Christian Pulisic

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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.

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.

Pulisic: “And I won’t lie — I’ve been feeling pretty depressed”

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Leave it to the kid to put it all into words for us.

Christian Pulisic was one of the only inspired performers of the last international window, one that saw a spineless performance cost the entire nation its quadrennial chance to watch the USMNT in a World Cup.

While the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star won’t be on the pitch for the United States against Portugal on Tuesday, Pulisic did tak to his keyboard for a long The Players’ Tribune post on how he feels about the team, his country, and soccer here.

[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose vs. Portugal ]

First and foremost, Pulisic isn’t pulling any punches about player development. He’s angry that the best and brightest U.S. players can’t head to Europe without a European passport, something he had from Croatia that allowed him to go to BVB at 16.

In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a “star” — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot. In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been “the best player,” and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day— both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.

That includes a dark lining of what a lot of pundits — us included — as well as many fans have said: There’s entitlement in the “Please don’t leave our youth club, best player” American soccer system.

Pulisic says it’s okay to stay home, and he doesn’t begrudge players that choice, but that he cannot fathom where he’d be without the growth he’s had at BVB.

He also lays out his feelings about the collapse, which was hardly his fault considering the defensive tactics of CONCACAF were to foul the heck out of the kid and dare anyone else to beat them (Spoiler alert…).

“And I won’t lie — I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this past month. The thought of having to wait four more years, just to get the taste of losing our last qualifier out of my mouth … just to find out if we’re going to the next World Cup? Man, that’s tough. Four years, you know? It feels like a lifetime.”

There’s a lot of young leadership in the American star, and it’s a shame — no hyperbole — that his international development won’t get the boon of his first World Cup. In fact, Pulisic may only get two or three depending on injuries now, and that’s absurd for a player already on pace to be one of the better players in Europe and perhaps the best in U.S. history (I know, I know, this is where naysayers want to say he’s being overhyped because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that a 19-year-old is literally one of the top performing talents in one of the Top Three leagues in the world. Be willing to be wrong. Have a strong take. This is ours).

Matthaus: Pulisic could replace Robben, Ribery; Reports say no USMNT duty

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Not a post goes by in which a cynic or general naysayer says American media is guilty of overhyping 19-year-old USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic.

To which we say: Lothar Matthaus.

And to which we also say, statistics and advanced metrics which put him at a near elite level, and not “U.S. near elite level” but “worldwide near elite level.”

[ MORE: Cherries out of drop zone ]

Pulisic put one of the only star turns for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-1 Der Klassiker home loss to Bayern Munich, gaining oohs and ahs when he nutmegged Arjen Robben en route to what his hometown Hershey Bears would count as an assist but stays off the scoresheet in Europe.

The performance had BVB manager Peter Bosz lavishing praise on Pulisic, and had Germany and Bayern legend Matthaus calling the youngster a potential replacement for a pair of legends.

From Goal.com:

“If Bayern Munich someday looks for a replacement for Robben and [Franck] Ribery, then they have to put out their feelers for Pulisic.He is 19 years old and has high quality.” Matthaus continued. “With his confidence and his speed, he is called to higher [things].”

Meanwhile, reports out of Germany say the United States men’s national team will not have its best player for the Nov. 14 friendly versus Portugal.

Christian Pulisic is set to stay behind at Borussia Dortmund, so says Borussia Dortmund blogger Lars Pollman, citing “local journos.”

It’s been a busy year for Pulisic, who deserves a break. With Portugal keeping a wealth of big names home and interim USMNT boss Dave Sarachan just minding the store, it doesn’t hurt to see the other fellas perform without their talisman.

Bundesliga wrap: Heynckes’ Bayern recovers first place

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Bayern Munich atop the Bundesliga table.

It feels so familiar.

[ MORE: Premier League wrap ]

Borussia Dortmund lost away from home and Bayern handled its business in its fortress to flip the early season script in Germany.

On an American note that will ring a bit hollow following the USMNT’s horrible World Cup qualifying collapse, center back John Brooks is back from a long injury absence and went 90 minutes for Wolfsburg.

Bayern Munich 2-0 RB Leipzig

New coach Jupp Heynckes’ men have reversed their early season floundering, topping their nearest 2016-17 rival and leaping over Borussia Dortmund to lay claim to first in the Bundesliga.

The goals came from James Rodriguez and Robert Lewandowski. It’s nice to have guys like that on the same roster.

Hannover 4-2 Borussia Dortmund

Togolese midfielder Ihlas Bebou scored twice as Hannover surged to within two points of the visitors with an entertaining win at HDI-Arena. Eighteen year old Dan-Axel Zagadou scored his first goal in the loss, but took a red card with the score 2-2 to hurt the BVB’s chances.

“It’s not what we’re expecting, but me personally and the team aren’t having a good run of late but that’s life and we’re going to turn things around,” said BVB’s USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic, who misplaced 14 of his 31 passes during an off day.

At least one American will be pleased: Hannover assistant boss Steve Cherundolo.

Elsewhere
Mainz 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt — Friday
Hoffenheim 1-3 Borussia Monchengladbach
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Koln
Schalke 1-1 Wolfsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-1 Hamburg
Werder Bremen vs. Augsburg — 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Stuttgart vs. Freiburg — 1 p.m. ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 10 7 2 1 24 7 17 4-1-0 3-1-1 23
 Borussia Dortmund 10 6 2 2 27 11 16 3-0-1 3-2-1 20
 RB Leipzig 10 6 1 3 16 12 4 3-1-0 3-0-3 19
 Hannover 96 10 5 3 2 14 9 5 3-1-1 2-2-1 18
 FC Schalke 04 10 5 2 3 13 10 3 3-2-1 2-0-2 17
 Mönchengladbach 10 5 2 3 16 18 -2 3-0-2 2-2-1 17
 1899 Hoffenheim 10 4 4 2 17 14 3 3-2-1 1-2-1 16
 Bayer Leverkusen 10 4 3 3 22 15 7 3-2-0 1-1-3 15
 Eintracht Frankfurt 10 4 3 3 11 10 1 1-1-2 3-2-1 15
 Hertha BSC Berlin 10 3 4 3 11 12 -1 3-2-1 0-2-2 13
 FC Augsburg 9 3 3 3 12 10 2 2-1-2 1-2-1 12
 FSV Mainz 05 10 3 2 5 11 16 -5 3-1-2 0-1-3 11
 VfL Wolfsburg 10 1 7 2 10 13 -3 0-4-1 1-3-1 10
 VfB Stuttgart 9 3 1 5 6 11 -5 3-1-0 0-0-5 10
 SC Freiburg 9 1 5 3 6 17 -11 1-4-0 0-1-3 8
 Hamburger SV 10 2 1 7 7 17 -10 1-1-3 1-0-4 7
 Werder Bremen 9 0 5 4 3 9 -6 0-1-3 0-4-1 5
 1. FC Köln 10 0 2 8 4 19 -15 0-1-3 0-1-5 2

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Mbappe wins Golden Boy over Rashford, Pulisic, Gabriel Jesus

AP Photo/Christophe Ena
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Paris Saint-Germain, France, and (former) Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe has claimed the Golden Boy Award over Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, and others.

[ MORE: TFC sets MLS record ]

The Golden Boy is chosen from the top Under-21 players in Europe, and the short list had the above names and 22 more including Gabriel Jesus, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Marcus Rashford.

Mbappe, still 18 until Dec. 20, has four goals and four assists this season for PSG after scoring 26 goals with 14 assists for Monaco last season. He also has a goal for France.

The teenager likely played the biggest role at the biggest club last season, though Donnarumma was exceptional at Milan, Jesus’ injury conspired against him at Man City, and Marcus Rashford was very good for United.

Follow @NicholasMendola