla, the European champions looked a little more like themselves here. Klopp, though, will hope for big improvements in terms of fitness and team cohesion before the Community Shield against Manchester City a week on Sunday.
They needed to battle back here, having fallen behind to Bruno Fernandes’ early strike. Simon Mignolet, the No.2 goalkeeper, will be at a loss to explain how that one squirmed from his grasp. Think Loris Karius in Kiev, only with lesser consequences.
Divock Origi, as is his way, was in the right place at the right time to level before Gini Wijnaldum, who started on the left of the front three, put Liverpool in front before half-time.
Fernandes, by far Sporting’s best player, set up Marcus Wendel for a well-taken equaliser after the break as Liverpool’s defence was caught square. The Reds had the best record in the Premier League last season, but have not had anything like the same solidity so far this summer. And here, they started with the back four which had won the Champions League in June.
Klopp will not be too alarmed about the results, or even the performances for now. He knows there are levels to come from his side, especially when his big hitters are back. There are, though, legitimate questions to be asked as to whether his squad would benefit from at least one new face. Certainly they look short of full-back cover, and that was before news of Nathaniel Clyne’s ruptured anterior cruciate ligament emerged on Wednesday. They ended this game with Joe Gomez and James Milner there. An injury to either Andy Robertson or Trent Alexander-Arnold would have severe consequences, one fears. And who knows what would happen if one of the front three went down for any length of time.
Pre-match, Klopp dismissed the idea of either Gareth Bale or Philippe Coutinho being signed before the window closes next month. Bale, he said, would be “outstandingly expensive”, while a “big, big, big, big, big, big, big, big-money signing” like Coutinho is “just not possible” this summer.
That will frustrate those hoping for fireworks in the transfer market, although we should not rule out the idea of a late signing entirely. Klopp’s faith in his squad is strong, and given what happened last season, he would say it is justified.
For now, he can reflect on a mixed few days Stateside. Liverpool continue to make friends wherever they go, and remain one of the biggest draws in world football. Whether in Bootle or the Bronx, Klopp and his players are idolised. The passion of Reds fans, it seems, is limitless.
As for the team, it is onwards and upwards.
After a testing tour, the real work starts now.