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Bayern Munich’s USA Tour: What have we learned so far?

The first stop on FC Bayern Munich’s USA tour was Chicago. I was able to attend Wednesday night’s International Champions Cup match between the Bavarians and AC Milan, an entertaining contest, where 90 minutes of regulation proved to be insufficient in separating the sides.

Bayern Munich battled back from both 1-0 and 3-2 deficits to extend the contest, but without many of their regulars, they ultimately didn’t have what it took to overcome the Rossonero.

After the 90 minutes were up, the match went straight to a penalty shootout. AC Milan shot first and eventually won, making all five of their kicks. Milan’s wunderkind 17-year-old stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Rafinha with the only save of the shootout.

Saturday’s match saw Bayern Munich take on another team that calls the San Siro home, AC Milan’s city rivals, FC Internazionale Milano.

But these matches were never really about the results. Despite the trophy that was given to Milan, there’s no tangible prize that comes from winning the International Champions Cup. However, there are things that new FC Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti can take away going forward.

Blending youth with veterans:

Against AC Milan, Franck Ribéry bagged a brace, scoring goals number one and three for the Bavarians. Then, against Inter, he scored one and assisted another. Ribéry may be 33 years old, but still has the technical ability to be a difference-maker for Ancelotti this season. Getting guys like him to perform, while not overusing them and risking injury may prove difficult. But Bayern didn’t hire Ancelotti because the job was easy.

Holger Badstuber made his return to the starting lineup on Wednesday, but only played 30 minutes before being substituted. With Mats Hummels joining from Borussia Dortmund to partner Jérôme Boateng in central defence, Ancelotti may have the best centre back pairing on the planet. But he needs guys like Badstuber around to provide capable cover when the inevitable fixture congestion occurs in the spring. That’s part of what proved fatal for Pep Guardiola.

Julian Green started at striker for FC Bayern in both games so far. He didn’t do much of note in 79 minutes of action against AC Milan on Wednesday, but Saturday was possibly his best-ever game in a Bayern shirt, even if it was just in a friendly.

Completing his hat trick just 35 minutes into the match, Green opened the scoring seven minutes in, sliding to meet a cross and putting it past the keeper. Goal number two came from open play, assisted by Franck Ribéry. Five minutes later was the easiest finish of the day for the Tampa native Green, an unmarked tap-in from three yards out.

What does this mean for the American Green? Currently he is the number two striker on the roster behind Robert Lewandowski, who wasn’t part of the squad that made the trip to the United States. It’s a make-or-break year for the 21-year-old, who has just two appearances for Bayern’s first team (in competitive games) to his name.

Finding out the best position for his players:

David Alaba scored against AC Milan following one of his many forays into the attacking third. The Austrian isn’t just a left back (although he may be the world’s best in that role), but is capable of playing in the centre of the defence (like he did last year under Guardiola), or in midfield with the task of shielding the backline or being a creative force going forward. He’s played both of these roles well for his national side.

Although any manager in world football would love to have Thomas Müller available for selection in their team, crafting a formation to get the most out of his skills is easier said than done for even the most tactically-astute minds. Müller must be permitted the freedom to roam and exploit space as he does so well, but it will be interesting to see if Ancelotti chooses to deploy him on the wing or assigns him defensive duties.

Rafinha started both matches at right back, with Philipp Lahm playing against AC Milan but being rested against Inter. Lahm has shown his versatility, playing both in the midfield and in more defensive capacities, but this is a big decision for Ancelotti to make.

The final stop of Bayern’s tour is in New York City, where they’ll face Real Madrid on Wednesday.

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