Christian Pulisic needed to respond after a dip in form cost him his place in the Borussia Dortmund XI, and at the very least, he’s done so on the statsheet.
Pulisic picked up an assist in a substitute appearance in the first leg Europa League defeat to Red Bull Salzburg, and then got another in a start against Eintracht Frankfurt. He missed the second leg with Salzburg due to the flu but got the start again this weekend in a 1-0 victory over Hannover, going 70 minutes.
The competition for places for Dortmund is again heating up, as Mario Gotze and Marco Reus lasted just the first half in the second leg against Salzburg, with Reus picking up a muscle injury that kept him out of the Hannover match.
Gotze was pulled for poor performance, though Dortmund coach Peter Stoger insisted after the Hannover win that Gotze, who started this weekend, wouldn’t lose his place after just one poor outing.
Pulisic has to continue to play well — he put in a mixed performance against Hannover this weekend — but there’s once more opportunity to seize back a place at Dortmund. Gotze and Andre Schurrle have cooled and Reus’ injury will have to be monitored.
And it’s clear Pulisic’s focus is on his place at the club at the moment. The teenager skipped out on the United States national team friendly to remain with Dortmund, and prepare for the club’s upcoming match with Bayern Munich.
Novakovich makes loan count
The United States roster for the friendly this month on Paraguay dropped Sunday and it featured a few players looking for their first ever senior cap. While PSG’s Timothy Weah is the headliner of that group, Andrija Novakovich is another forward hoping to make a positive impression.
The 21-year-old forward has spent the last few seasons with Reading of the English Championship after leaving the U.S. to pursue a career in Europe. He received a couple of substitute appearances for Reading back in 2014-15, but has been out on loan or featuring for the Reading U-23s in the seasons since.
This year saw Novakovich head out on loan to Telstar of the Dutch second division where he has torn it up. He’s up to 18 goals on the league season in 29 games, including another this past weekend, which is good for second in the division. Novakovich’s production has helped Telstar in the promotion race — the club sits fourth in Jupiler League and have a four-point edge on teams chasing for a spot in the promotion playoff.
And the 21-year-old Novakovich credits the move with providing him the opportunity to show what he could do — something that may not have happened if he had stuck with the Reading U-23s.
“Definitely that helped to come here and play,” Novakovich told NH Nieuws. “It’s first-team football. It’s a competitive environment and that’s what I came here for. Thankfully the team and the coaches and the staff and everybody have been very supportive of me and my development. And there’s still so much to do and we are ready to work and give it our best.
“I don’t know [how many goals I’m going to score for Telstar]. I’m just going to go into every game wanting to win, wanting to score and get as high as we can for the team and supporters and everybody.”
The forward said Reading is keeping tabs on him, saying they contact him after every game, so it certainly appears he has a future there. Whether he remains with Telstar may well have to do with whether the club can get promoted. Novakovich has shown he can score at the Dutch second division level this season — hopefully he gets the chance next season to prove he can do it at a higher level of competition.
In the meantime, fans of the U.S. could get the chance to get quite possibly their first look at Novakovich when the national team squares off against Paraguay on March 27.
Boyd nets first goal in four months
Terrence Boyd marked his second straight start with his first goal in four months.
After a failed clearance, Boyd managed to deliver the final header to give Darmstadt the 1-0 lead in the 18th minute. The striker had another chance later in the first half that he couldn’t put on frame. Boyd went 65 minutes in the contest, which finished 1-1 after Nuernburg scored a 78th-minute equalizer.
The goal is Boyd’s fourth of the 2.Bundesliga campaign in 17 appearances, with only six of those being starts. Boyd’s had brief runs in the XI before — he started four games in mid-November through early December. He scored a brace in one of those games, but fell back to the bench until this current run.
With Darmstadt currently in one of the two relegation places and two back of the relegation playoff, the most in-form players are the ones who are going to play. If Boyd can find the back of the net on a consistent basis, he’ll find himself in the starting XI to close out the season.
And a good impression could be useful for him as if Darmstadt are unsuccessful at avoiding the drop, Boyd will likely be looking for a new club next season.
Johnson makes injury return
The injury news for Americans playing in Europe was a bit negative this week as Danny Williams was lost for the remaining Premier League season with a broken ankle. But there was some good news for one player as after nearly a four-month layoff Fabian Johnson has returned.
Sidelined with a back injury since November, Johnson made the bench and got a nine-minute cameo for Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday in a 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim. It was just Johnson’s 10th appearance of the Bundesliga season as injuries have limited him.
Gladbach are struggling with injuries across the board, so if Johnson can stay fit, he should receive minutes down the stretch.
Meanwhile, in the Premier League, Huddersfield manager David Wagner went into greater detail about Williams' injury and praised the midfielder after his successful surgery Friday.
"We wish him all the best as he made a huge impact for us this season and helped us a lot," Wagner said in his pre-match press conference.
"He is a good character in the dressing room and on the pitch and we will certainly miss him, but now there's more of a responsibility for all of us to ensure he plays in the Premier League next season as well.
"Williams has been great, as both a starter and a substitute this season and is a very good, strong character and I am sure he will come back stronger."