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PST Survey results: What’s the career ceiling for Pulisic?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. So we begin BASS in the same place many American soccer conversations start: with Christian Pulisic.

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

The 19-year-old “Don’t call him Wonderboy” admitted to fighting depression after the USMNT failed to qualify for the World Cup, but Christian Pulisic is the primary cause for optimism in many circles of U.S. Soccer.

USMNT supporters see him as the key to the future, club coaches see him as an example of how an elite career can be nurtured here, and European export proponents see his exponential growth at Borussia Dortmund as a beacon to call young U.S. talent overseas.

But what is his ceiling?

[ MORE: Rochester Rhinos in jeopardy ]

We supplied three choices for our readership:

  1. European soccer Best XI candidate
  2. Short of world elite, but best American player in history
  3. About where he is now: Key player on a good team

It won’t surprise anyone that Option No. 3 was the least popular, as it’s difficult to believe a healthy Pulisic won’t continue to improve. He’s already one of the most important players on a UEFA Champions League team — and the most important player on the USMNT — at age 19, so the nine percent of people who voted “About where he is now” are mostly cynics or detesters of the game here, in all likelihood.

Thirty-seven percent of fans think he can be a Best XI candidate, which would put him in uncharted American waters. Getting to this point would mean Pulisic would get to a point where voters consider him capable of fitting in a team like the 2016 UEFA Team of the Season. The attack-minded players there only need one of their names: Messi, Griezmann, Ronaldo, Modric, Iniesta.

Now, this also would mean that Pulisic would need to either lead Borussia Dortmund to a Bundesliga crown and/or deep into the UEFA Champions League, and that leaves this poll option a massive bet by voters. He could also be an otherworldly playmaker on a second-tier team, but would need to just dominate. In the last three seasons, guess who many teams have placed a player on the Best XI?

Seven. That’s 33 spots taken by seven teams. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester United. PSG has one (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) while United had a half (Angel Di Maria played for the Red Devils and Real that season).

Which brings us to the majority vote: 54 percent of voters think Pulisic will not quite reach world elite, but will be the best player in United States history. This would mean passing the accolades of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan. From a team standpoint, this won’t be terribly hard.

[ MORE: Dempsey wins award ]

Pulisic has won the German Cup. Howard has a League Cup, FA Cup, and Community Shield. Dempsey played in a Europa League final with Fulham, while Donovan won all of his club accolades in Major League Soccer.

What would it take for Pulisic to take a step into that category while staying in Europe (Forgive us for assuming a healthy Pulisic could return to MLS at any time in the next dozen years and contribute like Dempsey at the very least)? Would he need to join the rarefied air of aforementioned clubs like Real or Bayern Munich? Lothar Matthaus thinks he can do a job at the latter.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

At a certain point, naysayers like to say Pulisic is being overhyped. We get that. As a culture we’ve gone through varying degrees of that, from Maurice Edu all the way up (or down) to Freddy Adu. But no player in U.S. history, at his age, has been nominated for the Goldenboy Award. Donovan didn’t make a senior appearance at Bayer Leverkusen until 22, and Pulisic has 71 first team apps for BVB with 10 goals and 14 assists.

Transfermarkt has two comparable players for him right now: Leroy Sane and Anthony Martial. WhoScored rates him as the 21st best player in the Bundesliga this season. Squawka says only one player in Germany is attempting more take-ons per game, and has him as a Top 50 per game attacker, though his possession stats are not so hot. He’s 19. This isn’t overhype, considering it’s a foray into the American unknown: It’s legit hype.

This is the great unknown, paved by the work of Dempsey and Howard, Bocanegra and Reyna, Keller and even McBride. While we should sit back and enjoy it all, there’s no doubt the focus will only continue to grow on Pulisic. It seems, wonderfully, that pressure doesn’t bother the kid.

Imagine his prime. We know you are.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.

MLS All-Stars to face Juventus in 2018

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For the first time, Juventus will be taking on Major League Soccer’s best in the MLS All-Star Game.

MLS announced on Thursday that the six-time defending Italian champions will take on the MLS All-Stars in Atlanta United’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium on August 1, 2018. Juventus will be the second Italian club to play in the MLS All-Star Game, following AS Roma’s appearance in 2013.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Since MLS adapted its all-stars vs. foreign club format in 2002 (with a brief return to the old East vs. West format in 2004), MLS has gone 9-6. Last year the MLS All-Stars lost 4-2 on penalty kicks to Real Madrid in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

Klinsmann: “I’m sure I’ll come back” to coaching

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Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”