The Belgian Pro league returned to action after their winter break, with mixed fortunes for the handful of Americans in action over the weekend.

Antwerp 3 – 0 Charleroi

Sam Vines got the nod in the starting lineup on Saturday afternoon when Royal Antwerp hosted Sporting Charleroi from Wallonia. 

The American went the distance in the 3-0 shutout at the left back position for the Great Old. Two early goals by Michael Frey in the first half were enough to secure the win but Mbwana Samatta decided to get in on the action with his third strike of the season in the second half.

Michel-Ange Balikwisha received the ball, beat his marker and sent a perfect cross into the box that his Swiss teammate met perfectly and put it past the Charleroi keeper, Bingourou Kamara, who perhaps should have got something on it. 

The 11th minute lead was doubled just three minutes later, and this time it was Benson Manuel who provided the assist when he dribbled into the box along the touch line and made the short pass to Frey, who tapped in his amazing 17th goal of the season thus far.

Early on in the second half, Bjorn Engels got sight of goal from 19 yards out and belted it, but unfortunately beating Kamara wasn’t enough because the far post came to the rescue. 

While Charleroi were doing their utmost to get on the score sheet, Antwerp gained possession deep in their own third, but four passes later on a very quick break, the ball was in the back of the Zebras net yet again. Balikwisha provided the final pass, a ball across the box that Samatta hit first-time just 11 minutes after coming on for Frey. 

Starting the year off with three points will certainly build the confidence of Vines and his teammates as they stay in contention for a top playoff spot.  Sitting in third, they’ll head to the Belgian coast on Friday night to take on KV Oostende and hopefully American debutant Kyle Duncan.

Club Brugge 2 – 0 Sint-Truiden

When the Canaries hit the road to take on Club Brugge, Chris Dukin found himself in the starting lineup and played the first half, however he was subbed off after the intermission. 

Owen Otasowie however, did not make the bench for the defending Belgian champions. 

Club scored goals on both sides of the intermission with Charles De Ketelaere bagging the first one at the half hour mark, while Bas Dost struck for the eighth time this season with his coming in the 64th minute. Perhaps noteworthy to MLS fans is that Canadian Tajon Buchanan, who just joined the team from New England Revolution, made his debut and played the 90 minutes.

Club, who are four points behind league leaders Union St Gilloise, will hit the road on Sunday to take on Standard Liege, while Sint-Truiden hosts relegation threatened Seraing.

Notes

Mark McKenzie had to make do with a seat on the bench as Genk thrashed cellar dwellers Beerschot by a 4-1 scoreline. The win puts them in eighth place, just inside the second playoff group.  They’ll go at it again midweek when they host Mechelen.

The Belgian First Division B will return to action this coming weekend when Molenbeek hosts Lommel on Friday night. Jacob Montes, who moved this month from Waasland-Beveren will hope to get some game time. 

Joe Efford, who is still with Waasland-Beveren, will play Sunday afternoon on the road against Excelsior Virton.

By Michael Adubato

The old man of Yanks-Abroad, having been around since the very beginning in 2004, Known as the resident Belgian expert since that’s where he has lived for a couple of decades. Over the years he has interviewed Nats such as Kasey Keller, Brian McBride, Oguchi Onyewu, Jozy Altidore and Tim Weah, to name a few. When not working the day job, he can often be found in stadiums around Europe, watching games from the top flight to the lower leagues. To prove that he is not just a pretty face, Mike received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland and a Masters from the University of Oklahoma. Boomer Sooner! On a non-soccer note, Adubato has just released a book of poetry from his travels, Missing the Exit, published by Broken Keys Publishing in Ottawa, Canada. So that must make him the YA poet laureate! You can grab your copy on Amazon.com, order online and pick it up and Barnes & Noble or get an e-copy at various outlets.

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