As Borussia Dortmund heads toward the end of the season, it looks as if Christian Pulisic has settled into his role as an impact substitute off the bench. He did not start any of Dortmund’s last three Bundesliga contents, though he certainly made his presence felt in his side’s 4-3 comeback win over Werder Bremen.
Pulisic drew a late penalty, which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished, to give Dortmund three points. The victory ensured third place for the club, and a guaranteed spot in the Champions League group stages for next season.
Dortmund has one match remaining — the DFB-Pokal final against Timmy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt. The game has plenty on it beside silverware, with Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel’s job security uncertain. On the other side, Frankfurt would get into the Europa League with a victory.
One way or the other, it looks like one American will have plenty to celebrate as attention is turned toward the international action this summer.
WOOD AND HAMBURG FIND SAFETY
Perhaps the biggest drama on the final Bundesliga matchday of the season was who would be the unlucky side which ended up in the relegation playoff. Bobby Wood and Hamburg were in the spot to begin the day, but a victory over Wolfsburg would ensure safety for another year.
Winless in its last five coming into the contest, it looked like Hamburg was doomed early on after Wolfsburg jumped out to an early one-goal edge. But the hosts rallied as high pressure allowed Wood to recover the ball and play a pass to Lewis Holtby, who found Filip Kostic for the equalizer.
That still was not enough however, and with 10 minutes left in the contest, it looked as if Hamburg would fall just short. But in the 88th minute, Kostic found Luca Waldschmidt for a header that put the hosts in front. Hamburg held on for the 2-1 win, which preserved their status in the Bundesliga for another season. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg, where U.S. player McKinze Gaines is a youth prospect, will have to face Eintracht Braunschweig in the relegation playoff to keep its status for another season.
For Wood, this ensures that he’ll remain in the top division regardless of whether or not he stays at Hamburg. Given his recent injury problems, that bit of security will certainly be welcome.
TIJUANA TRIO BOW OUT
If an American wins Liga MX this year, he will not be a major player in the championship.
Jose Torres remains in the Liguilla playoffs with Tigres but he did not make the 18 in their triumph over Tijuana. Joe Corona started after being dropped in the first leg and Paul Arriola came off the bench for Xolos in the 71st minute, but neither could help with a breakthrough as Tigres won 2-0 in the second leg and 4-0 on aggregate.
While it was a disappointing end to the season for the group overall, the Clausura proved to be very productive for the trio of Americans on Tijuana. Paul Arriola earned himself playing time and a national team call-up, as did Michael Orozco, even though injury ended his stints with both and club and country early.
And Joe Corona has not earned himself a call-up yet, but should have placed himself back firmly in the picture in becoming one of Tijuana’s key figures in the Clausura after ending up on loan in the Mexican second division during the fall.
We’ll see if the three players have made a strong impression on Bruce Arena for his summer rosters — either World Cup qualifying or the Gold Cup.
MCKENNIE GETS BUNDESLIGA DEBUT
Some eyebrows were raised when Schalke refused to allow U.S. youth internationals Weston McKennie and Haji Wright to join Tab Ramos’ squad for the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea. Schalke valued its youth team’s chance at winning the German youth title more, though that side did end up falling to Bayern Munich on penalties. McKennie, Wright and a third American, Nick Taitague, started for Schalke.
However, the German club was within its rights to not release them — teams do not have to release players for youth tournaments — and in the end, Wright and McKennie were rewarded with spots on the bench for Schalke’s season finale against already-relegated Ingolstadt.
McKennie was able to make his Bundesliga debut, coming on in the 77th minute. Wright did not get on the field, with the attacker’s opportunity diminished when Schalke was reduced to 10 men in the second half.
Both Wright and McKennie impressed to make the side on the last day of the season, so they will be players to keep an eye in the Bundesliga next fall.
GUZAN CLOSES OUT PREMIER LEAGUE RUN
Still, they had a role to play in deciding the one question left on the Premier League’s last matchday of the season: Who would get the league's fourth and final Champions League spot? Liverpool faced Boro needing a win to secure its place in Europe’s top continental competition over Arsenal.
For 45 minutes, Guzan and Boro held Liverpool at bay, with Guzan doing well to collect anything near the six-yard box. But in first-half stoppage time, Georginio Wijnaldum burst into the area and fired a shot near post that beat Guzan and gave the Reds a 1-0 lead.
Then early in the second half, Philippe Coutinho hit a very good free kick that caught Guzan going the wrong way for a second goal. It appeared the keeper did not trust his wall, though he was not the only U.S. international to have issues with free kicks this weekend.
Liverpool would eventually get a third via Adam Lallana, though there is little Guzan could have done about that.
Guzan’s time with Middlesbrough did not go well as the side finished second-to-the-bottom in the Premier League, and the goalkeeper drew the ire of the fans toward the end of the season. But Guzan will get a fresh start as he returns stateside with Atlanta, though he will not be eligible until MLS’s July transfer window opens. Given Guzan may well be on the Gold Cup roster, Atlanta fans may not see their new No.1 until closer to August.
ANOTHER AMERICAN IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE
There will definitely be another American in the Premier League in 2017-18 — the only question is whether it will be a player or manager.
Danny Williams and Reading got past Tim Ream and Fulham 1-0 in the second leg and advanced 2-1 on aggregate in the promotion playoff semifinals. Both Williams and Ream went the full 90 in each of the two legs.
In the other semifinal, it came down to penalty kicks but David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town got by Sheffield Wednesday. The German-born American manager will now see if he can guide his side over the final hurdle and into the Premier League in the final at Wembley, which will take place May 29.
“A lot of the pundits expected us to be in relegation trouble but now we are in the final at Wembley," Wagner told the official Huddersfield Town website.
“We always said we are a small dog, everyone knows we are a low budget club but that doesn’t stop us being ambitious.
“You can only manage your ambitions if you focus on yourself and try to work; this is what the players have done over the whole season and now they’re at Wembley.”
While Wagner certainly would be of interest to American fans, Williams making the Premier League would likely have more immediate impact on the national team. Despite playing every week in England’s second division, Williams did not find his way into the national team for March’s qualifiers.
There is certainly a possibility Williams could see a call-up this summer. But if he does not, an every-week Premier League midfielder would be much harder for Bruce Arena to ignore.