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USMNT’s Pulisic reflects on big night; Lalas’ comments

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WEMBLEY — His 19th birthday is next week. Remember that.

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Christian Pulisic put in yet another superb display for Borussia Dortmund but they lost 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Speaking in the mixed zone afterwards, a downbeat Pulisic, 18, reflected on his display as he tore Tottenham apart in the first half, had a goal disallowed and battled against the best defense in the Premier League.

He wants those calls back as Dortmund had a second, more contentious, goal chalked off for offside.

“Things didn’t go our way and that’s how the sport is sometimes. We had to take some other chances but things didn’t go our way with decisions and other things,” Pulisic said. “I have to see them again but my goal in the first half, I guess Auba was off but he didn’t touch it. I don’t know if he was offside. The second one I didn’t think was offside. Obviously refs make mistakes and the game just changed after that.”

Pulisic was everywhere in the first half, giving both Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld a tough time from the left but he told Pro Soccer Talk he still wants to do better.

“I always tried to bring confidence to the game. I still need to do more and create goals and score goals. I couldn’t do it today,” Pulisic said.

Pulisic started out on the left and had plenty of touches early on, ghosting between Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld. His run and cross led to an attack which eventually saw Andriy Yarmolenko curl in a stunner for Dortmund’s opener. In the 19th minute Pulisic cut inside and his shot deflected off Alderweireld and went out for a corner.

The Kid kept going.

He then raced clear on the half hour mark and his cross to the back post towards Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang was brilliantly cleared by Jan Vertonghen. A great chance then arrived for Pulisic with Aubemayang the provider but the Hershey, PA native couldn’t get enough on his effort as he stretched to get on the end of the cross.

Right on half time Dortmund could have been level with Pulisic scoring at the back post as he controlled and finished calmly.

The offside flag was up way before he finished, but although Aubameyang appeared to be in an offside position he didn’t touch the ball. The jury is out as to whether or not he was interfering with play.

That was the kind of night it was and Pulisic is getting used to it.

“This is how professional soccer is now. Of course it’s a lot for me, it’s my first year, but now my second year playing this many games,” Pulisic said. “I’m getting used to it. My body is okay. It is how it is. I always prepare myself to play every single game.”

With the season in full flow with Dortmund as they chase a Bundesliga title and aim to get back on track, the USMNT’s crucial World Cup qualifiers next month are never far from his mind.

“Obviously now I am focusing on Dortmund. We have big games coming up. But it’s there,” Pulisic admitted. “We have to do everything we can and I am going to do everything I can do to help us qualify.”

Over the weekend Fox Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas called out Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to step up for the USA.

He also rounded on Pulisic, saying “even you, wonder boy” when asking the U.S. to win key World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago next month. What did Pulisic think about Lalas’ comments?

“I heard about it. I am not going to lose sleep about what Alexi Lalas has to say about us. He can say what he wants,” Pulisic laughed.

The Kid is growing up.

Before kick off Pascal Girwert was walking down Wembley Way with a beer in his hand, his friends by his side and Christian Pulisic’s name and number on the back of his Dortmund jersey.

“He is a very, very, very big talent. Now that Ousmane Dembele has left us, he has a place in our team for every match. We are very happy to have him,” Girwert, a Dortmund fan who had traveled to London for the game, explained.

Are Dortmund worried about him leaving as his star continues to rise?

“Dortmund is the biggest thing he can reach!” Girwert laughed. “I love that he is very happy at Dortmund. He likes to play and doesn’t want to move. That makes us very sympathetic to him. We are very happy to have him.”

After the game Dortmund’s coach Peter Bosz was very complimentary when asked by Pro Soccer Talk about his teenage talent.

“He is a huge talent and I still see room for progression. This is not the end of his journey,” Bosz said. “He has a lot of quality. He shows us in training and also showed it in the game. He is still 18. Big talent.”

With Pulisic’s cousin, Will, in Dortmund’s youth team as a goalkeeper last season, the fans at Dortmund are quite eager to help nurture more young American players.

“It would be brilliant for Dortmund to have more American kids to come to us, but also for American soccer. He usually plays off the right for us. It is a very good position for him. I think the quality of the Dortmund team is much better than the USA national team, so maybe that’s why he plays in the middle,” Girwert chuckled.

He, Pulisic and the rest of Dortmund’s fans weren’t chuckling at the end of the game as Spurs ran out winners but the teenager from Pennsylvania can take solace from the fact that he tormented one of the best defenses in the Premier League multiple times.

Every time you watch him in a big game he steps up and there is plenty more to come from the kid who turns 19 next week.

Reflecting on a short stint when he trained with Tottenham as a youngster over a decade ago while his family moved to England for a year, Pulisic was reflective about how far he’d come in such a short period of time.

“Those were great times,” Pulisic said. “It is pretty crazy playing at Wembley for the first time and it is pretty special, coming this far.”

Croatian media: Forward Kalinic refused WCup medal

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) Croatian media say that forward Nikola Kalinic has not accepted the silver medal his team won at the World Cup in Russia because he was sent home early in the competition.

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Kalinic has reportedly said “thank you but I did not play in Russia.”

Coach Zlatko Dalic sent Kalinic home following the team’s 2-0 victory over Nigeria in their opening match.

Dalic said he wanted to use Kalinic as a substitute in the second half but the AC Milan forward, who was already warming up, told him he was not able to play because of a back problem.

Dalic said Kalinic did the same in a World Cup warmup against Brazil and during training.

Croatia lost 4-2 to France in the final.

Marseille signs Caleta-Car, Fonte joins Lille

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Croatia defender Duje Caleta-Car has joined Marseille from Red Bull Salzburg, becoming the first offseason signing for the nine-time French champion.

Caleta-Car played a group game at the World Cup with Croatia, which lost 4-2 against France in the final last week.

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He won four Austrian league titles and three national cups with Salzburg.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed but L’Equipe newspaper reported that Marseille agreed to a fee of 19 million euros for the 21-year-old player, who was also targeted by Spanish club Sevilla.

“He is a very good central defender, for now and for the future,” Marseille sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said. “He is a clever player, who understands football. His very physical skills make him very good in the air and has good passing abilities.”

Marseille finished fourth in the French league last season and lost 3-0 against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final, missing out on a Champions League berth.

FONTE JOINS LILLE

Portugal defender Jose Fonte is set to continue his much-traveled career in the north of France after agreeing to a two-year deal with Lille.

The 34-year-old Fonte started all four games at the World Cup in Russia as Portugal was eliminated by Uruguay in the round of 16.

Two years ago, he was a member of the squad which won the European championship in France.

Lille said in a statement Fonte will sign “in the coming days” following medical tests.

The former Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Ham center back played only a few matches with Chinese club Dalian Yifang this year before terminating his contract.

He is the second international to join Lille this summer after former France forward Loic Remy.

“I’m very proud to join Lille, which is a great French club,” Fonte said. “It’s a new challenge for me, hopefully it will be successful.”

Naby Keita emulated Gerrard growing up, and will now take on his role

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Naby Keita represents another new face in the next generation Liverpool regime, and he’s taking a page out of Anfield’s past in his approach at the Premier League club.

[ MORE: Neymar says he’s staying at PSG despite rumors “invented by the press” ]

When the 23-year-old finally completed his long-awaited move to the Reds in 2018, comparisons to N'Golo Kante quickly arose, a strong compliment for many.

However, for everything that Kante does well, it may actually be unfair to compare Keita to the now-World Cup winner with France.

Keita’s tireless ability to track up and down the pitch, complimented by his incredible skill on the ball and pace make him the ideal box-to-box midfielder, something his new club has been lacking for several years.

“My first mind-set is to defend well and not concede,” Keita told the Telegraph. “As a midfielder, when you have sealed things up at the back, my job is to provide the ammunition for the strikers and forwards, to create opportunities. Also, if I get a chance that comes my way, I want to take it and score. But I am a team player. I think about the team and the group always.”

That player is one Steven Gerrard.

And for Keita, the player that he once emulated as a child has now influenced him into the young star that drove manager Jurgen Klopp towards bringing him in to Anfield.

“When I came here that day I didn’t know Steven would be at Melwood,” says Keita. “It was a surprise to me. It was exciting. He said, ‘Everyone will be here for you, we’re all going to help you develop’.

“I had watched Steven Gerrard growing up as a kid and admired him so that was a special day.

“We used to play in the streets wearing a Liverpool shirt. My dad had a love of Liverpool back then when I was 11 or 12 years old.

“I wanted to be like him. It couldn’t be anyone else. He was always the boss of the team.”

Las Vegas Lights keen on bringing Usain Bolt to USL

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It wouldn’t be the first time a star athlete has made the move to the United Soccer League — the second tier in the U.S. Soccer professional pyramid — however, the magnitude of the deal would transcend soccer.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Son to contract extension ]

Although reported interest from Australia, Turkey and Hungary could derail a move, former Jamaican track star Usain Bolt is being courted by USL side Las Vegas Lights FC, who are currently in their first season in the league.

“Of course we have an interest in Usain Bolt. Why wouldn’t we?” said Las Vegas owner and CEO Brett Lashbrook.

“He’s the world’s fastest guy and he’s trained at some of the best clubs in the world. To come play Division 2 soccer in the U.S. actually makes all the sense in the world. This guy is an absolute specimen of an athlete and we think he could absolutely succeed at the USL level.”

While the possibility of having Bolt play alongside Freddy Adu next to the Vegas Strip is an enticing one, the Jamaican’s salary demands are likely far too much for a USL side to take on.

Lights FC currently sit 13th in the USL Western Conference, eight point outside of a playoff spot.

Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist, having competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.