The Christian Pulisic hype train in the United States is already going full throttle, but it may have found even another gear after Borussia Dortmund’s opening day win over Wolfsburg on Saturday.
Starting for Dortmund, Pulisic did not wait long to make a big impact in the contest. In the 22nd minute he delivered a perfectly placed shot from the edge of the area to give Dortmund its first goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Then in the second half, he hit a perfect low cross across the face of goal that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got on the end of to make it 3-0, which is how the game finished.
Pulisic had shown well in preseason, right through the Super Cup against Bayern Munich — a game during which he also opened the scoring with a good individual effort. But that was preseason — Saturday’s performance came when it really counted and made a positive impression on new Dortmund manager Peter Bosz, even if Pulisic himself would only give his goal a B grade.
"I am really satisfied, 3-0 In Wolfsburg is a great result,” Bosz said in comments published on Dortmund’s official website. “Overall it was a very good team performance. Christian Pulisic is still very young, but did really well today — and not just because of his goal. He was all over the pitch, created lots of dangerous situations and played really well.”
The teenager has done well in the last year to make himself a solid rotation player for Dortmund, starting important matches while also delivering as an impact substitute. But the opportunity may well be there for even more this season.
Beyond his maturation, the Ousmane Dembele transfer saga gives Pulisic, who at times has been in the talented young Frenchman’s shadow, a bigger spotlight. Should Dembele depart for Barcelona, Pulisic’s performance Saturday suggests he could slot into a similar creative role from a wide position.
Even if Dembele stays, he may not be re-integrated into the side until after the transfer deadline. That gives Pulisic more time to prove himself capable of a more important role.
So strap in, 2017-18 could be an exciting one for the American playmaker.
GOALS IN GERMANY
Pulisic was not the only American to find the back of the net in Germany this weekend. He was, however, the only one to do so in the top flight.
Haji Wright, a 19-year-old on loan from Schalke, got his first professional goal in SV Sandhausen’s 4-0 victory over Dynamo Dresden.
Also finding the back of the net, twice, was 25-year-old Jann George, who delivered for Jahn Regensburg in a 4-2 win over Ingolstadt. If you’re unfamiliar with George, you’re likely not alone — the Nuremberg-born attacker has been working away in the fourth division of Germany for much of his career.
George made it up to the 3.Liga last year with Jahn Regensburg and bagged 10 goals in the league, helping the side go up to the 2.Bungesliga. And he’s not missed a beat at the higher level, scoring three goals in three league games so far.
Obviously, that’s still a long way from a national team call-up, but George is making himself another American to keep an eye on in Germany’s second division this season.
QUESTIONS IN DEFENSE
With the World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras coming up, the last thing the United States national team needs is a rash of injuries. But that’s exactly what has happened to the back line.
The most notable loss is John Brooks, who is sidelined for months with a thigh injury and will likely miss the remainder of qualifying. But he is not alone.
Fellow center back Omar Gonzalez has not suited up for Pachuca since August 9. DeAndre Yedlin returned to training for Newcastle, but was not deemed fit enough for the 18 for the Magpies against Huddersfield.
And if there were any thought of potentially dropping Fabian Johnson back to defense, he was not in Borussia Mochengladbach’s 18 thanks to injury this week.
Who will be available for those qualifiers? Jorge Villafana finally received his first start of the Liga MX season this week, going 90 minutes in a 2-0 Santos Laguna loss to Tijuana.
Timmy Chandler went 90 minutes in Eintracht Frankfurt’s scoreless draw with Freiburg, seeing time at both right wing-back and in his side’s back three.
And speaking of back threes, Geoff Cameron lined up in a defensive trio for the second week in a row for Stoke, this time in a 1-0 victory over Arsenal. Tim Ream also went the 90 for Fulham.
Meanwhile, Eric Lichaj isn’t struggling with injury, but has yet to start for Nottingham Forest in the Championship this season, finally seeing his first action of the campaign as a substitute Saturday. Likewise, Matt Miazga has yet to start for Vitesse in this season’s Eredivisie, making just two substitute appearances.
All this shapes up to a very uncertain national team back line. It will be interesting to see who is available to Bruce Arena for the games in a few weeks and who he decides to go with.
PLAYING TIME NOT READILY AVAILABLE
While there are some good stories among the Americans playing abroad, it’s also worth noting that not everything is positive in regards to playing time. Quite a few players, some of whom were fixtures in their team’s lineups last year, have found themselves struggling for playing time.
As mentioned, Lichaj and Miazga have yet to start for their sides, though that may be due to participation in the Gold Cup giving them a late start to the preseason.
In Mexico, Joe Corona and Michael Orozco both did not make the 18 for Tijuana, which is a bit concerning since the club went through a coaching change this summer.
In the Premier League, teenager Cameron Carter-Vickers has struggled for game time with Tottenham and with the acquisition of club-record signing Davinson Sanchez, he is likely further from a role.
Julian Green was not in the 18 for Stuttgart in their return to the Bundesliga. Aron Johannsson did manage to see a few minutes for Werder Bremen this past weekend, but has found opportunities limited since returning from injury last season. And 24-year-old Caleb Stanko was not in the 18 for Freiburg in their Bundesliga opener.
These are just some of the names that are finding minutes hard to come by. In some cases loan moves or transfers may be needed to secure playing time. In other cases, the best case may be working hard in training and waiting for that opportunity.
However, as we near the 2018 World Cup, these players will need to sort out their situations soon. They will have to make their way into someone’s lineup if they want to have a shot at Russia next summer.