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Christian Pulisic on BVB, USMNT, Premier League future

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Christian Pulisic is only 18 years old. The fact we need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact says it all.

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The Pennsylvania native has burst onto the scene in the past 12 months, becoming a star for the U.S. national team and Borussia Dortmund and is hailed as the next great star of American soccer after his first full season as a pro in the Bundesliga.

Rightly so. The kid is legit.

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Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk just two days after scoring his fifth goal for the USMNT in a 1-1 draw with Venezuela in a friendly, Pulisic was looking forward to the challenge of the U.S. facing Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico this week as qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia has reached a crucial stage for Bruce Arena’s men.

Below is our chat in full as Pulisic announced his new partnership with Panini America.

You just won the German Cup, your first major trophy. You came off the bench and won the penalty kick which ultimately won Dortmund the game. What was that experience like?

It was incredible. After such a tough, tough season with so many ups and downs in my first full professional season, just being able to end it with a trophy was really special. I am just really happy to see all the excitement on the guys’ faces.

What are your thoughts on Thomas Tuchel’s sudden departure from Dortmund? 

I was very thankful for everything he did for me, giving me the chance at such a young age and getting a start to my professional soccer career. It is something I will always remember him for and I am very thankful for that. It is tough when it happens in professional sports but now he is gone I think the team will be just fine with whoever we end up getting.

You featured in the UEFA Champions League for the first time this season, how do you rate Dortmund’s campaign?

It was always a dream for me to play in the Champions League. Getting that experience and that exposure against the biggest names and teams in the world, it was really amazing for me. I just learned so much so I am just going to take that and continue to bring it in my game and take it into next season when we are in the Champions League again. I am very excited.

As for future with Dortmund, you just signed a new deal and seem very happy. There was a lot of talk about you moving to Liverpool over the past two transfer windows, so is the Premier League somewhere you’d want to play in the future?

It was the biggest league I followed as a kid and watched. The league has a lot of players, and teams, I liked in the Premier League. Right now, it is not something I am looking to get into immediately or anything like that. I am happy at Dortmund and I am excited for the rest of my career.

Focusing on the U.S. national team, you scored your fifth goal at the weekend and you role is really developing on the team. How have the veterans — the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Tim Howard — helped you settle since you made your debut?

Those guys have been great to me. Obviously they mess with me a lot and stuff like that. It is pretty normal though, since I’m a young kid. I’ve learned so much with them giving me their feedback and what they see and helping me to improve not just our team game but me individually as well and what I can do to help the team. It’s been great learning from those guys and being able to play alongside them when I was just watching them a few years ago on TV!

With two huge World Cup qualifiers coming up, what would be a good points tally from the two games? And how much are you looking forward to the atmosphere at the Azteca on Sunday against Mexico?

I am really excited. My teammates can only tell me how crazy those games are but I got the experience of playing against Mexico once and it is all about going in there with the confidence and belief we can win and get three points there. If we go in with that mentality then we won’t have a problem. We are going to have to fight for 90 minutes and I feel confident we can do that.

In the past at ProSoccerTalk we spoke to one of your youth coaches about you. They said you’re big NBA fan and you love LeBron James. Is he your ultimate sporting idol?

Absolutely. He has been one of my biggest role models, even though it is not the same sport. It is amazing what he does in his sport and that he can dominate for so long and keep himself healthy and really under so much pressure, how he carries himself. That is what impresses me the most and so many people can look up to that.

With your partnership with Panini America, did you collect their trading cards during previous World Cups? Any players in particularly you had to collect and were idols?

It’s hard to say specifically which players I collected but I loved it, I still have a book at home of the cards I collected. Now, being able to see my face on a card is pretty special.

What are your targets for the next 12 months? Russia is on the horizon, so is your aim to be playing a leading role for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup?

Absolutely. I like to set more short term goals and right now it is just to qualify for the World Cup and if we put all of our focus on that then people should definitely see us come 2018 in the World Cup.

Finally, what drives you each day to improve and do you let the hype get to you? Every day you must hear people comparing you to Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and hailing you as the “savior of US Soccer” 

For me, it [the pressure] is really not difficult to handle. I put more pressure on myself than anyone else does, so I don’t need to look or listen to that stuff. It really doesn’t impact me. I just try to push on every day and with the support system I have in my family, I am just really happy to do what I love and to get the chance to do it every day is really special.

Introducing #AskJPW: On West Ham and the Top Four

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You’ve read his reports from the hallowed grounds of the Premier League, hung out with him during Facebook Lives outside those same stadia, and now there’s a new way to interact with ProSoccerTalk‘s lead writer and editor.

Joe Prince-Wright is now bringing you #AskJPW, a place to quiz the whiz on every aspect of the Premier League, and the goings-on around it.

[ MORE: (Very) Fresh faces for USMNT ]

Just use the #AskJPW (and follow him on Twitter at @JPW_NBCSports).

In this edition, Joe delves into fan trouble at West Ham, who will finish 2-4 on the table, and more.

Ronaldo versus Messi: Scoring race heats up in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Regardless of who wins the Spanish league title, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be battling it out to the end.

Real Madrid doesn’t have much chance of keeping Barcelona from winning the league, but Ronaldo is making a strong run to snag the scoring title from Messi with nine matches remaining.

[ MORE: (Very) Fresh faces for USMNT ]

Ronaldo added another four goals in Madrid’s 6-3 win over Girona on Sunday, giving him 22 for the season. That is only three below Messi, who scored his 25th in Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao.

“Hopefully he can catch him,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said of Ronaldo. “It’s important for him and for us, too. When he’s playing well, the team plays well. He transmits an important and positive energy to the group. He’s always in very good form come the end of the season. He’s got an eye for goal and he’ll never lose that.”

Ronaldo has scored at least one goal in his last eight matches in all competitions. He has 21 goals in his last 11 games.

“He’s unbelievably ambitious and that comes across in every training session and in everything he does on the field,” Zidane said. “If he has a penalty in training, he will take it with the maximum concentration. It’s what makes him different from the rest.”

Ronaldo is trying to keep Messi from winning the top-scorer’s “Pichichi” trophy for the second consecutive year. The Argentina forward scored 37 league goals last season, 12 more than Ronaldo.

Ronaldo hasn’t won the award since 2014-15, when he had 48 goals. That was still shy of Messi’s record of 50 goals in 2011-12.

Despite’s Ronaldo’s impressive run, Madrid’s chances of repeating as league champion remain slim. Madrid trails Barcelona by 15 points after 29 matches. The teams will play again in May in a league match at Camp Nou. They could also meet in the Champions League semifinals or the final.

Messi scored twice against Madrid this season – in a 3-1 loss in the Spanish Super Cup final at the beginning of the season and in a 3-0 win at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in a league match late last year. Ronaldo scored against the Catalan club in that Spanish Super Cup game.

Messi has scored at least a goal in his last six matches in all competitions. He has scored at least 25 league goals in nine consecutive seasons with Barcelona.

“Messi is the best player in the world and he shows it game after game,” Athletic defender Unai Nunez said after his team’s loss to Barcelona on Sunday.

Ronaldo has scored at least 25 league goals in the last eight seasons. He scored four or more goals in a match with Madrid eight times.

“He’s on unbelievable form at the moment,” Madrid forward Lucas Vazquez said of Ronaldo. “He helps the team with his work, goals and assists. Everyone benefits from it.”

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

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Manchester United triggers extension for Ashley Young

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Ashley Young has earned another year at Manchester United.

Multiple reports say Young will stay with the club at least through the 2018-19 season, having joined the club from Aston Villa in 2011.

[ MORE: Southampton momentum? ]

Young’s resurgent play under Jose Mourinho earned him a return to the England set-up, with a November cap his first since 2013. He’s been named Man of the Match four times in Premier League play this season.

The versatile 32-year-old wide player is a left back who can man midfield on both sides of the field as well as right back.

He has 320 Premier League appearances in his career, and has hit the pitch 193 times in all competitions for United. He has 74 career goals with 107 assists, 16 and 38 of which have come in a Red Devils shirt.

United beat Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday to clinch a place in the FA Cup semifinals, where it will face Tottenham Hotspur.

Mourinho is understandably under the microscope, but the work he’s done in restoring Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini to previous form deserves credit.

Who’s this now? Digging into the USMNT roster

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The United States men’s national team will roll young for this month’s friendly against Paraguay in Cary, North Carolina.

Interim head coach Dave Sarachan named 17 players under the age of 24 for the match and that list does not include Christian Pulisic, who is getting needed respite.

[ MORE: Southampton momentum? ]

It’s an interesting list, with DeAndre Yedlin‘s 49 caps the most followed by Bobby Wood’s 36 and Darlington Nagbe’s 24.

And there are a bunch of “Who?” names for those who aren’t elbow deep in their knowledge of the U.S. player pool, so let’s dance with the ones Sarachan is bringing to North Carolina.

Andriya Novakovich is destroying the Netherlands second-tier, netting 18 times including six goals in his last five matches. Keeping in mind that even the country’s top flight is free-scoring, that’s impressive stuff from the former Reading man, a tall 21-year-old striker.

Shaq Moore became the first American to make a La Liga start since Oguchi Onyewu in 2013. The 21-year-old Levante right back got the playing time due to injury, making eight total appearances, but is back on the bench in recent weeks.

Antonee Robinson left Everton for a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers, and the 20-year-old could maybe, possibly, hopefully, please-sir-please be a long-term left back. It’s his first appearance in the U.S. set-up since 2014, and the English-American could start a recruiting battle should he continue his growth at Everton. He has five assists in more than 2,400 minutes between left back and left mid for Bolton.

Cameron Carter-Vickers is a name many in this space will know, but in case you don’t: The Spurs center back, 20, suffered through fits and starts in a Championship loan at Sheffield United, much like the club itself, which was cut short. Sent to Ipswich Town, “CCV” has been one of their finer players over the second half of the season.

And, just for fun, how might we see the Yanks line up in North Carolina?


Yedlin — Carter-Vickers — Miazga — Lichaj

Nagbe — McKennie — Adams — Saief

Wood — Novakovich