Mailbag: Pulisic's present and future; USMNT hex home sites, more questions answered
- Your questions answered on Christian Pulisic, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Landon Donovan, Pep Guardiola and much more around the soccer world.
It’s mailbag time! We haven’t done one in a while, so I heard what was on your mind on my Twitter feed, and now it’s time to answer.
For starters, a lot of you wanted to talk Christian Pulisic, the now-18-year-old Yank who’s started the last three games for Borussia Dortmund. Let’s open the ‘Bag!
Is Pulisic having the most impressive run of a USA teenager ever considering club team? Any reason he shouldn’t start for the national team? (@bdelbanco)
As promising as Pulisic is—and let’s be honest, it’s really promising that a U.S. 18-year-old is starting for one of the world’s best clubs—it’s worth remembering that he still hasn’t played that many top-flight games. As of Tuesday, he has been in 15 games so far Dortmund (seven starts) with three goals and three assists. For the U.S. national team Pulisic has been in seven games (one start) with three goals and two assists.
Historically, there aren’t many examples of U.S. teenagers going gangbusters at club level in a top-flight league. In Europe, Michael Bradley didn’t have his first big year at Heerenveen until he was 20, while Steve Cherundolo joined Hannover at 19 and became a starter at 20.
As you’d expect, there are a few more examples of teenagers doing well in MLS. At 19, Landon Donovan had 12 goals in San Jose’s MLS Cup-winning season of 2001. DaMarcus Beasley was a regular starter in his third MLS season in Chicago by the time he turned 20. Dallas’s Eddie Johnson tied for the MLS Golden Boot with 12 goals as a 19-year-old in 2004. Jozy Altidore scored 16 MLS goals as a teen before moving to Villarreal in 2008. Freddy Adu had 12 goals in four MLS seasons before moving to Benfica at 18 in 2007. Santino Quaranta had nine goals with D.C. United before he turned 20, while Bobby Convey was in his fourth MLS season with D.C. as a teenager.
What is Pulisic’s best position? (@_AlexRendon)
He’s a winger right now, obviously, but eventually he’ll be an attacking central midfielder. That’s the position he played for the U.S. at the Under-17 World Cup.
Anything different about Pulisic that gives you hope he won’t be another Freddy Adu/Julian Green type flash in the pan? (@Jofi_Joseph_99)
I wouldn’t write off Green just yet. He’s just 21. As far as comparing Pulisic to Adu, it seems like a totally different situation. Adu had MLS’s entire marketing campaign built around him at age 14 in 2004 and was the highest-paid player in the league. Pulisic has certainly been precocious—he’s the youngest player ever to score his second goal in the Bundesliga—but he’s a complementary player at one of Germany’s best clubs, a club that has a good track record with developing players.
Assume Pulisic is the bees—what’s the next biggest piece of the player puzzle for the USMNT to get stronger? (@mixedknuts)
The hardest thing to find in soccer is a truly world-class goal scorer, so you could start there. But if we’re being honest, the U.S. is at a stage in its development where there could still be upgrades all over the field.
Did the media know about Abby Wambach’s addictions? (@JudyNelsonLewis)
In Wambach’s candid new memoir, Forward, she details her history of addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs (Vicodin, Ambien and others) over the last few years. I’ve read the book, which is one of the most honest athlete autobiographies since Andre Agassi’s. It’s an engaging read and gives you plenty of perspective on what was going on in Wambach’s life over the last few years.
I can’t speak for other media members, but while I had heard some rumors about Wambach’s drinking over the years, I didn’t know the problem was that serious or that it included prescription drugs.
You have a day off, where do you grab a beer and watch soccer? Favorite soccer bar in U.S.? (@marcgaskins)
If I’m at home in New York City, I go to Smithfield Hall on West 25th Street. It’s the official Barcelona and Bayern Munich bar of NYC, and there’s a good group of regulars as well as occasional sightings of folks like Rod Stewart and Javier Bardem. Even Ronaldinho and FIFA president Gianni Infantino have been there this year. I have a few favorite soccer bars around the country. One of them is Slainte in the Fells Point section of Baltimore.
Do you think anything will be done by U.S. Soccer with the Megan Rapinoe situation? And to what extent if so? (@Beckham24Joe)
Rapinoe has taken a knee during the national anthem in the last two U.S. games in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and his protest against police treatment of black Americans. And while U.S. Soccer did issue a press release saying standing for the national anthem was an expectation, it did not choose to punish Rapinoe on Sunday for having done it in the game before that.
I do know there have been a lot of conversations inside the team about it, including between Rapinoe and coach Jill Ellis. And I understand that just because the federation didn’t sanction Rapinoe on Sunday, that remains a possibility in the future.
Should fans expect FIFA to revisit a possible re-vote on the Qatar World Cup? (@TheColorfulKit)
Despite numerous reasons to do so, I’m not expecting that to happen unless the Swiss governmental investigation into the bids for World Cup 2022 turns over any legal wrongdoing. FIFA, like the NCAA, has a history of acting only when someone else has caught a perpetrator doing something wrong.
Do you think Pep Guardiola and Man City can keep up this level of play and workrate over a long Champions League/Premier League season? (@thedudeabides81)
Well, so far City has been perfect this season results-wise, and I don’t expect that to continue. There will be some bumps in the road, as you’d expect, but to this point Guardiola’s project is farther along than I expected it would be. One big question moving forward has to be the health of the players, particularly a guy like Kevin De Bruyne, who has been superb so far this season but also has a history of injuries. I love what Guardiola has done with Raheem Sterling, and I’m impressed by the continued success despite the loss of Sergio Agüero to suspension. If Vincent Kompany can get healthy and stay healthy, that would be a huge boost as well.
Does present-day José Mourinho actually bring anything positive to a club? (@JDinALB)
That’s a harsh question, though there are plenty of reasons to ask after Mourinho’s last 12 months as a manager. But we’re so quick to write off people these days that I’m not about to do that with Mourinho. He didn’t just forget how to coach and manage players overnight after winning the league with Chelsea in May 2015. And just as we shouldn’t have concluded that Man United “is back” after three wins to start the season, we shouldn’t bury United after three losses in the past week, either.
Why is Jurgen Klinsmann so insistent on playing older players on the USMNT when the younger guys need the experience and are better? (@tcarter385)
Even though the U.S. men are going through a good stretch right now, there’s still some frustration among fans about continuing to see players like Kyle Beckerman (34) and Chris Wondolowski (33) called into the team. Klinsmann has responded by saying that Wondo is a hugely positive influence in the locker room, while Beckerman is a trusted hand, especially in the absence of Jermaine Jones. I’d like to see a few more young guys on the field too, but Klinsmann was also in results mode last month, just a few months after his seat got very hot early in the Copa América. We’ll see if he brings in a few more young players for October’s friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand.
Brad Guzan sat this weekend while Tim Howard posted another clean sheet. Do you think Klinsmann will continue rotating them in the Hex? (@mjdecter)
If one of them isn’t playing much at club level, perhaps not. But during the most recent games Klinsmann said that he’d keep the platoon going if they’re both getting playing time at club level, not least because he things guys with their backgrounds in their 30s need to be rewarded with some playing time for making the trek to join the team.
Realistically, could Landon Donovan get back into the USMNT picture? (@DRock_18)
Never say never, but I don’t see it happening. Donovan isn’t fit enough to play 90 minutes yet, and he has shown no interest yet in continuing his comeback beyond 2016. I do think it’s cool that Donovan and Klinsmann finally had a long talk this summer and seem to have put most of their issues behind them.
Why do the USMNT jersey numbers change so much? @cpulisic_10 is on his third number in the last year. (@melissaschenk)
For World Cup qualifiers you have to put the players in numbers 1 through 23. For a guy like Pulisic, he’s earning his stripes game by game with the team, culminating in him getting the No. 10 jersey for the most recent qualifiers. Something tells me he might have that number for a while.
More crystal ball: The five host cities for USMNT Hex games? (@justinbarton_)
We know Columbus is hosting the November 11 qualifier against Mexico. Here’s my guess on the other four games:
March 24 (Honduras): Kansas City, Kan. The U.S. has had success at Children’s Mercy Park over the years, which is why I suspect U.S. Soccer will choose KC for one of the Hex home games. Might as well be this one.
June 9 (Trinidad and Tobago): Commerce City, Colo. The U.S. travels to Mexico for a qualifier after this game, and Klinsmann has already said he’d like to play and train at altitude for this one. He also no doubt remembers that the U.S. got a point in Mexico City the last time around after playing in Colorado for the SnowClásico. Another possibility here would be Sandy, Utah.
September 1 (Costa Rica): Nashville, Tenn. U.S. Soccer likes to stage at least one qualifier per round in the Southeast, and Nashville has worked well over the years.
October 6 (Panama): Seattle. U.S. Soccer hasn’t scheduled too many qualifiers on the West Coast over the years due to the travel distance for European-based players. But the 2013 beatdown of this same Panama team in Seattle was a special night, and I could see the fed going back for this one—especially if the grounds experts can reproduce the better-than-expected temporary grass that we saw in Seattle during Copa América.
Does Christian Ramírez have the skills to transition to MLS with Minnesota United next year? (@wbarron4)
I think he does. More importantly, Minnesota thinks he does. I’m told the club has already been in talks with Ramírez about being part of the team in MLS next season.