Reimagining Sunderland: Altidore, Fletcher, Borini and Giaccherini together could devastate

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Let’s take a brief moment to reimagine Sunderland.

After setting the record for the worst ever start in the Barclays Premier League (1 point in the first eight matches), the Black Cats grabbed their first three points of the season defeating rivals Newcastle 2-1 in the Wear-Tyne derby.

The victory seemed inspired by a number of things, not the least of which was the hiring of Gus Poyet following the dismissal of Paulo Di Canio. Yet while Poyet earned the result his side needed, the Uruguayan arguably did so without utilizing the best talent his side has to offer.

Coming out in 4-4-2 formation against Newcastle Poyet deployed a back line of Phil Bardsley, Carlos Cuellar, John O’Shea and Andrea Dossena, a midfield four of Adam Johnson, Lee Catermole, Jack Colback and Seb Larrson, with a front two of Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher.

Putting Altidore and Fletcher in the same side was a great play by Poyet, a move that Di Canio fooled with but never seemed convinced by. While Altidore and Fletcher both typically play as the top striker in the 10 spot, they are by no means mutually exclusive forwards.

With his size and hold up play, Altidore is able to play higher up the pitch while Flether’s skill and versatility allows him to play in the hole of a 4-2-3-1 formation. What becomes difficult, however, is involving Fabio Borini, who more than proved his worth on Sunday when he cracked an 84th minute winner into the top corner.

On that play, Borini swooped in from the left wing to collect Altidore’s layoff before unleashing from the center of the park. It was a run that left Mathieu Debuchy and the right side of Newcastle’s midfield baffled. Borini’s speed, along with his ability to create off the dribble, make him an excellent option on the wing, where he was occasionally used at Roma.

Which is why Adam Johnson needs to sit. On his day, Johnson can create and devastate but when is the last time that happened? The spring 2013 Tyne-Wear derby? Johnson’s inconsistency needs to be addressed through a benching.

Sunderland also would be a far more dangerous team with Emanuele Giaccherini on the right wing. With his pace, skill and knack for finding the back of the net, the Italian has been the Black Cats’ brightest offensive talent this season, which made Poyet’s decision to bench him in last weekend’s derby quite surprising.

Whether that omission was due to a knock or a disagreement between player and coach has not been made public. But assuming all is well with Giaccherini, he is an absolute must start for Sunderland going forward.

The fear in deploying a front four of Altidore, Borini, Fletcher and Giaccherini, is that the club would be liable defensively. But, as was evident in Debuchy’s back post goal, Johnson is rarely interested in playing defense and there’s little to suggest Borini is much worse. Giaccherini’s tackling may not be his best gift but his furious work ethic has proven more than enough to frustrate the opposition.

Bolstering the midfield defense is the holding pair of Lee Catermole and Jack Colback, who Poyet used against Newcastle. That decision suffocated the middle of the park for Newcastle as Catermole put in his best performance of the season. With these two cleaning up in front of the back four, Sunderland possess the necessary balance to unleash Altidore, Fletcher, Borini and Giaccherini as a front four.

The best decision Poyet made last weekend was to infuse his side with confidence and to urge them to take the game to Newcastle. Despite only having accumulated four points this season, the Black Cats possess some pretty impressive talent. If the Uruguayan can manage to get his best unit on the pitch at the same time, fear of relegation on Wearside could be a thing of the past.

Marketing Pulisic: Catching up with BVB director Carsten Cramer

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Borussia Dortmund is taking its talents to our shores this summer, and ProSoccerTalk had a chance to speak to the club on its efforts in America and back home in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Pulisic rips up Liverpool ]

Naturally, American fans are very interested in anything Christian Pulisic, and PST is very interested in how a club like BVB goes about marketing one of the first internationally recognizable U.S. teen stars (or at least the first of serious consequence since Landon Donovan).

Near hat tricks market themselves — Pulisic had two goals and played a huge part in the third as Loris Karius parried his shot right to Jacob Bruun Larsen — but there’s plenty more to our discussion with BVB marketing director Carsten Cramer.

ProSoccerTalk: BVB is a gigantic club with a huge fan base already here, but the growing interest of the American market is clearly ripe to become someone’s new favorite club. How do you balance the need to cater to both on a trip like this?

Carsten Cramer: “You described it well and with the right words. We know about the interest of Americans in football generally, and we also know that a club like Borussia Dortmund which is a little bit different from the other big clubs and seems to draw the attention of American people as well. If you know these two characteristics of the American market, it’s a kind of logical consequence that a club like Dortmund which has internationalization as very important for growth, makes a decision to come to the U.S. after traveling three years in a row to Asia. Christian Pulisic is one of the Top 11 in our team. Although we had a difficult season, he played a good one. He’s now 19. He’s at the right age to lead and run this team for the U.S. visit.”

PST: How would you compare traveling to the U.S. with Pulisic to heading to Japan with Shinji Kagawa?

CC: “It’s always good if you have a player from the market. They are definitely a door opener. It’s a kind of similar situation. Christian has become one of the superstars in American soccer and he made his first steps in football, so it might be a little bit different to Shinji Kagawa who had made his first steps in Japan.”

PST: We’re sure the club has seen a bump in interest from American audiences. Is there a way to measure the impact he’s had, especially as BVB battles for new fans?

CC: “We are a powerful club but we are definitely not comparable with the Real Madrids and Manchester Uniteds, so they are even bigger. But we do have very very attractive door opener, who makes it easier to meet people, especially the young generation. In the young generation, football has a higher relevance. If you have one of their generation wearing a black and yellow shirt, it gives us a deeper and more intense impact than without him. We analyze the digital reach, the followers when we present to the American public.

“It’s the frosting on the cake. The cake is always delicious if it’s a black and yellow one, but if you can taste the black and yellow one including Christian Pulisic, it’s an awesome cake.”

Donnerstag 19.07.2018, 1. Fussball – Bundesliga Saison 18/19 – BVB USA-2018 Reise 2, Chicago,
Borussia Dortmund. Credit: Alexander Isak (BVB),

PST: The black and yellow of Dortmund has a bit in common with the sports teams of Pittsburgh, where you’ll play this week. Does the club have a lot of say in where they play as part of the ICC?

CC: “For us it was important when we agreed in the ICC that we play in the more Eastern parts of the states. We started with LAFC for the opening of Banc of California Stadium. Then we said we don’t want to go to the West Coast again and if it would be possible we’d love to go to Chicago because of a big German community and many many Polish people.

“Chicago was naturally seeded, than Charlotte is attractive because there are many German business there. And then they offered Pittsburgh and we said that’s cool because there’s a side of parallelism between the city history of Pittsburgh and Dortmund. Both have an industrial background like steel and coal, and Pittsburgh has the black and yellow, and is not that far from where Christian’s from in Hershey.”

PST: You have another interesting international addition in Jadon Sancho, formerly from Manchester City. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there hasn’t been a British player on Dortmund for some time and it doesn’t happen a ton in the Bundesliga. What does that say?

CC: “He’s the first one from the island we took, but he’s one of many many young players who’s fully convinced that Dortmund is the right club for his stage of their career.

“The reputation we do have is we build stars, we never buy stars. We build them, we make them, we develop them. The education of young talented players is one of the core pieces of Borussia Dortmund.”

“It was not difficult to convince Jadon. After one year of playing for us, he saw he could trust us. He’s a very talented guy and he can commit that the step to Dortmund was the right one. He’s the first one from the UK, but he was one of many Europeans who see they have an opportunity to play for the club.”

PST: This may be a goofy question, but what’s the focus of your job domestically? It doesn’t seem like a historically-big Borussia Dortmund needs to do a ton to prop itself up in Germany, so what’s critical to the marketing of BVB?

CC: “First of all, our core business is football. Marketing is just an appendix. We have a very simple job. We have to clean the window. We have to put in the window what makes people want to open the door and come into the Dortmund store. We have nice talented attractive players. The only job we have is presenting Borussia Dortmund as authentic, as credible as possible. Then marketing is very easy. Don’t tell them an artificial story. Make the players touchable, accessible. Give the people the feeling that we are really interested, that there is no big distance between the supporters and us, and you may have seen when we arrived at the public terminal at the Chicago airport. That’s our marketing. The more people we can attract, the more hearts we can gain, the more successful our marketing activities have been.”

Guingamp: 11-goal captain Briand off to Montreal

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Guingamp captain Jimmy Briand is making the move from Ligue 1 to Major League Soccer.

The French side announced that the 32-year-old, capped five times by France between 28-32, is coming to the Montreal Impact.

[ MORE: Pulisic rolls over Liverpool ]

Briand spent time with Lyon and Hannover after a eight-year stint with Rennes, where he was teammates with former USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra.

The center forward scored 11 goals last season in France, including markers against Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco.

Briand could provide a big missing piece of Montreal’s attack. The Impact have playmakers in Ignacio Piatti and Saphir Taidir, but haven’t found much from their forwards.

Pulisic sparks BVB’s breakdown of Liverpool

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Second half substitute Christian Pulisic stole the show in Charlotte, where Borussia Dortmund toppled Liverpool 3-1 in International Champions Cup play on Sunday.

[ MORE: Mina to Everton? ]

Virgil Van Dijk had given Liverpool the lead with a first half header, but it was all BVB in the second half.

Pulisic won and converted a penalty, then scored a second before taking the shot that led to Jacob Bruun Larsen’s rebound goal.

The performance put Pulisicmania in a nutshell for the unindoctrinated, and spoiled the trip to the stadium for a bright red crowd.

Moments like this don’t hurt either:

Pulisic wins, converts penalty against Liverpool (fan video)

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USMNT star and Borussia Dortmund teenage winger Christian Pulisic won a penalty kick off James Milner, then insisted on taking the spot kick in front of his home crowd.

[ MORE: Mina to Everton? ]

Pulisic, 19, took the ball off Mario Gotze and finished his chance clinically to equalize against Liverpool, his second won penalty of the American tour.

Pulisic began the game on the bench after starting in Chicago against Manchester City, and Liverpool had gone ahead early when Virgil Van Dijk took advantage of poorly set up BVB zonal marking.

But Pulisic cut past Milner and was tripped by the veteran before clattering into Ragnar Klavan and earning the PK.