Pulisic reacts to assist, being back in Chelsea team

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SOUTHAMPTON — Chants of “USA, USA!” were heard outside St Mary’s stadium as Christian Pulisic walked towards the Chelsea team bus on Sunday after playing his part in a resounding Premier League win for the Blues.

[ MORE: How do Pulisic perform? ]

The 21-year-old USMNT star came on and grabbed an assist in his first Premier League minutes since August 31, and after a spell on the bench and out of the squad completely last week at Lille in the UEFA Champions League, Pulisic impressed in his brief cameo on England’s south coast.

Pulisic recorded a lovely assist in his 15 minutes on the pitch, cleverly finding Michy Batshuayi to make it 4-1. The celebrations with Batshuayi, his teammates and the coaching staff at the final whistle showed how happy Pulisic is and he was delighted to make an impact after coming on.

“I did the best I could with the minutes I got. I tried to get in and help the team as best I could and I was happy I could do that,” Pulisic said. “I’m happy. I want to continue to work harder and I never want to stop and I want to continue to get more minutes.”

Pulisic jumped on the back of Jorginho after the game and was ecstatic to be back on the pitch and making the most of his minutes. Maybe this stint on the sidelines was what he needed. Maybe this is all part of Frank Lampard’s masterplan.

After telling Pro Soccer Talk it was ‘very frustrating’ to be on the bench as an unused sub in recent weeks, Pulisic was asked if he’s been surprised to be left out after starting plenty of games at the start of the season.

He just wants to do everything he can to make sure he gets on the pitch.

“Of course, as a professional player you want to play, you want to be on the field and be a part of the team as much as you can. It hurt not to be there but I’m happy I got my opportunity today,” Pulisic said. “I want to be starting every game. I’m working hard in training. I want to be there. I hope everyone can see that. With moments like this I hope I can continue to make a case for myself.”

He now has four assists in his last six appearances for Chelsea and leads the Blues in the assist category this season.

Does he feel like he’s performing well when he’s on the ball in the final third?

“That’s my job in an attacking role. I’m going to do the best I can to try to get goals and assists. That has been good so far, so I want to continue to push,” Pulisic added.

Blues manager Frank Lampard has said Pulisic will get his chance but admitted the $73 million addition from Borussia Dortmund has to continue to show up in training. Pulisic agrees with his manager and is eager to impress.

“Frank likes players who work very hard and show a lot in training. I want to be a part of that and I just have to continue to do that, be the best I can be in training and just try to earn my position. That’s all I can do,” Pulisic added.

Has it been tough settling in at Chelsea since his summer move from Dortmund and the Bundesliga?

“Culture wise it has been easier than Germany to be honest,” Pulisic smiled. “From the football side of things, I guess you can say that. Obviously I haven’t been getting as many minutes, like you guys said, but I’m just going to keep going and pushing and I know my time is going to come.”

Some reports in England had suggested that Pulisic may move on in January if he’s not a regular at Chelsea, but he laughed that off too.

“I’m not just going to throw a fit and give up. Ever,” Pulisic laughed. “If I’m on the bench it doesn’t mean the gaffer doesn’t think I’m part of the team. It means that’s what it is right now and I’ve just got to keep pushing and earn my spot.”

With plenty of fans on social media asking why he hasn’t been playing and a huge transfer fee hanging over his head, Pulisic is trying to take it all in his stride and focus on getting better while also battling with Willian, Pedro, Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount for minutes.

“This number doesn’t mean anything to me,” Pulisic said of the transfer fee. “Obviously I go out and try to give my best every time I go out onto the pitch. I’m not sure what that price tag means to you guys, but I’m just going to keep trying to perform as best I can for myself and for the team.”

What about the constant chatter on social media and a little frustration from USMNT fans as to why he’s not starting?

“You can’t completely ignore it. I don’t live under a rock. I hear things and I see things,” Pulisic added. “I do my best to block it out. I’m doing my best for myself because the outside opinions don’t matter as much to me as what’s in the team and myself and the people who care about me. I’m just going to keep working and do my best to not worry about it.”

But through all of the ups and down early on in his Chelsea and Premier League career, Pulisic is glad the likes of Hudson-Odoi, Willian, Pedro and Mount are pushing him to get better.

“Competition in the team is only going to make me better. That’s what makes great teams,” Pulisic said. “Guys who are maybe not the second man or the third man, but they are pushing each other in training every single day. That is what a great team is all about.”

Pulisic is contributing for this Chelsea team as they aim to be great and he’s certainly happy to be back on the pitch and getting minutes and assists.

Chants of “USA, USA!” continued as he signed autographs and posed for photos outside St Mary’s and an American fan yelled: “Christian, we love you baby!”

The great hope of American soccer is battling for minutes at Chelsea with a smile on his face.

He is truly embracing the challenge and if he can contribute regularly, off the bench or from the start, he and Chelsea will be smiling a lot more.

USMNT striker Sargent out for rest of 2019

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American forward Josh Sargent will be shut down for the rest of 2019 thanks to a groin injury.

Werder Bremen said the injury first arose during USMNT duty and has bothered the 19-year-old in recent weeks.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sargent has two goals and three assists in 13 matches this season, playing mostly a center forward or primary striker role.

Here’s Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt:

“Since this is a small, deep-set muscle, the problems only occur at certain, very specific loads, which is why he was able to play and train for so long with problems. We will now give Josh’s injury time to properly heal, then he will get back to training in January.”

There are four more match days in the Bundesliga before the league goes on holiday break until mid-January.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

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The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

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Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

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NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports