Ok soccer fans – so the EPL Season kicked off Friday afternoon with European Champions Liverpool destroying Norwich 4-1 on opening day. Full game line-ups on Saturday and especially on Sunday at 11:30 am when Chelsea and New American startlet Christian Pulisic is expected to make his regular season debut with Chelsea when they take on fellow top six challengers Manchester United in a match that could set the tone for both teams heading into the season. Chelsea finished the 2018-19 season in third place in the EPL, but due to their incoming transfer ban, they have seen several key players depart including Eden Hazard and David Luiz. Pulisic is the most notable addition to the squad for the upcoming season. The general movement would suggest that the club could have a hard time maintaining their Champions League position under first year manager Frank Lampard. Manchester United finished the 2018-19 campaign in sixth place in the Premier League, and they would like to push themselves back into top four relevance this season. But, it remains to be seen whether Ole Gunnar Solskjær is really the manager to be leading them and whether the pieces they’ve assembled this season, with the loss of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the addition of Harry Maguire from Leicester City, will be enough to get the job done. It all goes down Sunday right after New Castle United and US defender Deandre Yedlin host Arsenal. So I guess I need to make my picks for this season. I think Liverpool will finally win the English Premier League for the first time in 30 years – however they won’t win Champions League – out in the round of 4 or maybe 8? I think Man City will make the run to the final 8 at least in Champs League but will give up the title chasing UEFA honors. Tottenham will finish 4rd in my mind – as they kept everyone and made a good late addition to the squad. The battle for the 4th Champs League spot should be epic with Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and perhaps a retooled Everton making that push. I think Arsenal might well be the team – but I am of course will be rooting for American Pulisic and Chelsea to claim that spot. I think Pulisic will have to score double digit goals and double digit assists for that kind of run to happen and while that would be awesome for US Soccer I just don’t know. (Not since Dempsey was starring at Fulham has an American scored more than 10 goals in a season.) I am still worried that Pulisic might get injured – the EPL is a really rough league – much rougher than the Bundesliga. Here’s hoping he has success – this new Chelsea fan will be watching!
So plenty of MLS teams made some interesting pick-ups on transfer deadline day this week – as LAFC, LA Galaxy and others made big signings. The biggest move however was DC United’s Wayne Rooney’s announcement that he is leaving to become player coach at Derby County after the MLS Season ends. That leaves us with probably our only opportunity to see the two legends Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovich for LA Galaxy clash the Sunday, 7:30 pm ET on Fox Sports 1. Also huge news as Carmel High Grad and former Carmel High Soccer star Matt Hedges is set to tie the record for most starts for Dallas FC this weekend.
So Carmel FC Goalkeeping Training returns this week with Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr. We plan to be at Shelbourne on the upper school fields Thursday 8/15 starting at 6 pm U10-U12, 7 pm U13-U15. CFC Coaches please send me new names and contact info if you have new Goalkeepers this season. Congrats to all those players who made high school teams this past week at CHS or Guerin or University and good luck on the season. For those who may not have made the team – please reach out to Carmel Dads about Recreating soccer last second additions as soon as you can. The recreation high school games start next weekend.
Americans Abroad: EPL Season Preview Stars and Stripes
Americans Abroad: EPL Season Preview Stars and Stripes
- Cameron Carter-Vickers loaned to Stoke City
- Community Corner: Which American club jersey from abroad most interests you?
- Report: Chris Gloster to Transfer to PSV
- Erik Palmer-Brown loaned to Austria Wien
- US Soccer has hired lobbyists to argue they pay the women just fine
MLS and Liga MX announced that Atlanta United will take on Club América in the Campeones Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on 14 August.
GAMES ON TV
Fri, Aug 9
3 pm NBCSN Liverpool vs Norwich City EPL Starts
Sat, Aug 10
7:30 am NBCSN West Ham vs Man City
10 am NBCSN Bournemouth vs Sheffield United
11:30 am bein Sport Marseille vs Reims (France Ligue 1)
12:30 pm NBCN Tottenham vs Aston Villa
4 pm ESPN+ Barcelona vs Napoli Friendly
7:30 pm ESPN+ Columbus vs Cincy
Sun, Aug 11
9 am CNBC Leciester City vs Wolverhampton
9 am NBCSN Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Arsenal
11:30 amNBCSN Man United vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
12:30 pm ESPN+ Juventus vs Atletico Madrid ICC
3 pm beIN Sport PSG vs Nimes
3 pm ESPN News Portland Thorns vs North Carolina NWSL
4 pm ESPN Atlanta United vs NYCFC
7:30 pm FS1 DC United vs LA Galaxy
10 pm FS1 LAFC vs NY Red Bulls
Weds, Aug 14
3 pm TNT? Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic) – UEFA Super Cup
8 pm Fubo TV/UD Atlanta united vs America (Campeones Cup)
Fri, Aug 16
2:30 pm FS2 Bayern Munich vs Hertha German Bundesliga Starts
3 pm beIN Sport Atheltic Club vs Barcelona (La Liga Starts)
Sat, Aug 17
7:30 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Burnley
9:30 am FS1 Dortmund vs Ausburg
9:30 am FS2 Werder Bremen (Sargeant) vs Dusseldorf
10 am CNBC Aston villa vs Bournmouth
10 am NBCSN Southampton vs Liverpool
11 am bein Sport Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid
12:30 pm NBC Man City vs Tottenham
12:30 pm FS1 MGladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (McKinney)
Premier League preview: Why Christian Pulisic can become an instant Chelsea star
Welcome to Yahoo Soccer’s Premier League Starting XI. This lineup of stories will get you ready for the upcoming season as we count down to kickoff on Friday.
For American fans of the English Premier League, this season has a little bit of extra spice. A United States-born field player — Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic — will for the first time ever head into the new campaign as a surefire starter for a top-end club in the world’s most popular circuit. Better yet, from the looks of things so far, it appears he is up to the challenge.When we first learned last January that Pulisic would be leaving German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund for the biggest stage in the club game, the move was met with tempered enthusiasm. Sure, the $73 million price tag that almost tripled the previous record for a U.S. national teamer and spoke to how highly the 20-year-old attacker was regarded by one of the game’s richest teams.This was Chelsea, though, where current superstars like Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne were chewed up and spit out before their talent was nurtured by Liverpool and Manchester City, where they blossomed into world-class attackers. It was fair to wonder how much Pulisic would actually play at Stamford Bridge.
So when then-Blues manager Maurizio Sarri said he didn’t know the club was about to complete the deal for Pulisic — a quote was both taken out of context and lost in translation — the idea that Chelsea might not be the best fit for The Great American Hope took hold. Seven months later, though, those fears appear overblown.While success for the basketball-loving Pulisic isn’t a slam dunk, he seems significantly better positioned to do well immediately than he did when he first signed. Sarri is gone, having been replaced by club legend Frank Lampard. Lampard may have just one season on the sidelines under his belt — he led second-tier Derby County to the brink of Premier League promotion in May — but he’s probably a better fit for Pulisic than the 60-year-old Italian. Lampard’s first language obviously is English, and the former star midfielder, who retired just three years ago, knows from personal experience the pressure Pulisic will face coming of age under the bright lights of the British game. Plus, Lampard seems to like him. Pulisic endeared himself to his new boss immediately by cutting short his post-Gold Cup vacation to join up with the team in Asia. Lampard rewarded him by starting the Hershey, Pennsylvania native in all but one of Chelsea’s preseason matches, including its last four. Pulisic has played well, too, scoring his first two goals and adding an assist for his new club in last week’s friendly win over Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg. At this point, it’s clear that Pulisic will be in the starting lineup when Chelsea kicks off its 2019-20 campaign on Sunday in the highest-profile fashion possible: a trip to 76,000-seat Old Trafford to face Manchester United, the team Pulisic grew up idolizing an ocean away. It should go without saying that both Lampard and Chelsea’s demanding fans will insist on production from the start. But this move has been a long time coming for Pulisic, who will celebrate his 21st birthday next month. He knows what’s expected. He always wanted to play in England, to return to the country where he spent a year of his life as a boy thanks to his father’s job. The change of scenery appears to have energized him so far. Pulisic’s early performances suggest a player determined to prove he can excel in the sport’s most cutthroat circuit. He’s been playing as a left forward, a position he excelled at in Dortmund. And even if it does take Pulisic a few months to fully settle, a FIFA transfer ban confirmed in May will prevent the club from simply replacing him midseason. Sure, constant comparisons to longtime Blues playmaker Eden Hazard, who left the club for Real Madrid this summer, are inevitable. And Stamford Bridge, despite Russian owner Roman Abramovich’s endless supply of cash, remains a famously dysfunctional place. Things can always go sideways. Based on how the stars are aligning, though, Pulisic could well excel with the Blues.
Americans Abroad: EPL Season Preview
Christian Pulisic leads a small contingent of just 3 Americans in the English top flight.
By Alex Showell Aug 5, 2019, 7:00am PDTChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
The 2019-2020 English Premier League season kicks off this week and United States Men’s National Team fans will want to keep a close eye on the three Americans playing in the league. Christian Pulisic will attract the most attention, as he will likely prove to be integral to Chelsea’s chances of success. DeAndre Yedlin will also be a vital contributor to his club, but NewcastleUnited could be in for a fierce relegation battle. While Cameron Cater-Vickers is still at Tottenham, he seems to have no path to the Starting XI and will hopefully be heading out on loan. Here’s a closer look at what to expect for Pulisic, Yedlin, and Carter-Vickers.
Position: Right/Left Winger
Last Season: Christian Pulisic is by far the most notable American playing in the Premier League this season. Christian Pulisic completed an approximately $71 million transfer to Chelsea in January but was loaned back to Dortmund for the end of the 2018-2019 season.
The young superstar contributed seven goals and six assists in thirty appearances (all competitions) for Borussia Dortmund, but he had a frustrating season. Pulisic fell down the depth chart and suffered from several injuries. He was not as his best but showed glimpses of his incredible skill.
Upcoming Season: Pulisic is expected to be a starter every match and will look to fill the void left by the departure of Eden Hazard (who joined Real Madrid). If he could he contribute 10+ goals and assists, that would mark an excellent season for the guy who will turn 21 in September. However, this may be too much to expect from a young player who will be adjusting to a new league. As a team, Chelsea will look to advance to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages and qualify for next season’s tournament (by finishing in the Premier League top four).
The London-based club have experienced an offseason full of upheaval. Star player Eden Hazard and manager Maurizio Sarri (who joined Juventus) have departed, FIFA has handed the club a transfer ban and club legend Frank Lampard has been appointed as the new manager. Pulisic will look to guide the club to a top-four finish and improve upon his previous season, but this could be quite difficult.
Club: Newcastle United
Position: Right Back
Last Season: DeAndre Yedlin had an inconsistent season for a Newcastle side that finished 13th in the Premier League table. He made 29 appearances (in all competitions), scoring one goal and adding two assists.
Upcoming Season: Expect Yedlin to be a consistent starter. He and the Magpies will face a brutal relegation battle. Fans are understandably fed up with owner Mike Ashley, who has spent little money on the club and seems to have no intention of selling it. The departure of manager Rafa Benitez and the hiring of Steve Bruce makes it seems like Newcastle will be in for a long season. Given the difficult circumstances, Yedlin performing at the same level as last season would be a success. However, it’s nearly impossible for defenders to excel individually when their teams struggle.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur he was loaned to Aston Villa on Thursday !
Last Season: Cameron Carter-Vickers had a solid season for Championship side Swansea City, making thirty-three appearances in all competitions. He struggled to break into the squad during the first half of the season but became a regular starter by January.
Carter-Vickers demonstrated impressive poise on the ball and a decent passing ability however, his tackling leaves much to be desired.
Upcoming Season: As of now, Carter-Vickers is still on the books at Tottenham. Tottenham has an excellent chance to make a deep run in the Champions League and will be challenging for the title. However, don’t expect Carter-Vickers to play much of a role. He will hopefully be sent out on loan shortly, or otherwise will be spending a season on the bench. He is buried on the depth chart behind Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, and Davinson Sanchez. Carter-Vickers is a solid, but still raw defender who needs more playing time to further his development. Another loan to a Championship side would provide an excellent opportunity.
*While Kyle Scott plays for Newcastle United, both Transfermarkt and Wikipedia list him as a member of Newcastle’s U-23 side. It’s unlikely he appears in the Premier League this season, but he may feature in a few cup matches. What kind of seasons are you expecting from Pulisic, Yedlin, and Carter-Vickers?
Ian Darke’s Premier League predictions: It’s Liverpool’s year
Aug 8, 2019Ian DarkeESPN.com writer
On the eve of another Premier League season full of intrigue, optimism runs high everywhere … well, almost everywhere. But before a ball is kicked, there are more questions than answers even for the usual suspects in the top six (and check the bottom for my final verdict on the Top 4 and relegation battle).The smart money says it will be Manchester City and Liverpool running away at the top again. Both have been relatively quiet in the summer market. As talented as City are, you wonder if their focus might switch to the prize that has eluded them, the Champions League, when push comes to shove this season. That might just open the door to a Liverpool team who will bring manic intensity to their quest to end a long league title drought going back to 1990. Yet the heavy summer workload on their famous three strikers — Mohamed Salahand Sadio Mane played in the African Cup of Nations for Egypt and Senegal, respectively, while Roberto Firmino represented Brazil in the Copa America — makes you wonder if the Reds should have bought extra cover.
Arsenal will surely be full of goals now that £72 million winger Nicolas Pepe is joining the prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but the club has not done enough to fix a leaky defence — they signed David Luizfrom Chelsea, but as we all know, he is often a howler waiting to happen — and need to improve their performances away from home.
Meanwhile, how will Chelsea cope without Eden Hazard (who decamped for Real Madrid) in Frank Lampard‘s debut season as a Premier League manager? For starters they’ll need Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoiand Tammy Abraham to deliver … and deliver fast.
Even with the excellent midfield addition of Tanguy Ndombele and 19-year-old left winger Ryan Sessegnon, Spurs’ squad still looks a bit too thin to bridge the 27-point gap between them and champions Manchester City last season.
Manchester United have beefed up their defence with Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. But there are still issues with Paul Pogba, who has been linked to Real Madrid, though he remains at Old Trafford (for now). United also sold Romelu Lukaku to Inter, and while the Belgian international is hardly a world-beater, he does score goals — a responsibility that will fall on the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and out-of-form and out-of-favor Alexis Sanchez. It’s against this backdrop that we’ll learn if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a good enough manager to turn the club around in the post-Alex Ferguson era, something David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho failed to do.
Manchester United should also be concerned with the clubs chasing them. Take Leicester, which enters its first full season under Brendan Rodgers and will be well worth watching. Could they challenge for a Top 6 spot? Don’t rule it out with the likes of Youri Tielemans and James Maddison supplying marksman Jamie Vardy in front of goal.
West Ham, irritatingly inconsistent last season, have made a couple of big signings and could finish in the Top 8.
Everton have signed the exciting Juventus teenager Moise Kean, but will miss Idrissa Gueye in midfield. With a posh new stadium on its way, it’s vital that the Toffees find themselves at least in contention for a cup.
Wolves were superb last season, but needed to boost their squad depth more with a busy Europa League workload this time around.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace’s fate may depend on whether they keep their match-winning winger, Wilfried Zaha, while Watford have a streetwise mid-table look about them.
Manager Steve Bruce inherits the poison chalice at Newcastle, where turmoil is a way of life under owner Mike Ashley. Bruce needs new £40m man Joelinton to be a hit, otherwise Newcastle might find themselves in a relegation fight again.
Eddie Howe always keeps Bournemouth clear of trouble, the football equivalent of defying gravity, and with Callum Wilson and David Brooks around that trend is likely to continue. Likewise, you sense that Sean Dyche’s band of brothers at Burnley have too much grit to go down.
But it might be tougher for Brighton, where Graham Potter takes over from Chris Hughton. There’s a desire to play sexier football, but do they have the players to do it? Doubtful.
What of the three promoted clubs? Norwich must hope the top scorer in the Championship, Teemu Pukki, raises his game even higher, and the club has several good youngsters. But staying up? It will be tough.Chris Wilder has managed in all four divisions, so he won’t be daunted by the Premier League Sheffield United. It’s whether he has enough quality at his disposal to stay afloat.
Predictions are there to make fools of us, but I reckon this is Liverpool’s year to win the title (I expect City to come in second, followed by Spurs in third and Arsenal grabbing that last Champions League spot) with Brighton, Norwich and Sheffield United leading contenders for the drop. Top scorer? If he stays fit, look no further than Harry Kane at Tottenham.
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic is not your wonderboy anymore
Aug 2, 2019Sam BordenESPN global sports correspondent
Christian Pulisic is but 20 years old and the number of effusive words already written about him is staggering.
His classic speed. His majestic acceleration. His touch, which allows him to keep the ball so close to his feet that defenders can only trip or wave at him as he flies past. The near clairvoyance with which he finds space amid a thicket of defenders near the goal. The way he shoots, like an archer. The way he sets his jaw, like a bouncer.
To be clear, the enthusiasm is warranted. Christian Pulisic is the most talented player in American soccer history. And, should he pull it off, what he is about to do — that is, play for Chelsea in the English Premier League — will be one of the most impressive feats in American sports history. Yes, Tim Howardplayed for Manchester United, but he was a goalkeeper; and yes, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan made the move to the EPL as well, but they debuted at smaller clubs in Fulham and Everton.
Pulisic is different. By joining Chelsea, he is the first American aiming to star for one of the game’s largest clubs. Nearly half the population of the planet watches the Premier League, more than 3 billion people a season. If Pulisic, a young, fresh-faced American, succeeds — if he scores and dazzles and captivates fans in the U.S. and Europe and China and India and all over Africa — it changes the calculus on him. His ceiling isn’t Landon Donovan anymore. It’s Lionel Messi.
On a dank day in Dortmund, Germany, this spring, I meet Pulisic at a restaurant in the city center. He is dressed Euro-casual, in tight jeans and a black hoodie. I notice the sweatshirt right away because it has words written in circles on the sleeves.”It’s from the Uninterrupted guys,” he says. “LeBron started this thing with ‘More Than an Athlete,’ and they sent me one.”Pulisic typically has presented himself as more quiet than brash, but knowing the move he’s about to make, the sweatshirt makes me wonder if something has changed. It wouldn’t be crazy. Science tells us that if a person picks up two objects at the same time and they have identical weights but different sizes, the larger object is the one that will actually seem lighter. (It’s true: Try it with an iPhone and a Kindle.)This phenomenon has to do with the incredible power of human expectations: We expect the bigger thing to be heavier, so it feels lighter. In sports, the work of becoming a legend is the same either way, but if you make it look bigger, then actually doing the lifting might feel easier. Many superstars have done it this way: Tiger Woods when he said “Hello, world”; LeBron when he welcomed comparisons to Michael Jordan before he was out of high school.So maybe Pulisic has decided he wants the attention and limelight and microphones that will come at Chelsea. Maybe he is ready to stand up and make a grander statement on, say, pay equity in soccer or the development model in the United States. Maybe he wants to speak.”You’re part of it then?” I ask Pulisic about Uninterrupted. His forehead crinkles. His eyes drop.”Um, not like part of it,” he says. “I support it, I guess you could say.” Later, he explains that the fame and the platform might be the bit about his Chelsea move that most challenges him, because he doesn’t particularly like being famous.Fair enough, I tell him, except he just made a career move that guarantees the greatest scrutiny an American soccer player has ever received. He sighs.”It’s definitely one of the hardest parts of my life,” he says, stressing that he really does appreciate having fans who support him and really does understand why people stop him for a selfie or an autograph.”I just hope people realize it’s tougher for some of us,” he says. His voice lowers. “At times, you just want to be alone.”
I have schnitzel, Pulisic has a salad, and then he leads me through the Borussia Dortmund locker room at the team’s stadium. He stops in front of his locker and explains, with a touch of wistfulness, that when he saw his jersey hanging there for the first time in 2016, it was the “coolest thing in the world.”Outside on the field, standing in front of the towering south stand where 25,000 fans crowd together to form the so-called Yellow Wall during games, he almost giggles as he reminisces about the noise in the stadium after a goal.”You hear the stadium announcer yell ‘Christian!’ and then everyone yells your last name back,” he says, cocking his head as though it is echoing right now. “I mean, scoring a last-minute goal in front of this wall, and you see the beer flying everywhere and …”His voice trails off. Leaving for Chelsea might have been a fairly straightforward business decision for Pulisic, but the departure from Dortmund is difficult. Dortmund was a haven for Pulisic, a place to develop his game and discover how he wanted to present himself as an athlete. In soccer terms, Dortmund was Pulisic’s boyhood home.Club scouts found him when he was 15, smitten after watching Pulisic play at a U.S. youth national team tournament in Turkey. They saw then what Chelsea officials see now: a soft, silken touch more European than American. For Dortmund, which has a renowned youth development academy, he seemed a perfect fit.”We only sign players from foreign countries if we’re extremely confident that he’s becoming a player for the professional team,” Lars Ricken, Dortmund’s youth coordinator, tells me at the team’s training facility, adding that he sees Pulisic as one of the club’s biggest success stories.Pulisic arrived in Germany from Hershey, Pennsylvania, when he was 16. He initially struggled with school — to this day, he says, he’s still not sure what classes he attended at first since he didn’t understand a word of German at the time — but blossomed quickly on the field.Many soccer analysts say success at the highest levels of the sport comes down to millimeters. If the space between the ball and a player’s foot is much wider than that, he isn’t truly in control of it. Pulisic’s gap, even as a teenager and even when he was sprinting, was minuscule. He was called up to Dortmund’s first team in less than a year. “We don’t buy stars,” Ricken says now, with obvious pride. “We build them.”Pulisic became the youngest non-German to ever score in the Bundesliga (he celebrated by dabbing). Then he became the youngest Dortmund player to ever play in the Champions League. He appeared in 127 games over four seasons for Dortmund and helped the team win the German Cup in 2017.Along the way, he hung on to plenty of his American tendencies — “I remember him driving like two hours to Frankfurt to get burritos sometimes,” says Dortmund winger Jacob Bruun Larsen, his former roommate — but he also worked to connect with the city and the fans. Instead of sloughing off the language barrier, he embraced it, practicing his German to the point where he was able to do interviews on television. His grammar wasn’t perfect, but the effort endeared him to the team’s supporters.They loved that he tried, loved that he put his head down and grinded in the blue-collar image of Dortmund players who came before him. He trained rigorously and diligently. He battled against juggernaut Bayern Munich. He scored important goals, like the gorgeous lob over Benfica’s goalkeeper in the Champions League. He also suffered through one of the worst weeks in the club’s history. In 2017, as the team traveled from its hotel to the stadium, its bus was struck by explosives planted by a deranged fan.
Pulisic has rarely spoken about that episode, and his eyes soften as he recounts the fear he felt when the windows of the bus exploded and rockets of glass flew everywhere. “We were just going to a normal game, like always, and there was just a really loud bang,” he says. “It was so loud, I couldn’t hear anything. I was confused.”
He pauses. “I just remember [Dortmund goalkeeper] Roman Burki next to me grabbed me and pulled me under the table because he probably recognized what was going on before I did. We were just so scared.”
Pulisic looks away, his voice slowing down. “And then I hear Marc screaming. … He was right across from me. … And I see blood. … And he’s yelling for the doctor. And everyone’s screaming at the bus driver, ‘Driver, keep going!'”Marc Bartra, a defender, was struck by the glass and had shards embedded in his arm. He underwent emergency surgery that night. There were no other serious physical injuries among the players, but the emotional fallout from the episode was significant. Pulisic was 18, living on his own in Germany.e had to deal with knowing someone had tried to kill him and his friends. He had to deal with staying at the same hotel before another game. He had to deal with getting back on the team bus without feeling his skin crawl. He had to figure out how to process it.It was a hyperintense event within a hyperspeed maturation. Pulisic learned how to shop for groceries in Dortmund, how to cook for himself in Dortmund, how to get ready for work each day in Dortmund. After the bus attack, he learned how to confront his own demons and move on from a nightmare in Dortmund.”I’ve changed a lot,” he says at one point, “a lot on the soccer field but maybe even more off the field.”As we walk back up from the locker room, he looks around and says, “In a lot of ways, I grew up here.”
Pulisic decided to leave Dortmund on Jan. 2. Chelsea shipped $73 million to the German club, making Pulisic the most expensive American player sold in soccer history. (It’s not close either: Defender John Brooks is second after his $22.5 million jump from Hertha Berlin to Wolfsburg in 2017; Dempsey’s shift from Fulham to Tottenham in 2012 cost Spurs only $9.6 million.)
To Pulisic, the move is part of a progression, the obvious next step on his path. It is natural to him, expected even. In fact, the most animated I see him get over the course of our conversations is when I mention how he has often been called a “wonderboy” by broadcasters and fans and analysts, a term that was originally flattering but now seems to strike him as borderline demeaning.”The reason I just don’t like to hear it anymore is because I feel like now I’ve been a part of this enough,” he says. “And I think I’ve earned my spots in teams and shouldn’t just be looked at as just a prodigy.”He takes a breath. “I don’t see myself as that label anymore. It’s just not how I feel.”Pulisic is 20. Kylian Mbappe, star of France’s 2018 World Cup win, is also 20 and isn’t called a wonderboy or a prodigy — he’s just a superstar. At this stage of his career, Pulisic says, he doesn’t want to be compared to other players his age; he just wants to be compared to other players.
That, I assure him, will happen quickly and often in the Premier League. But Pulisic will always reckon with a different contextual comparison because of his nationality. It doesn’t especially matter that Mbappe is French when considering his value as a player; France has produced plenty of international stars and will produce more. Pulisic, though, is playing as the face (and legs and feet) of American soccer. If he fails, it isn’t clear when another American will have a chance like this.That reality is no doubt part of why the initial reaction to Pulisic’s Chelsea move, at least from outsiders, has been tempered with a fair bit of caution. While Chelsea is a club teeming with stature and success, it is nonetheless known as one of Europe’s great powder kegs. Its owner, Roman Abramovich, is a notoriously erratic Russian oligarch who has made 14 managerial changes in 16 years and has cultivated a culture of turnover at Chelsea that a former team employee once described to me as a “combustible nightmare.”
What that means for Pulisic is that he will be playing under (no surprise) another new Chelsea manager, Frank Lampard, who was a longtime star player for the club but has only one season of coaching experience. Pulisic also will be charged, at least in part, with replacing Eden Hazard, a Belgian wizard who is generally considered one of the 10 best players in the game. (Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid after seven seasons.)Add in a transfer ban that means Chelsea isn’t allowed to sign more players for a year — ratcheting up the heat on the current crop even more — and it creates a set of circumstances that are, as Donovan says when we meet up this spring to talk about Pulisic, “concerning to me.”Donovan had a solid spell playing abroad himself, but he really built his legacy on his work with the U.S. national team and in Major League Soccer. Pulisic’s task, he says, is something far greater. “I can see it being a massive home run for him,” Donovan says. “[But] Chelsea spends a lot of money on a lot of players. They have money forever. They can spend $70 million to bring in Pulisic, and if it doesn’t work right away, it’s no problem. They can move on to the next player.”He shrugs. “He’s not going to be afforded as much leeway if things don’t go well as he would at a different club.”Stu Holden, a former national team forward who played with Bolton Wanderers for four years, says the same, calling Chelsea a club with “rich history and tradition” that is also “unstable” and “a bit of a mess.”Even Jurgen Klinsmann, the German legend and former U.S. national team head coach who gave Pulisic his first international call-up, isn’t totally sold. He praises Pulisic for “jumping into the colder water” but then adds, “I thought maybe another one or two years in Dortmund wouldn’t have been wrong.”What they are all expressing, in one way or another, is the uncomfortable certainty that it will not be enough for Pulisic just to shine with Chelsea; he will have to shine quickly. As Donovan says, there is little doubt about Pulisic’s place when it comes to the U.S. national team — “For the next decade, he’s going to be the most important player” — but it is not so easy to say the same for Chelsea.Could Pulisic step right in and thrive? Absolutely. Lampard says Pulisic is the kind of player “who wants to take people on, the sort of player the fans are going to like,” while longtime defender David Luiz says he believes Pulisic “is going to have a great future with us.” And maybe it really will be that easy. But could Pulisic struggle or get injured or find himself on the bench or out on loan to some smaller club? Could we look up next spring and wonder where he went? The list of talented young players who went to England and had that result isn’t exactly short.Nevertheless, Pulisic seems undaunted. He talks about normal nerves and overwhelming excitement and confidence and verve, delivering the sort of steely assurance that is both accepting and dismissive at the same time. Even when I mention the notoriously harsh British news media, he barely wavers.Pulisic sees this move in soccer terms and little else, and that perspective is probably both healthy and correct. Even the notion that his nationality matters, that being American might help Chelsea sell a few (thousand) more jerseys in the U.S., might be overblown. Chelsea signed Pulisic for the same reason any club signs any player: They think he can help them win. They see his creativity and his ability to play far up the field in Lampard’s expected formation. They see the way he chases in the attacking third and the way he pings passes from sideline to sideline.”I know what kind of player I am,” Pulisic says. “And they know exactly the same.”Could he have waited? Could he have stayed in Dortmund? Could he have held out for a situation that didn’t involve an unpredictable Russian owner and a superstar whose departure dials up the pressure? Maybe. But it’s also hard to say that with a straight face.”Nobody would turn down that offer, right?” Donovan says.Done with being compared to his own potential, Pulisic is going to Chelsea to stand on his own. “I know I’m ready for this,” he says.The game ended on an October night in 2017, and Christian Pulisic saw an assistant coach walking toward him. His throat was sore from shouting. It was steamy at the stadium in Couva, Trinidad, the air hanging heavy. The rain-soaked field was so waterlogged, he heard the squish of the coach’s shoes.The United States had just lost a game it should have won, a game in which it needed only a tie to qualify for the World Cup. Pulisic didn’t know whether other teams might have bailed out the Americans by losing too. He looked at the approaching assistant hopefully.”We’re not going,” the coach said. Fast. Blunt. Brutal. Pulisic rocked back. In the locker room, team staffers rushed to move out the champagne and beer that were supposed to be part of the celebration. On the field, Pulisic crouched down and cried.He had scored. He had pushed. He had run. He had never considered, not for a second, that it wouldn’t be enough. He had never considered, not for a second, that he wouldn’t be playing for his country in the biggest tournament in sports.As he changed out of his uniform, teammates cried around him. On the flight the next morning, there were wet eyes again. The wound from that evening blistered over and lingered, jabbing at Pulisic for weeks.”It was,” he says now, “the worst night of my pro career, by far.”Nearly two years later, though, the images from that night’s failure — Pulisic burying his head in his hands, pulling his jersey over his eyes, tears streaming down his face — seem blurred by time and circumstance.In July, instead of going on the post-Gold Cup vacation that many other top players take, Pulisic joins his Chelsea teammates in Japan on a preseason tour. He signs autographs and takes selfies with fans outside the team hotel. He makes an appearance at a local store with Lampard. He laughs during pre-practice stretching with Luiz. He juggles a ball while wearing a new style of studs that have his name splashed across the heel. The coverage, not surprisingly, is breathless: There are articles about his jersey number (he picks 24) and even a full recap, with video, of a thundering goal he scores during a practice drill.On the field, Lampard eases Pulisic into the group. He comes on as a substitute and plays a half-hour against a Japanese team, making a few good runs without real result. A few days later, against Barcelona, he is a dervish, whipping runs from both sides and showing no fear as he goes up against the world’s most celebrated side. In Austria a week later, he gives Chelsea fans an early glimpse of what’s to come: He wins a penalty, pulls off a glorious nutmeg and scores two goals, showing off his superior touch as Chelsea goes up 3-0 inside 28 minutes.
These are only friendlies. The real run of show begins next week, when Pulisic officially enters the most watched soap opera in the world. The fans will be thrumming, Lampard will be stalking the touchline and supernovas like Paul Pogba will be on the opposite side, whizzing along at breakneck pace and demanding a level of excellence from Pulisic that he has never needed to reach so often. It will be fierce. It will be ambitious. It will be daring. “I’m going to go in there,” he says, “and play with my same attacking style. I think I’m going to fit in really well.”
Two years ago, after that awful Trinidad game, a belief like that felt so far away. At 19, it was hard to be patient, and Pulisic left that night frustrated and antsy, wanting to know how the loss would affect the U.S. team, wanting to know what all of it meant for his chances to move to a bigger club. Two years ago, he wanted to know if his moment would ever come.
Wiebe: Can anyone stop LAFC? Plus four more questions ahead of this MLS weekend
August 9, 20191:57PM EDTAndrew Wiebe Senior Host and Producer
A couple housekeeping notes before we get to your regularly scheduled Week 23 preview.First, I think The Movement is the best thing we do at MLSsoccer.com. It’s an intoxicating mixture of the game, the people who love it, the culture that surrounds it and the curiosity and empathy soccer can inspire in all of us. Calen Carr puts his heart and soul into the show, and I cannot recommend the latest episode – Football & Faith: Being Muslim in MLS – enough.Second, I got the lowdown on Wayne Rooney’s decision to swap D.C. United for Derby County from The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer and the full rundown of MLS transfer deadline day from former Montreal Impact technical director Adam Braz on Thursday’s Extratime. Now’d be a good time to choose a segment to listen to before you continue on.
Now, onto the five questions:
Can anyone stop LAFC?
The New York Red Bulls will give it a try on Sunday to conclude Week 23 (10 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info). Only the Portland Timbers have won at Banc of California Stadium this season, and that was in the U.S. Open Cup. In other words, good luck! Honestly, just give LAFC the Supporters’ Shield already and be done with it. They’re the league’s best team, and it’s not particularly close. They’ve got a 10-point advantage on the East-leading Union with two games in hand, a 13-point head start on Atlanta with one game in hand and a 14-point lead in the West. They’re on pace to shatter every MLS record for single-season dominance. Bob Bradley won’t let them get comfortable, either. Shield first, then MLS Cup. Let’s put it this way, I will print this column out and eat it if they aren’t lifting the Shield come Oct. 6 (or more likely even sooner). I do not think LAFC will be stopped, in the regular season at least. I, like most of the MLS All-Stars I talked to in Orlando, always make time to watch Bradley’s team play. The Red Bulls have plenty going on, too. Here’s what I’ll be watching come Sunday night:
Which Adama Diomande will we see? Christian Ramirez is gone. Time for the dominant Diomande from a year ago to come back and give LAFC yet another best-in-class goal threat. In case you weren’t paying attention, the 29-year-old is starting to get there (four goals, two assists in the last five games). Prior to that, though, he’d scored once since March 10. Add a rampant Diomande to Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi and LAFC are liable to start dropping five spots on everyone.
Will Aaron Long be distracted by his own transfer saga? Long is a “foundational piece” for the Red Bulls. He wants to move to Europe. The Red Bulls don’t want to sell him. These things happen. Thing is, the scoreline can start adding up quickly against LAFC if you’re even a little bit preoccupied by anything other than Vela and Co. Long’s a professional, and I don’t for one second question his effort. He’s human though, just like the rest of us.
How could you miss Zlatan vs. Wayne Rooney?
You can’t. This is probably our only opportunity to see the two legends clash in MLS (Sunday, 7:30 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info), barring an unlikely (but not impossible) MLS Cup matchup. Unlike LAFC-Red Bulls, which East Coasters will have to stay up to watch, you won’t even have to sacrifice any sleep. Make time.I already wrote about Rooney and D.C. United this week. My hope is that with his future set, Rooney returns to his MLS best and drags Luciano Acosta along with him. Having Ola Kamara to lead the line ought to put LuchoRoo in more comfortable positions. Last fall was special, and I want one more taste of the dynamic duo before we bid adieu to the both of them, assuming Acosta signs elsewhere as a free agent. It may not happen. D.C. have won twice since May 12.As for the Galaxy, I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for general manager Dennis te Kloese. He stayed patient, he got creative and he made sure Cristian Pavon ended up in Los Angeles. As Matt Doyle pointed out this week, he’s still got a team that mostly looks “meh” and remains over reliant on Zlatan, which isn’t the worst thing in the world if we’re being honest.Then again, said Zlatan-reliant team missed the playoffs last year – sorry to bring up Decision Day, Galaxy supporters – and truthfully nobody is safe in the Western Conference other than LAFC.Either of these teams could win MLS Cup. Either could end up the biggest collective disappointment of 2019. Either Zlatan or Rooney could do something that goes down in MLS history. Only one way to find out. Just watch the game.
Will New York City FC take advantage of their games in hand?
Same question, different team every year. Over in the Western Conference, the Timbers are in the same boat, only they play 10 straight home games.Thursday was touch and go. The blue side of New York would have dropped points to Houston had Taty Castellanos, he of seven goals and three assists in just over 1,000 minutes at the age of 20, not delivered late to seal a dramatic home win in a weather-delayed match at Yankee Stadium.Those were an important three points in New York City FC’s quest for at the very least a home game in the playoffs. It was, by definition, one of their games in hand, a midweek match in which no other teams played. They’ll have three more home midweek matches the rest of the way, all opportunities to climb the table in exchange for less turnaround time for weekend games.Now, you’ve still got to win games in hand to make them count, and then you’ve still got find a way to recover for Saturday and Sunday and get resutls there too when the schedule starts getting busy.This Sunday will be a good test for the rest of the campaign. Can NYCFC bounce back? Did Torrent manage his roster well? The good news is that he was able to rest the likes of Maxi Moralez and Anton Tinnerholm ahead of Sunday’s trip to Mercedes Benz Stadium (3:55 pm ET | ESPN — Full TV & streaming info).
Which players will I have my eye on?
Xavier Arreaga (Seattle Sounders) – I’m not able to watch a game casually and tell you in great detail about the actions of one player. I have to be more intentional about it. There’s no Chad Marshall (or Roman Torres) to bail the Sounders out anymore. They need Arreaga to come good. So far, in four starts, he’s made big plays and also allowed some. I’m planning on watching the 24-year-old Ecuadorian closely on Saturday when the Sounders host Teal Bunbury, Gustavo Bou and the Revs. He’s part of the club’s long-term spine, after all.Dom Dwyer (Orlando City) – More on the Lions below. Here’s what Doyle wrote in his Tiers of MLS column this week: “Live by the mercurial striker, die by the mercurial striker. The season’s probably done, but if Dom suddenly gets hot (he’s entirely capable of scoring 10 goals in their last 10 games), then we could still see this team in the postseason.” I’m rooting for Dwyer to make it interesting in the East.Darwin Quintero (Minnesota United) – Is it just me, or does Quintero look a bit … disinterested? Apart from the U.S. Open Cup, in which he leads the tournament in scoring, the Colombian has two goals and two assists in MLS play since April 19. The heady days of March are long gone. Quintero doesn’t seem comfortable with the players and movement around him. If Minnesota are going to keep climbing upward and perhaps even make some noise in the playoffs, they need Quintero to rediscover his 2018 form, starting Saturday in Dallas.
What’s the must-watch ESPN+ game of the weekend?
Easy one for me: Toronto FC hosting Orlando City on Saturday at 7:30 pm ET. Why? It’s a true six-pointer, of which there will be many the rest of the way.If Toronto FC win this one and some results go their way, they’ll jump the line and be a win or two away from the possibility of hosting a first-round match in the playoffs. That’s good! This team has enough talent, including an influx of TAM players this summer, to credibly believe they can challenge for their second MLS Cup in three years.If Toronto lose it, the gap between 7th and 8th could grow to four points, depending on the Revs’ result in Seattle … and the Reds would be tied with Orlando on 32 points. That’s bad! There’s already pressure on Greg Vanney, and the prospect of another year outside the playoff field (with one extra place available) would be a bitter pill to swallow.For Orlando, the pressure’s not as high, but it’s not nonexistent.The Lions have never made the playoffs. They just lost at home to a rival they’ve still never beaten in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. Josef Martinez laughed at them on Insta stories. The non-playoff consolation prize is dead, and a bunch of guys are playing for their jobs. Teams below the line can’t wait around for results to come their way. Time to go for it.Enjoy the weekend! We’ll see you after LAFC-RBNY (or Monday morning on your work second screen) to wrap up Week 23 on Matchday Central.
Wow this is dead on spot – I mentioned this last week – after watching the LAFC vs LA Galaxy and Portland vs LA Galaxy last week and LA vs Atlanta this week -the Play in MLS has been tremendous while the ICC games have been – well exhibition games. Not sure they felt that way in the past – but they feel that way now in the 3rd season the ICC and I the tix simply aren’t worth the hundreds of dollars they are charging to see these great teams play Exhibition matches. The ICC needs to go back to have a Championship and trophy of some sort – and they have to lower the ticket prices – or people are not going to go. Also they need to go to new locations across the country – hopefully to fields with natural grass.
|CHANGE IS AFOOT – How MLS MANAGED TO OVERSHADOW THE ICC THIS SEASON
There has been a lot of soccer star power visiting the United States recently, whichever way you look at it. Reigning Champions League winner Liverpool danced its way onto American shores, and even played in the first ever soccer game at Notre Dame Stadium. Real Madrid, winner of the three previous editions of Europe’s finest club competition, was also here, playing in the International Champions Cup. There was the German Bundesliga champion, Bayern Munich, and runner-up Borussia Dortmund (which knocked off Liverpool in that aforementioned Notre Dame matchup), English Premier League notable Arsenal and a collection of leading Italian, Portuguese and Mexican clubs. There was even a Madrid derby between Real and hated neighbors Atletico that produced 10 goals, four of them for Atletico’s brilliantly unpredictable Diego Costa, in a 7-3 win.
Yet once soccer thoughts turned away from this summer’s Women’s World Cup, an upset of significant standing took place in the States. Despite all the celebrity-studded visitors from overseas playing preseason matches around North America, Major League Soccer has provided the most relevant and noteworthy examples of the beautiful game for the past few weeks. “Our teams are giving our fans genuine, competitive, high-quality soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told me by telephone. “We are not paying too much attention to the (exhibition games).”
Whereas the arrival of top European teams, especially those from the English Premier League, was greeted with great excitement in past years, the tide seems to have turned – sharply. To wit, this summer, there were only 11 ICC games in the U.S., down from 17 in 2018. Instead, American fans have flocked to their domestic league. (its because those Exhibition Games cost too dam much too-OBC)
The Notre Dame game between Liverpool and Dortmund was half-full, with an attendance of 40,361. When Mexican giant Chivas took on Portugal’s Benfica at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, only 15,724 turned up. And even the best game on paper, Real against Bayern, did not sell out Houston’s NRG Stadium, with 60,343 in attendance. Overall, attendance for the 11 ICC matches played in the U.S. was down 35% from 2018 and 47% from its peak in 2016.
While ICC attendance slumped, MLS, by a happy coincidence, produced some of its most exciting and remarkable games of the campaign.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick and then provided a swath of headline fodder by taunting a rival assistant after spearheading the LA Galaxy to a memorable 3-2 victory over crosstown foe LAFC in mid-July. Last Friday, that league-leading LAFC side outdueled defending champion Atlanta United 4-3 in a thriller that saw six of the goals scored in an exhilarating 18-minute spell.
And fans are turning out for MLS games. The Galaxy victory over LAFC was played before a capacity crowd of 27,000 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. LAFC has averaged more than capacity of 22,000 for its 10 home games this season at Banc of California Stadium. Atlanta United FC leads MLC in attendance with an average home crowd of 53,000. “The days when watching a European game and an MLS game felt like two different sports are long gone,” Chan Walker, a Los Angeles data analyst and soccer fan told me. Walker watched Bayern Munich v. Arsenal, then saw that Galaxy/LAFC game three days later. “The big European teams are still stronger but when they come over here it is hard to believe the players truly care about the outcome,” he added. “The MLS games are fiercely fought and highly compelling. I have to be honest; the MLS experience was a lot more fun and felt a lot more real.”
|Walker’s comments summed up the most common knock on the preseason exhibitions — that they are just that, exhibitions. Key players are often rested or play limited minutes. Reserve and youth players are given a chance to prove themselves, and, in extreme cases, the lineups carry virtually no correlation to the true strength of the squad. Meanwhile, MLS has stood out this summer through a combination of skill, top-notch competition, and sheer passion — a passion that has become the hallmark of the season.
MLS does have an exhibition of its own this week, of course: the MLS All-Star Game pitting a composite team of the league’s best players against Atletico. The game will be played Wednesday in Orlando and will be broadcast on FS1. Garber likes his league’s All-Star experience compared to either the NBA or NHL version or the NFL’s Pro Bowl. Atletico will use a full-strength lineup, and Garber believes the contest can provide further evidence of MLS’ increasing strength. “It is a celebration of all the good things about our league, the competitiveness and strength of our players — and featuring an excellent opponent,” Garber added. “Someone like Zlatan could play in any league in the world. He is showing that week-in, week-out, and we have a lot of players who are performing at an incredibly high level.”
MLS continues to look toward expansion, even with the franchise fee having risen to $200 million. Now in its 24th year with 24 teams, the league will feature 27 clubs by 2021 with more likely on the way.
MLS isn’t the NFL or the NBA, and neither is it one of the top European soccer leagues. But it is here, it is growing, and it is stronger than ever. Outshining this summer’s latest batch of touring celebrity teams is the latest piece in the puzzle – and an important one.
Here’s what others have said…
John Cross, Daily Mirror: “It feels very different now. There isn’t the same feel about it. In the past you could sense the excitement, there would be lots of fans lining up outside training. Maybe it is too much of a good thing. When the Premier League teams go to Asia, there is still that fanatical kind of welcome. And when you have big names like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and [former England forward] Wayne Rooney doing big things in MLS, that is going to generate attention.”
Alfredo Relaño, Diario AS: “The International Champions Cup, which started out aspiring to be the main football attraction of the summer, is starting to feel a little flat. I can see some clubs have started to turn their back on it — among them, Barça and Manchester City, champions of LaLiga and the Premier League, two of the biggest and best leagues in the world — the best leagues for many. What Charlie Stillitano envisaged would be the biggest annual sports showpiece event of the summer — which on the sly, would also serve as a veiled endorsement for the creation of a mooted European Super League, now seems to have wilted.”
Ryan Bailey, Yahoo! Sports: “It no longer has the feel of a competitive tournament. Although there is a points table for the tournament, which technically determines a winner (Tottenham finished first last year), the lack of a final takes away the facade of competitiveness. The International Champions Cup is no longer a ‘cup.’ It is a collection of loosely related friendlies.”
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