Marc-André ter Stegen (FC Barcelona, La Liga) The former Foal goes into the international break with the German national team after recording a shutout Sunday in Barca’s 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. It was the fourth consecutive shutout for the 25 year-old, including his midweek clean sheet against Chelsea and another against Atletico Madrid. Ter Stegen joined Barcelona after playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach from 2009-2014, featuring in 108 matches as he helped turn around the club’s fortunes upon Lucien Favre’s arrival. He was called up for the upcoming friendlies with Spain and Brazil along with Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno and former Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp, who earns his salary at PSG. Former Schalke midfielder Ivan Rakitić , who played in 97 league matches for the Royal Blues between 2007 and 2014, was also in the starting XI for the Catalan side Sunday.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax, Dutch Eredivisie) The Hunter levelled the score for visiting Ajax at Sparta Rotterdam only two minutes after the home side had taken a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute as Ajax went on from there to take all three points in a 2-5 win. Huntelaar, now 34, is on his second tour of duty with the legendary Dutch side after playing for Ajax from 2006-2008. He joined the club again after seven seasons with FC Schalke 04, where he scored 126 goals in 240 matches in all competitions. The veteran striker has 10 goals in league play for the Amsterdam side this season. Meanwhile, the Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper victimized by Ajax’ prolific finishing was Jannik Huth, who played in seven matches last season for 1.FSV Mainz 05. The 23 year-old is on loan in Rotterdam and was Timo Horn’s backup on the silver medal 2016 German Olympic squad, although he did not see any action.
Santiago Garcia (Toluca, Liga MX) The Argentine backliner was in the center of Deportivo Toluca’s defense once again as Los Diablos Rojos won their Copa MX match Wednesday against Cafetaleros de Tapachula. Garcia, who began his career with hometown side Rosario Central, featured in 99 matches over four seasons for Werder Bremen before signing with Toluca last June. Garcia, 29. spent a few seasons in Italy with Palermo and Novara.
Hiroki Sakai (Marseille, Ligue One) The Japanese veteran was in the starting XI Thursday as OM advanced to the Europa League quarterfinals with their victory over Athletic Bilbao. Featuring at right back, the 27 year-old international had two tackles, an interception and four clearances for the French side against Athletic. Sakai began his career with Kayshiwa Reysol, earning J-League Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 before joining Hannover 96 in 2013, featuring in over 100 matches in all competitions for the north German side before joining Marseille for the 2016/2017 season. Also helping the French side advance Thursday was former Bundesliga man Luiz Gustavo. The Brazilian played in almost 350 matches in Germany, beginning at Hoffenheim for their final season in the second division before joining Bayern Munich and then VfL Wolfsburg. The 30 year-0ld won both the Pokal and league championship with Bayern in 2012/2013 and the Confederations Cup that summer representing Brazil. The central midfielder had two key passes and completed 87% of his 41 pass attempts Thursday against Athletic.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan, Serie A) Çalhanoğlu’s goal Wednesday was not enough to prevent Milan from being eliminated from the Champions League tournament by Arsenal, who dispatched the Italian side by an aggregate 5-1 score. His 35th minute goal, assisted by longtime Wolfsburg left back Ricardo Rodriguez gave Milan fans hope, but Arsenal levelled only four minutes later. Çalhanoğlu, just 24 years old, is a native of Mannheim and began his professional career with Karlsruher SC before making his Bundesliga debut in August, 2013 for Hamburger SV. He scored 11 goals in 32 matches for the red-shorts before joining Bayer Leverkusen for the 2014/2015 season and scored 28 goals for Die Werkself while developing a reputation as a lethal assassin with free kicks before joining Milan this past summer. The Turkish international scored again Sunday for Milan, this time in a winning effort, as they beat Chievo Verona 3-2. The winning Arsenal side benefitted from a goal by former Bayern Munich man Granit Xhaka, while former Schalke and Werder Bremen man Mesut Özil and former Dortmund attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan started for Arsene Wenger’s side, while German international Shkodran Mustafi was among Arsenal’s backliners Wednesday. Former Schalke man Sead Kolašinac joined the fun for Arsenal as a substitute, while retiring captain Per Mertesacker (longtime Werder Bremen man) and cup-tied ex- Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubamyang were not part of Arsenal’s squad.
Daniel Royer (NY Red Bulls, MLS) Austrian Royer was a starter for NYRB as they advanced in the CONCACAF Champions League with their 3-1 win over Liga MX side Tijuana Tuesday. The 27 year-old, who has eight caps for Austria, joined the Red Bulls in August 2016 after playing in Austria, Denmark and in Germany briefly for Hannover 96 and on loan with 1.FC Koln, where he appeared in 23 matches while on loan during the 2012/2013 season. Also starting for the Red Bulls was regular goalkeeper Luis Robles, the Arizona native who played in Germany between 2008 and 2012 for 1.FC Kaiserslautern and then Karlsruher SC.
Victor Fischer (FC Copenhagen, Danish SAS-Ligaen) The 23 year-old Dane scores for Copenhagen Monday in their 4-3 league win over FC Helsingor. Fischer played last for Mainz 05 in the Bundesliga, where he could not find consistent playing time this season after joining the German side from English club Middlesbrough last summer. Fischer began his career with Ajax and has 16 international caps with three goals for Denmark’s senior squad. Also appearing for Copenhagen Monday was another former Mainz player, Swede Pierre Bengtsson.
Marcel Schäfer (Tampa Bay Rowdies, USL) The German midfielder was a starter for Tampa Bay in their season opening 1-3 win over North Carolina FC. Schäfer, 33, joined the Rowdies last season after ten seasons with VfL Wolfsburg, and was a member of their Bundesliga Championship squad of 2008/2009 as well as their Pokal trophy winning team of 2014/2015. In all, the native of Aschauffenburg played in 268 contests in all competitions for the Wolves, scoring 15 times. Schäfer was named to the USL Best XI squad for the 2017 season.
Fabian Frei (FC Basel, Swiss Super League) Former Mainz midfielder Frei was in the starting Xi for Basel Sunday as they down FC Sion 3-2. The 29 year-old began his career in the youth system of FC Basel back in 2005, and played 172 Swiss League matches for the club, along with another 64 on loan with St. Gallen, before joining Mainz in June, 2015. Frei played in 53 matches for the 05ers before returning to his boyhood club during the last winter break. The Swiss international (11 senior caps) scored a highlight reel goal for Mainz during the Hinrunde, and in what turned out to be his last match for the German club, scored a stoppage time goal to earn Mainz a valuable point at Werder Bremen.
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