Has Christian Pulisic gone from "Wonder Boy" to "Boy Wonder"?
The American teenager, less-than-affectionately referred to as the former by Alexi Lalas back in September 2017, is now staking some claim to the latter, following another assist in Borussia Dortmund's 2-0 win over Bobby Wood and Hamburg on Saturday.
In each of the last two weeks, Pulisic has assisted on a goal scored by Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi, who likes the nickname "Batsman." The pair combined on the second goal in Batshuayi's debut, a 3-2 win over Koln. And they did so again this week on what stood as the winner in the victory over Hamburg.
With the game scoreless a few minutes into the second half, Pulisic got a bit of space just inside the area at a narrow angle. He hit a low drive that Batshuayi managed to slide home to give Dortmund the lead.
While the assist against Koln was more straightforward as Pulisic played it into the path of Batshuayi, this one looked more like a shot attempt than a pass. Either way, Dortmund will take it as they moved up to third in the Bundesliga table.
Interestingly enough, Pulisic had just one assist this season prior to the last two games after tallying six last season. With Batshuayi aboard for the rest of the year and in fine goalscoring form, Pulisic may find his assist totals falling more in line with last season’s than the first half of this campaign — perhaps playing Robin to "Batsman."
Also of note was that Pulisic started even with the return of Marco Reus. In the past, Reus’s injuries helped Pulisic see more time on the field. Now it looks like manager Peter Stoger is going to look to get Reus, Pulisic and Andre Schurrle on the field at the same time, as they lined up as the three attacking midfielders behind Batshuayi.
On the other side, Bobby Wood made his third straight start for Hamburg, but this ended up being his shortest under new manager Bernd Hollerbach as he went just 54 minutes. Wood was active, but only really managed one good chance, which was blocked.
Hamburg as a team is struggling, but there’s no escaping the fact Wood has one goal this season in 17 Bundesliga games for the club. He also hasn’t scored since August. If Hamburg is going to stay up – it is currently three points back of a relegation playoff and six back of safety – the club is going to need Wood to start scoring some goals, or get someone in there who can.
Donovan makes Liga MX debut
Landon Donovan is officially back.
While he announced his return with Leon in January, he had not actually stepped onto the field quite yet for the Liga MX side. That changed Saturday evening, when he made the team for its match against Puebla and got his debut in the 83rd minute of the 2-1 win . Fellow American William Yarbrough started in goal for Leon.
"It was much harder than what I saw on television or what we do in training, but I think with some games I can improve," Donovan said after the match.
That isn’t surprising, given Donovan was retired up until a month ago. That he managed to get onto the field at all suggests the coaching staff sees he has something to offer if he can get himself close to full fitness.
Gran triunfo y una noche inolvidable para mi. Gracias a mis compañeros y a la afición por darme esta experiencia. Me voy a mejorar y ayudar más al equipo. #SerFieraEsUnOrgullo pic.twitter.com/Ep4naQeZz2— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) February 11, 2018
How long that may take, given Donovan is almost 36 years old, is anyone’s guess. But he'll the opportunity to try.
Johannsson gets first Bundesliga start since 2016
For the first time in a long while, things are looking up at the club level for Aron Johannsson.
Having seen his playing time at Werder Bremen dwindle to almost nothing for most of the 2017-18 season, Johannsson breathed new life into his club career last week with a beautiful chip to set up the winner for Bremen against Schalke.
Then in the DFB-Pokal, Johannsson was handed a start and paid immediate dividends, scoring early in the contest to give Bremen a 2-0 lead against Bayer Leverkusen . However an injury to his hip knocked the forward from the contest at the half, and seemed to be another unfortunate setback.
But Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt claimed the injury was not serious and that proved truthful on Sunday when Johannsson lined up on the right side against Wolfsburg, who were again without John Brooks due to injury. For Johannsson, it was his first Bundesliga start since September 2016.
Johannsson didn’t find the scoresheet, but he went 65 minutes in a 3-1 win that saw Bremen move up to 15th in the table, three points above the relegation zone. He could have had an assist, but Maximilian Eggestein’s header off his cross was put straight at the Wolfsburg goalkeeper.
One thing that has been consistent in his return to the team is that Johannsson is not lining up as a center forward, but in a wide right position. He’s been allowed to float across the forward line, but he’s primarily on the right. And his boss sees this as part of his appeal.
"I think Aron can play in a few different positions," Kohfeldt told Bundesliga.com. "I got a few laughs when I said he should play out wide, but he's been doing a great job. He attacks and defends well and he doesn't just play to have fun. He always wants to win and he is a really hard worker. I like guys like that."
He’s liked it enough to give Johannsson an extended look with the first team — a chance that at times looked like it would never come again with Bremen.
Yedlin features in upset of Man United
DeAndre Yedlin was handed the start Sunday for Rafa Benitez's Newcastle in a tough home date with Manchester United. Matched up against new United signing Alexis Sanchez, Yedlin faced one of his bigger tests of the Premier League season.
Yedlin made a couple of big plays en route to a surprise 1-0 win for Newcastle, including a key last-man tackle. After Romelu Lukaku appeared to play Sanchez in on goal, Yedlin scrambled back to make a sliding tackle to temporarily dispossess Sanchez and prevent him from taking the chance.
Newcastle still had to scramble to get it clear as Sanchez managed to get back onto the ball, but without Yedlin’s tackle, Sanchez almost certainly would have provided the opener and created a far different contest for the Magpies. Yedlin also cleared a chance off the line later in the contest.
While his job was difficult, Yedlin performed well enough in the victory, which arguably is Newcastle's biggest of the season. Aside from the quality of opposition, the win takes the club to 28 points, and up to 13th in the Premier League table.
However, it's worth noting Yedlin and his teammates are far from safe — they are just two points above 18th-place Southampton in a very jumbled bottom of the table.
George breaks six-month drought
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but it helps to be both. Jann-Christopher George was that on Saturday in a 2-0 Jahn Regensburg win over FC Heidenheim.
George played a short corner and then took advantage of a scramble in the box, hitting a shot just under the crossbar at an odd angle to bag the opener.
It was an excellent finish by George, but he was clearly sitting in offside position. It’s possible the linesman did not flag for offside because it came off a deflection by a defender, but George was well off when the initial shot was taken. Still, he’ll take it, breaking a duck that extended back to August.
George’s goal was the top moment for Americans toiling in the second divisions of the top leagues. It was a bit of up-and-down week for the rest of them.
Elsewhere in the 2.Bundesliga, Alfredo Morales’s modest two-game goal scoring streak was ended as he went 90 minutes in a scoreless draw against Erzgebirge Aue. Meanwhile, Julian Green went the distance for Greuther Fuerth in a 1-0 win, though he did not get on the scoresheet. Haji Wright also made the Sandhausen team for the first time since December, but did not get into a scoreless draw with Eintracht Braunschweig.
Antonee Robinson notched an assist for the second straight games for Bolton in a 1-1 draw with Tim Ream and Fulham. For Everton loanee Robinson, that brings his assist total in the Championship this season to four.