Three things to watch: International Champions Cup at Heinz Field |
U.S./World Sports

Three things to watch: International Champions Cup at Heinz Field

Michael Love
Manchester City FC player Riyad Mahrez practices with his team in Orangeburg, N.Y., Monday, July 23, 2018. Manchester City is scheduled to play Liverpool in an International Champions Cup soccer match in New Jersey on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The last time the International Champions Cup made its way to Pittsburgh and Heinz Field was in 2014 when England’s Manchester City score five goals in a 5-1 dominating triumph over Italy’s AC Milan.

The sixth annual soccer series returns to the Steel City on Wednesday as club stalwarts Sport Lisboa e Benfica (Portugal) meets Borussia Dortmund (Germany) at 8 p.m.

Will the matchup be a close, defensive battle, or will it be a repeat of the six goals scored four years ago?

Wednesday’s match is one of 17 ICC contests in the United States.

Also on tap Wednesday are Juventus (Italy) against Bayern Munich (Germany) at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; Manchester City and Liverpool in an all-England battle at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford and Manchester United (England) versus A.C. Milan at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Each of the 18 teams will play three games for 27 total.


Decorated histories

Benfica is one of the more successful clubs in European soccer with 36 championships in the Primeira Liga, the top league in Portugal, and 79 titles in Portugal overall.

It captured consecutive European Cups in 1961 and ’62, and its 10 European finals appearances rank seventh all-time among UEFA clubs.

Benfica won four straight Primeira Liga titles from 2013-17, but its championship run was stopped by rival Porto which claimed the 2017-18 league title in May.

A player to watch for Benfica is Brazilian Jonas Oliviera who led the team with 34 goals in league play last season and has 99 overall in four seasons with the club.

Dortmund has its own storied history with success in Germany’s Bundesliga. It last won the league championship in 2012 and owns five overall titles and five runner-up finishes since the league formed and began play in 1963.

It added a UEFA Championship League title in 1997 and a runner-up finish in 2013.

Dortmund placed fourth overall in the 2017-18 campaign with 15 wins, 10 draws and nine losses in the regular season.

It joins reigning Bundesliga champ Bayern Munich as qualifiers for the UEFA Champions League that begins in September.

Dortmund midfielder Mario Gotze, 26, became a German soccer hero in the 2014 World Cup. He scored the only goal in the final to give Germany the championship over Argentina.


Jumping into action

Dortmund’s win over Manchester City in front of 34,629 at Soldier Field saw a penalty shot goal from Gotze in the 28th minute as the difference in its ICC opener.

It then rallied Sunday from a 1-0 first-half deficit to beat Liverpool 3-1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

American Christian Pulisic tied the game on a penalty kick in the 66 th minute and electrified the crowd with the eventual game winner just one minute before stoppage time.

Dortmund made its ICC debut in 2016 in China with a 4-1 win over Manchester United and a 1-1 tie against Manchester City. It returned to the ICC event last year and played one game in China, a 3-1 victory over A.C. Milan.

Dortmund got a feel for its surroundings with training sessions Monday and Tuesday evening on the Heinz Field turf.

While Dortmund has already played two ICC matches, Benfica makes its 2018 debut at Heinz Field. It trained at the Steelers UPMC facility Tuesday morning and is scheduled to train there again Wednesday morning.

Benfica’s group matches will continue Saturday at Red Bull Arena against Spanish football club Juventus F.C. before a trip back across the Atlantic to face Lyon (France) on Aug. 1 in Portugal.

Portugese star Cristiano Ronaldo is a new addition to the Juventus club, but because of his World Cup commitments, he is not playing in this year’s International Challenge Cup.


An American presence

Two of the top young U.S. born players — Pulisic and Benfica’s Keaton Parks — will share the same turf Wednesday.

Pulisic, a Hershey, Pa., native, hopes to keep up his scoring touch from the Liverpool match.

The son of Riverhounds assistant coach Mark Pulisic represented the U.S. on the 15U and 17U national teams and captained 17U squad at the 2017 17U World Cup in Chile.

Pulisic, who turns 20 in September, became the youngest American to play in a World Cup qualifier when he entered the game late in a 4-0 victory over Guatemala in Columbus, Ohio, on March 27, 2016.

Pulisic signed with Dortmund in 2015 and quickly ascended to its Bundesliga team. In three seasons, he has 12 goals in 97 total appearances.

Parks, a native of Plano, Texas, has represented the U.S. Under-20 national team, and he made his Team USA senior-squad international debut May 28 in a friendly against Bolivia.

He turned down a scholarship offer to Southern Methodist University to begin his pursuit of a professional career in Portugal. He signed with Varzim in LigaPro and made his pro debut in Sept. 2016.

Parks signed with Benfica last July and joined its LigaPro reserve team before ascending to the senior team in November. He is under contract with Benfica until 2022.

If you go…

For those attending, arrival and parking policies are in place ahead of the 8 p.m. kickoff.

All Heinz Field gates will open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the Heinz Field ticket offices.

Cash parking is available in the North Shore lots, Red 5 Garage and Blue 10 Garage for $15.

Downtown parking, including that in the First Avenue, Gateway and Wood Street stations, with Light Rail service also is available.

For more information, including what is and is not permitted to be taken into Heinz Field, visit /2018-icc-dortmund-v-benfica.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-388-5825, [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.

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