Downingtown’s Zack Steffen won his English Premier League debut on Sunday, as his Manchester City team routed Hershey native Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea, 3-1.
It was an easy welcome to the big spotlight, as Steffen didn’t have to do much in the game. But he drew attention for the wrong reasons in the fifth minute, when he illegally picked up a pass from a teammate in his own 18-yard box. That gave Chelsea a free kick from close range.
Fortunately, Steffen’s teammates easily dealt with it and the ensuing corner kick — and they went on to do much more. Man City scored three goals in the next half-hour, with one each from Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne. Chelsea was left reeling.
Pulisic was one of the only Blues players who looked good, but his teammates didn’t get him the ball enough — and they squandered the chances Pulisic tried to create. The TV cameras caught his frustration often, especially in the game’s closing minutes.
Steffen didn’t have to make an actual save until first-half stoppage time, when he easily caught Cesar Azpilicueta’s weak header off a free kick. That was Steffen’s only save of the game. He also completed 21 of 26 passes.
Callum Hudson-Odoi scored Chelsea’s goal in the 92nd minute, finishing a cross from Kai Havertz as City’s defense raced back. Steffen was a bit stuck on the play since his teammates were playing a high line. Havertz was just barely onside when Pulisic sprung him free on the left wing, and Hudson-Odoi was unmarked as he made his run down the right.
It was a sour end to Steffen’s day, but the goal didn’t matter overall.
The real concern is on the Chelsea side. This was the Blues’ fourth defeat in their last six games, and they’ve won just two of their last eight Premier League contests dating back to Nov. 29. Right after the final whistle, The Athletic reported that manager Frank Lampard’s job is “under serious threat.” Lampard, one of Chelsea’s most famous players, has been in charge since July 2019.
“The first half really just let us down,” Pulisic said in a TV interview after the game. We’re in a tough period right now … It’s not going to be easy, but we need to show character now.”
Steffen’s Premier League debut made him the 48th American to play in the world’s most famous national soccer league. Four have ties to the greater Philadelphia region: Pulisic, Northeast Philadelphia’s Bobby Convey, and Mercer County-born Michael Bradley. Though Bradley was only there as a youngster, he lived in Pennington, N.J. – which isn’t far from the Pennsylvania border – when his father Bob was Princeton University’s head coach.
Former Union midfielder arrived in Salzburg, Austria, on Sunday to start his new life with Red Bull Salzburg. The Medford native gave an interview to the team’s website upon arriving in which he noted that manager Jesse Marsch came to pick him up at the airport.
Aaronson said his family will come over to Austria in a few weeks to help him get settled there. He will wear the No. 11 shirt with his new team. The Austrian Bundesliga season resumes on Jan. 24. Salzburg will play three warmup scrimmages against other teams before then.
“Hopefully I can play with the team soon and get on the field and show what I can do,” Aaronson said. “Salzburg play fast, direct and attacking football. That’s what I like to do, and I think that this just fits my profile really well.”
Unfortunately, Austrian league games are hard to watch in the U.S. Eleven Sports, an out-of-the-way channel on Verizon and RCN cable systems – and streaming platforms including FuboTV – has the rights. Eleven occasionally streams games via its online platform For The Fans HQ. Hopefully that will happen more often now that Aaronson is in the league.
The easiest way to watch Salzburg will be its games in the Europa League, since CBS All Access and Univision will stream them. Salzburg faces Spain’s Villarrreal on Feb. 18 and 25.