Sports

THE OPTION | Where's Christian Pulisic Going to End Up?

The First American Superstar Has Yet to Nail Down a Deal Commensurate with His Level of Play.

The American market is pretty thin when it comes to soccer talent.

Almost no U.S. soccer player is a household name, and even big stars like Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley were mediocre when playing on top-flight European teams. Clint Dempsey is probably the only U.S. player who was actually relevant in European soccer, helping Fulham finish second in the Europa League in 2010.

That said, this is still a second-tier accomplishment. Fulham has never made it to the Champions League, and even when he played for Tottenham, Dempsey never made it to the highest level of European play. Maybe it's American exceptionalism, but the United States' lack of representation on the world stage has always rubbed our soccer fans the wrong way.

Cue Christian Pulisic, a plucky-looking 19-year-old from Hershey Pennsylvania, who has been making huge splashes in the German Bundesliga, where he became the youngest foreigner to ever score a goal at age 17. Unlike Dempsey, Donovan, or Bradley however, the United States' admiration for this up-and-coming star is universal and has very little to do with his track record with the USMNT.

Still, despite his obvious talent, Pulisic has yet to nail down a deal commensurate with his level of play. He makes around $23,000 per week, an insane amount of money for a normal person but a tawdry sum for a professional athlete. To give you an idea of how insultingly low it is, Pulisic's market value is estimated at about £40 million. He's still under contract with Borussia Dortmund until 2020, but this hasn't stopped the wild speculation about where Pulisic might end up playing for in the very near future.

Pulisic

Currently, the frontrunners seem to be Liverpool, who have made at least two attempts to score the midfielder in recent years and saw their £11 million bid in 2016 rejected. Despite their failures to land the wunderkind, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp still admires Pulisic's play style and hopes to land him on the team, paying lip service and mumbling about 'respecting contracts' in a recent press conference.

Klopp later went on to explain that the team has everything it needs for the next season after signing a bevy of talent from all around Europe, including Fabinho, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Alisson Becker. The latter was awarded the most expensive goalie contract in soccer history. Interestingly though, when Klopp's squad suited up against Borussia Dortmund in the International Champions Cup, Pulisic torched them in the second half, netting two goals and assisting on a third. The Reds are still interested in the young prospect, but since they've been handing out money to every other free agent they can find, they might not have deep enough pockets.

Not badBundesliga.com

Liverpool is far from the only Premier League team hunting Pulisic though, and rumors have been percolating all summer about Pulisic and his potential ties to Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea. Still, they are just that, rumors. Tottenham just re-signed the oft-injured Erik Lamela, and with their depth at the midfield position, it seems silly to think that they'd go after the youngster.

United has been planning to trade Anthony Martial for the American phenom, but this has been in the news for some time and Borussia Dortmund hasn't publicly addressed the matter. Out of the three teams listed above, Chelsea is the only one desperate enough to really shell out the money for Pulisic though. Real Madrid has been eyeballing Chelsea's star midfielder Eden Hazard, and Chelsea is rightfully terrified to lose him. That said, if the Premier League has noticed Pulisic, that means Europe's most powerful squads have noticed him as well.

This brings us to two teams, both alike in dignity. I'm of course referring to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich (apologies to Barcelona). With teams of this caliber entering the scene, Pulisic's chances of entering the Premier League look to be dimming. Real recently shipped off both their head coach and star player (Zinedine Zidane and Christiano Ronaldo respectively) to Juventus, and are looking to rebuild their squad with young talent. They just won the Champion's League three years running, and definitely carry a certain appeal. On the flip side, Bayern Munich is also attempting to replenish its team with young players, as stars like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry are getting older. The issue with Bayern however, is that they're rivals of Pulisic's current squad. To throw another wrench into the situation, Pulisic's current teammate, Marco Reus has been urging Pulisic to stay with Dortmund for "many more years."

With so many teams to choose from, all of them top-tier, Christian Pulisic is on the verge of becoming the first real American soccer star. Whether he'll end up joining the Premier League and playing in a more competitive domestic environment or joins a super club like Real or Bayern remains to be seen. The fact is, for all the wild speculation, it's completely unclear where Pulisic is going to end up. Keep your eye out though, the smart money is that he won't be playing Dortmund next year, no matter how good the money is. Superstars play at the top level of competition, and it's clear that Pulisic would be wasting his time playing anywhere that doesn't have a real shot at winning the Champions League. After missing the World Cup, he's the only bright spot in the interminable mediocrity machine that is American soccer.


Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found on Popdust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. Website: https://matthewdclibanoff.journoportfolio.com/ Twitter: @mattclibanoff


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

THE OPTION | The Last Giant

THE OPTION | The Stafford Effect

THE OPTION | Catalan Independence and What It Means for Barcelona Soccer

Sports

WORLD CUP | Qualifying heats up as the U.S. leaps forward

After a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago and a draw with Mexico, the U.S. are in a great position to enter the last weeks of qualifying

U.S. star Christian Pulisic thrilled with two stunning goals against Trinidad and Tobago.

On Thursday night, the 18-year-old Pulisic continued to build his legend and the hopes of U.S. fans for a national team star.

In an important World Cup qualifying victory over Trinidad and Tobago, Christian Pulisic gave the U.S. its only two goals and a massive boost of momentum heading into Sunday night's tough Mexico match.

It was 0-0 heading into the second half but the U.S. surged in its first minutes, taking the ball to the T&T goal and earning a solid cross from Yedlin to the center of the goal where Pulisic's sliding kick delivered the first goal of the match.

Just ten minutes later, Pulisic struck again, embarrassing the T&T keeper with a hard grounder past the inside post. The youngest player to start in a World Cup qualifier for the senior U.S. team proved twice more in Thursday's match that he is skilled at a level we haven't seen in recent years in this country.

The goals gave the U.S. much-needed confidence going into Sunday night's difficult away match at Mexico City. The USMNT has never beaten Mexico in Mexico City and had only drawn twice before their thrilling, aggressive draw this weekend.

In only the sixth minute, Michael Bradley dribbled past a surprised Mexican midfield and lobbed and long chip shot over the head of the sleeping keeper to stun the home crowd. It was a sensational goal from the veteran that instantly boosted the energy of the U.S. fans and players. Like Golden State in Game 4, Mexico was suddenly playing a shocked recovery game and their blatant fouls showed how desperately they needed a quick equalizer.

Bobby Wood took pass after pass up front for the U.S. amid dangerously sloppy tackles by Mexico and an elbow to Bobby Wood's face that, commentators and reporters agreed, should have resulted in a red card against the home team in just the 4th minute. Somehow, the only cards given in the match were yellows for Arriola and Yedlin on the U.S. side.

After Bradley's 35-yard goal—with which he finally and spectacularly redeemed himself for giving the game to Portugal in Brazil, 2014—Mexico waited less than twenty minutes for an equalizer from Carlos Vela. It was a huge missed opportunity on a U.S. corner that set Mexico up with an unstoppable counter and Vela's goal.

The Mexican team continued to foul aggressively and get away with it, uncarded, while Pulisic found little room to work under heavy guarding by the opponent's midfield. Halftime brought renewed hope to both teams but neither managed another point in the extremely tense second half.

The tension was at its peak in the three minutes of penalty time, when the ref, who'd already stopped any attempt at hiding his bias, refused to blow the final whistle. The clock showed 93 minutes but the ref let Mexico continue their slow drive to the goal and take a shot. He gave them a last corner attempt but it failed and he was forced, finally, to end the game in a draw.

Where things stand in #TheHex after Sunday night's draw at Azteca. 🇺🇸📈
A post shared by U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) on Jun 12, 2017 at 12:39pm PDT

With seven straight wins or ties under their new coach, Bruce Arena, the U.S. will enter the final weeks of qualifying in September with high hopes and good chances. Now tied for second in the group (behind Mexico), the U.S. will look for more wins starting August 31 against Costa Rica. The exciting Pulisic will continue to shine as the team's most promising playmaker and scorer as the USMNT looks to lock in its spot in Russia 2018.

Follow U.S. Soccer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


READ MORE ABOUT SPORTS:

Chelsea's title win tops this week's best goals

Tony Romo finally quits quarterback internship to follow NFL broadcasting dream

The U.S. bids for 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada


Sports

Meet the Young Players Vying for USMNT Starts in Russia 2018

Julian Green, Christian Pulisic, Jordan Morris and others want starring roles in the next World Cup.

Twitter: @ReadUSSoccer

Soccer hype in the US surges every time the World Cup comes around, and this time it seems to have lasted more strongly than ever. Last World Cup, in Brazil 2014, the US Men's National Team made it out of the "Group of Death" (against Germany, Portugal and Ghana) only to lose to Belgium in the Round of 16. For context, Germany went on to win it all and Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who kicked a superb cross to Varela for a heartbreaking extra-time goal that ruined what would've been a huge win for the US squad. The US did pretty well, all things considered. But the team under Jurgen Klinsmann is still trying to find its best game in the early qualifiers for Russia 2018, with veterans like Michael Bradley looking lethargic (I still can't forgive him for basically serving up that Portugal goal) and Clint Dempsey on the DL.

With qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia starting next month, the excitement is already building around the young players who are hoping for starting positions on the final roster. So who are they?


Julian Green winds up. Photo: Twitter/@SBISoccer

Julian Green

Age: 21

Position: midfielder

Caps (appearances in international games): 3

Goals: 3

Julian Green is tied (with Christian Pulisic) as the most exciting player on the US Men's National Team, according to this writer. Born in Tampa, Florida, he signed with the German club Bayern Munich in 2013 and played in the Champions League. Soon he joined Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT and made his debut as a substitute against Mexico in April 2014. He made it onto the final roster for that summer's World Cup and appeared as a sub in two games, against Turkey and Belgium. Coming on in the second half, Green shocked the country when he scored the only goal against Belgium in the close 2-1 loss that would knock the US out of the tournament!


Lynden Gooch takes a shot. Photo: @SunderlandAFC

Lynden Gooch

Age: 20

Position: midfielder

Caps: 0

Goals: 0

Lynden Gooch hasn't even played a game for the USMNT yet, but he's had excited eyes on him since he signed a professional contract with Sunderland when he was 17. The Santa Cruz native scored five goals in the Under-21 Premier League and in the senior Premier League this August, had a good debut against Manchester City. He has a long way to go to make the final roster, but if he can transfer the energy that helped his Under-21 team qualify for the 2015 World Cup to the national squad, he'll certainly have a chance.


Christian Pulisic ready for a throw-in. Photo: Twitter/@soccerdotcom

Christian Pulisic

Age: 18

Position: Midfielder

Caps: 1

Goals: 2

This kid's got skill. The just-turned-18-year-old Christian Pulisic already has the country buzzing about his future with the national team. In his first start for Klinsmann's squad in September, Pulisic scored twice against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And he was still 17, making him the youngest American to score in a World Cup qualifier! And he scored twice! I mean, not bad for his first game with the team. Get ready to see a lot more of this electric player from Hershey, PA, because he's just warming up.


John Brooks sliding in for a tackle. Photo: Twitter/@sportfeeds_mls

John Brooks

Age: 23

Position: Defender

Caps: 27

Goals: 3

John Brooks played for the Berlin club Hertha BSC before joining the USMNT. He has dual citizenship but chose the US as his international team, and we're lucky he did. After starting in two friendlies in 2013, he made his first World Cup appearance as a sub in the 86th minute of the Group Stage match against Ghana… where he delivered a fantastic header into the goal almost immediately to break the tie and give the US a 2-1 win! He's only the second player ever for the US to score in a World Cup after being subbed in.


DeAndre Yedlin in pursuit. Photo: Twitter/@DiarioLaPrensa

DeAndre Yedlin

Age: 23

Position: Defender

Caps: 42

Goals: 0

Yedlin has plenty of experience in international competition but he's still looking for a starting position in Russia. The 23-year-old from Seattle was the 2013 MLS All Star and a finalist for Rookie of the Year. His three appearances in the 2014 World Cup solidified the back line and led to a Clint Dempsey goal against Portugal. He's a star on the Seattle Sounders, and this year he played in every USMNT match, including its Gold Cup tournament.


Aron Johannsson does a Usain Bolt pose. Photo: Twitter/@werderbremen_en

Aron Johannsson

Age: 25

Position: Forward

Caps: 19

Goals: 4

Aron Johannsson, born in Mobile, Alabama, came up through the Icelandic youth soccer program but signed with the USMNT in 2013. The next day he made his first friendly appearance against Bosnia-Herzegovina. He made it onto the 2014 WC roster, subbing in for Jozy Altidore. At twenty-five, he's the oldest of our up-and-comers. Despite being known for his skills as a playmaker up front, he's going to want some goals of his own to find that starting spot on the roster.


Jordan Morris doesn't just play Xbox… he wears it. Photo: Twitter/@si_soccer

Jordan Morris

Age: 21

Position: Forward

Caps: 1

Goals: 1

Morris became the first active college player to be called up to the national team in twenty years when Klinsmann brought him into the US's friendly against Mexico. In that game, Morris, a sophomore at Stanford, also scored his first international goal. This season, he's the Seattle Sounders' leading scorer and is building the kind of hype that can become too much to handle: is he the next Ronaldo? the next Messi? We can only hope. But with the kind of energy he's bringing to the game, he's making his name known and looking to score a start in Russia.


What's Next?

The US is one of six teams who made it to the "Hexagonal" stage of qualifying that starts in November against—who else?—rivals Mexico. The top three teams grab an automatic spot in Russia 2018, and fourth place heads to a playoff match for one last chance to advance. The US audience's excitement is high from the last World Cup, but it's up to these young players to boost the team out of it's recent dull streak. The country wants a star, so… who's it going to be?