Matt Turner at bat, Ronaldo in Japan, Wrexham in U.S.: What you missed from preseason

Good news for you (or terrible news, if the perpetual onslaught of time keeps you awake at night): we’re already nearing the end of preseason. The European giants are all finishing up their tours in far-flung locales and starting to prepare for the first days of the season. The transfer window’s end feels uncomfortably close. The Community Shield between Arsenal and Manchester City is on Sunday (11 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).

And while the results from all of these preseason matches don’t really matter, the shenanigans that happened along the way do. With so many clubs in many different places, it can be difficult to keep track of all the weird and wonderful hijinks some of the game’s biggest stars get up to.

Luckily, we’ve been keeping track for you.

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Premier League clubs dabble in America’s pastime

There was a strange amount of baseball and baseball-adjacent activities, we’ll say, for many of the clubs and players that made their way around North America. Among the moments that felt the most “normal” was between Brighton & Hove Albion and New York Mets.

Japan international Kaoru Mitoma (the guy with the thesis on dribbling) linked up with countryman Kodai Senga for a jersey swap in Flushing.

On the far sillier end of the baseball spectrum, Newcastle’s roster did a bit of North American team bonding by playing a slow-pitch softball game.

What I will say about the Newcastle players’ participation here is that they did seem to work out quite quickly that baseball is about 90% style, with the remaining bits made up of actually playing baseball and waiting around for more baseball to happen. There was eyeblack. There were backwards hats. There were some stupendous batter’s box shimmies and even an attempt at hitting switch from Alexander Isak.

What there wasn’t much of from Newcastle was form, as most attempts at swinging the bat were, at best, below standard. If there was to be an actual baseball highlight from a soccer player this summer, it would most likely need to be from an American.

Enter Arsenal and United States’ goalkeeper Matt Turner.

As some of the fans back in his New England Revolution days might say, he went “yahd.” Despite last playing baseball competitively in high school, Turner stepped up to the plate in St. Louis and visibly impressed Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado with four consecutive home runs. What if our best athletes already played soccer?

Bayern demolish FC Rottach-Egern, again

For some reason, Bayern Munich played a preseason friendly against FC Rottach-Egern, a team that has no players listed on Transfermarkt and doesn’t even seem to have a Wikipedia page devoted to them. They play in the 9th tier of German soccer, and it sure looked like it, because Bayern beat them 27-0.

By the time Bayern goes up 4-0 in the 12th minute, there’s already a slump in the shoulders of the Rottach-Egern players. Unfortunately for them, Bayern would make them strike that exact pose 14 more times in the first half.

Why did Bayern play this game? It seems like the best answer to this is “because they usually do,” with Rottach-Egern being one of their first preseason games on the schedule multiple times over the last several years. They have reportedly racked up a cumulative score of 70 goals to two over those matches.

It seems like they like to do that. They like to win by an inhumane amount of goals to begin a season. They don’t get to do that against Manchester City, for example. So Rottach-Egern it is.

Cristiano Ronaldo kicks about with Japanese school children

Any time a ball is on a field is another opportunity for Ronaldo to prove his dominance. So naturally, that’s what he did while playing a game with a gaggle of Japanese children.

Listen to their giggles of despair.

The game was organized with some Al-Nassr fans in Japan, according to the club’s Instagram. Alex Telles, Abdullah Mado, and Nawaf Al-Qaidi participated alongside Ronaldo, who most likely had something to do with there being Al-Nassr fans in Japan in the first place.

In general, it’s difficult not to count Al-Nassr’s preseason tour of Japan as anything but a success. The team managed two draws against PSG and Inter, respectable results that the team rode into a positive start in the Arab Club Champions Cup. They bettered an opening draw with Al-Shabab by beating Tunisia’s Monastir.

Arsenal is better than the MLS All-Stars, but Wayne Rooney doesn’t care

Arsenal put on a show in the MLS All-Star Game. The competitiveness of the exhibition match tends to vary from year to year, but Arsenal made the cobbled together squad of MLS players look so out of their depth that many adventurous fans went as far as to suggest that Arsenal’s players might be better than MLS.

The funniest moment of MLS All-Star break came after the game itself, when a reporter had the temerity to ask noted DC United manager and former player Rooney what he personally took away from a game where he fielded a team full of players who had never played together and he subbed out his entire starting XI by the beginning of the second half.

“Absolutely nothing,” Rooney summed up nicely.

But really, the most important moment from the All-Star week? Arsenal being exposed to America’s greatest soccer spectacle: Goalie Wars.

Lower league gate crashers

Preseason isn’t all about the superclubs. Lower league teams have their friendlies and tune-up matches as well. And no, we’re not talking about Wrexham here, who did have their own up-and-down preseason with a heavy loss to Chelsea, a big win against LA Galaxy II, a costly one against Manchester United in which Paul Mullin was injured, and a draw with the Philadelphia Union second team.

No, we’re talking about Gateshead FC! Playing in the National League that Wrexham just won promotion from, preseason is far from glitz and glamor for the northern English club. But they still have summer friendlies. At least, they do when those friendlies aren’t halted due to a guy in a hearse driving onto the pitch and doing donuts.

The match was taking place at Dunston UTS FC’s stadium, where the two drivers apparently broke through multiple gates and fences in order to do some creative protesting, throwing pamphlets out of the windows of their cars before running away.

The match was called off and police evacuated the stadium, but the entire ordeal will probably go down as the strangest preseason game from the summer, and the kind of weird that makes for an excellent palate cleanser with the European season firmly in view.


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