Months after adjusting to a new coach at Borussia Dortmund, Christian Pulisic is going to have to do it all over again.
Winless in both the Bundesliga and Champions League since the end of September, and after a 2-1 loss to relegation-threatened Werder Bremen at home Saturday, the Dortmund board had enough, firing Peter Bosz and replacing him with Peter Stoger, who himself was just fired by Cologne after that club’s winless start.
A change in coach presents new opportunity and new challenges for players so it should be no exception for Pulisic. The youngster had certainly won the approval of Bosz during his short reign, and given his breakthrough the previous two years, he had a believer in former coach Thomas Tuchel.
But success in the past does not guarantee success in the future, and Pulisic will have to learn another new coach in Stoger. Bundesliga.com did a breakdown of Stoger’s old set-up at Cologne, where he ran a base 4-4-2. Pulisic has experience with that with the U.S. national team, but that would potentially leave him out wide, and put him in a much less influential position.
Of course, Cologne is not Dortmund personnel-wise and Stoger may set his side up differently based on the talent he has on hand.
We won’t have to wait long to see where Pulisic may slot in under his new boss. Dortmund plays three times in the next eight days with two league matches before the German winter break with a DFB Pokal showdown with Bayern Munich.
And with an injury list that includes Mario Gotze, Maximilian Philipp and Marco Reus, Pulisic would seem to be a favorite to start all three of those contests.
KLINSMANN RISES UP DEPTH CHART, HORVATH DROPS
Since his move to Hertha Berlin, former U.S. Under-20 goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann has shaken off an injury and started for the Hertha Berlin II side in the German fourth division. However, he received a big opportunity with the club out of contention in the Europa League as he was handed the start against Ostersunds FK.
Klinsmann did not disappoint, making three stops, including a penalty, in a 1-1 draw.
"Klinsmann had a very good game, he stayed firm under pressure and saved the penalty,” Hertha Berlin manager Pal Dardai said following the game. “But it wasn't just him who played well.
"Jonathan is a young man and he had a good game. But he needs to keep working hard, continue to learn and build on this showing. Today he gets an 'A'."
Klinsmann’s reward for his outing was a spot on the bench for Hertha’s match against Augsburg on Sunday. It was the first time he has made the gameday 18 for a Bundesliga contest. He had made the bench three times in the Europa League before his start Thursday.
The contest Sunday ended in a 1-1 draw, but Augsburg goal came on an error from No. 1 Rune Jarstein. If Klinsmann can continue to impress in training and with Berlin II, then a chance with the first team may not be far off.
While Klinsmann appears to be inching up the depth chart, Ethan Horvath may be on his way down. After losing his starting spot to Guillaume Hebert, Horvath continued to make benches as a backup. However, after Herbert struggled in his audition as the No. 1, rather than turn back to Horvath, Brugge instead has gone with veteran Ludovic Butelle, whom Horvath dethroned last season. And to make matters worse, Horvath is not even making the 18 anymore.
“It is unfortunate for Horvath, because he started the season as a starter,” Brugge manager Ivan Leko said a few weeks ago. “But this means nothing for the next match. That he is not even in the selection and [Jens] Teunckens is, does not mean that I estimate Teunckens higher than Horvath. Only I think that you need other qualities as a third goalkeeper than with a first or second goalkeeper. There you need a youngster who is happy to be able to go along."
Brugge’s problems at the position are bad enough the club parted ways with goalkeeper coach Jan Van Steenberghe this past week.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the position, it’d be foolish to write off Horvath yet. Hopefully for him and his teammates, a new voice can help them iron out their recent dips in form.
GONZALEZ LOSES IN LIGA MX FINAL
There were quite a few times during the final of the Liga MX Apertura where it looked as if Jonathan Gonzalez’s breakout season for Monterrey was going to end with a trophy.
The top team in the regular season, Monterrey jumped out to an early lead against rival Tigres in the first leg midweek, only to have Tigres equalize and get a draw. At home in the second leg, Monterrey was up two minutes in, but conceded twice with Aviles Hurtado missing a late penalty that would have again tied the proceedings. In the end, Gonzalez and Monterrey suffered heartbreak, with a 3-2 aggregate defeat in the final.
Gonzalez went 80 minutes in the second leg before being replaced — it was just the sixth time he was subbed off in Liga MX play this year in 20 starts.
Though it did not end in a title, it has been a meteoric rise for the teenager this season as he went from prospect to every-week starter for one of the best teams in Liga MX. It’s enough to have sparked a fight for his services on a national team level, though he’s stated in the past he’s committed to the United States. And rumors last week had Gonzalez drawing the interest of Borussia Dortmund.
It’s not prudent to put Gonzalez in Europe, or anywhere else, yet. But the defensive midfielder is making waves in a dream start to a promising career.
WOOD'S MISSES OUT WITH KNEE INJURY
Bobby Wood’s troublesome knee issues have again reared their ugly head.
The attacker did not make the 18 for the showdown against Wolfsburg and fellow U.S. international John Brooks thanks to the problem, missing out on a scoreless draw. After the game, Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol updated his status, saying it’s possible he could return in short order.
"Bobby Wood was not fit for action against Wolfsburg due to a knee problem,” Gisdol told reporters after the game. “We will decide during Monday whether he can be an option again for Tuesday in the match against Frankfurt.”
Wood has suffered from knee problems with Hamburg since last season, missing time along the way and possibly impacting his form both down the stretch last year and at points this season.
If Wood isn’t ready, it may not be the worst thing in the world. The winter break in Germany is coming soon — after games Tuesday and Friday, Hamburg does not play again until Jan. 13. An extended rest might be what Wood needs to improve the condition of his knee and possibly rediscover some of the form he showed in the middle of last season.
CAMERON MAKES STOKE RETURN, CHANDLER BACK
After returning to training too late to make it back for Stoke’s against Swansea, Geoff Cameron was restored to the bench for the Potters match against Tottenham. The result was a bad one for Stoke as it went down in a heavy 5-1 defeat to Spurs but Cameron came off the bench to get his first action since Oct. 21.
Cameron played 15 minutes in his return from a concussion. It may not sound like much, but the defender told the media last week he harbored concern for his long-term future.
“You don’t know when it’s going to get right and there’s situations like Andy Wilkinson,” Cameron told the Stoke Sentinel, referencing a player who was forced to retire due to concussions. “After the second or third week, it was like, `Am I going to be in a tough position now? Is this the end of me?’
“Speaking to one of my very close friends who actually studies concussions, a doctor I’ve known back in the States, he reassured me I would get better over time.”
Cameron figured he would only be a substitute this weekend, but noted the club has a lot of games coming up and playing time should be available.
Another American back in training is Timothy Chandler. The Eintracht Frankfurt defender went down with a torn meniscus Oct. 21 in the first half of a 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund and required surgery.
A lengthy spell on the sidelines was expected, but Chandler returned to full training this week in the lead up to his club’s match with Bayern Munich. However, he did not make the 18 for Frankfurt’s 1-0 loss to the Bundesliga leaders.
Prior to his injury, Chandler was one of the few Americans in a top European league with a lockdown spot in an XI. We’ll see if that remains the case after Marius Wolf has come in and done a solid job in the position, including scoring a goal last weekend against Hertha Berlin.