Defending Premier League champions Manchester City beat Mexican side Club America 2-1 in their opening preseason match in Houston, Texas, but this summer’s star signing Erling Haaland did not see the field.
Haaland was expected to make his much-anticipated debut at NRG Stadium, but he was kept on the bench due to “a minor injury complaint,” according to the club’s official site.
Cameras captured Haaland dressed in a hoodie and seated next to center back Ruben Dias, who was not part of the matchday squad.
While the attention was on the new players, it was old reliable Kevin De Bruyne who accounted for both Man City goals.
The team captain pushed up from his attacking midfield position to create his own shot on the first goal, and then he ran onto a ball from Riyad Mahrez and ‘megged the ‘keeper just before halftime.
Three Man City players who did manage to make their debuts were former River Plate star Julian Alvarez, goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Kalvin Phillips, who started at center back before moving into his preferred central midfield spot.
Alvarez was the center forward at the opening whistle, but didn’t get any good looks as De Bruyne claimed the headlines with his trademark runs from midfield.
Haaland’s debut could come against his former Bundesliga nemesis Bayern Munich on Saturday, July 23 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Manager Pep Guardiola indicated as much after the 2-1 win over Club America:
“Next game he’ll be ready,” reads a quote on the club’s official site. “He had niggles, we don’t want to take risks. Maybe against Bayern, we will see … The season is so long; we will have time, don’t worry.”
How Julian Alvarez fared on his debut
The former River Plate man did not score, assist or generate a boatload of goal-scoring opportunities for himself, but it was a solid debut nonetheless. Firstly, he showed that he was up for the fight against an aggressive Club America side that wasn’t backing down.
Alvarez kept the center backs occupied, bringing his teammates into the attack and setting them up for shots while showcasing his elite passing in the process. With Kevin De Bruyne showing he’s back to being a threat from midfield, the debutant didn’t have to do much more for the team.
The quality of the field, the scrappy game that unfolded, and the fact that it was the first preseason match weren’t the type of conditions to allow for the Argentine to show off his full array of talents, but his 71 minutes were positive. He showed he could have a role on this team in 2022/23 depending on the type of match.
Ortega, Phillips solid in Man City bows
Similar to Alvarez, the other debutants were solid though unspectacular, filling specific roles on the team and doing their job. And that’s all they’ll be asked to do this season.
Ortega was the sure-handed, stay-at-home ‘keeper who responded to the handful of tests from Club America throughout the 90 minutes. He had the air of a goalkeeper with personality, and he wasn’t fazed by the occasion. At 29, and with years of Bundesliga experience under his belt, it’s not a surprise. He also got a touch on the lone America goal.
We also got an early look at the versatility that Kalvin Phillips could be asked to showcase during 2022/23. The 26-year-old was dependable in both positions he’s played.
An emergency center back during his Leeds days, he started the second half there and then moved into midfield as the subs were introduced in the second half. He showed he’s ready to make a contribution.