Insider Notes: The story of how Dortmund stumbled upon Christian Pulisic
U.S. winger Christian Pulisic is getting lots of playing time lately for Borussia Dortmund in his first full season with the first time, but you might be surprised to hear how Dortmund first started paying attention to the 18-year-old Pennsylvania native.
Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said last week that his club was originally scouting a different U.S. Under-17 player at a tournament in Turkey back in 2014—I’m told that player was Haji Wright, who is now at Dortmund rival Schalke.
But Zorc said the Dortmund scouts fell in love with another player on that U.S. team—Pulisic—who had the speed and the technical skills that fit the Dortmund style.
Zorc said Dortmund switched its target to Pulisic that week, and the rest is history.
Pulisic has two Bundesliga goals in seven games this season, matching his output in nine games during the last half of Dortmund's 2015-16 season. He earned the start in three of Dortmund's first four Champions League group matches this season and helped set up an equalizer against Real Madrid off the bench in late September.
Here are a few more insider notes from around the soccer world:
U.S. Soccer board split on joining Mexico, Canada for World Cup 2026 hosting bid
This week, Mexican soccer federation president Decio de María reaffirmed Mexico’s desire to bid for the hosting rights to World Cup 2026, either alone or co-hosting with another country like the United States. As for news on the U.S.’s potential bid for that World Cup, I’m told there’s a split on the U.S. Soccer board of directors between those who want the U.S. to host the World Cup alone and those who want to share hosting rights with neighbors Mexico and Canada.
The U.S. Soccer board does plan to address the issue at its December meeting. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has stated his support for shared World Cups in the future, especially once the tournament is expanded to include more teams. But some U.S. Soccer board members think the U.S. is big enough that it doesn’t need to share hosting duties in ’26.
The FIFA Council is slated to decide in January whether to expand the World Cup to 40 or 48 teams for the 2026 edition.
Gareth Bale has 22 million reasons to enjoy his new Real Madrid deal
This week, Real Madrid announced that Gareth Bale has signed a contract extension with the club through 2022. The deal makes him the world’s highest-paid soccer player and is worth a remarkable £18.2 million ($22 million) a year after taxes, and the club reportedly set his buyout clause at a staggering £900 million. FIFA’s impending two-window transfer ban on Real Madrid for signing underage players gave Bale lots of leverage in negotiations, which started last summer. It also helps that Bale feels more comfortable every day in the Spanish capital.
Bale has done plenty to quiet any critics who doubted his move from Tottenham to Real Madrid in 2013.
He scored the eventual match-winning goal in extra time of the 2014 Champions League final against rival Atletico Madrid, and he has also won two UEFA Super Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup and a Copa del Rey. Now in his fourth season at Real Madrid, he has scored 50 goals in 90 league appearances, with a league title the only silverware truly missing from his time at the Bernabeu.
Now, he'll have a number of years to try and achieve it while also trying to live up to the expectations that come with his new distinction.
Real Madrid currently leads La Liga by two points over Barcelona through 10 matches.
Atlanta United FC interested in landing RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando holds MLS goalkeeper records for shutouts, victories and games played, but he could be headed east after a lengthy tenure as the Wall of the Wasatch.
Sources say Atlanta United is interested in landing Rimando for the 2017 season. Rimando has one year left on a contract that pays him a guaranteed $420,000, making him the second-highest paid goalkeeper in the league behind Tim Howard. The big question is whether Salt Lake will protect Rimando and his big salary number ahead of the Dec. 13 expansion draft.
There's already a link between the 37-year-old Rimando and Atlanta. He is close to Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra, his former youth club and UCLA teammate.
Rimando has been with RSL for 10 seasons and was instrumental in the club's 2009 MLS Cup title, winning match MVP honors in the penalty shootout win over the LA Galaxy in Seattle.
Minnesota has interest in Cosmos manager Savarese for MLS coaching job
There will be two expansion teams coming into MLS in 2017, and one of them is Minnesota United, which has yet to say who its coach will be.
Sources say that Minnesota has interest in Giovanni Savarese, the New York Cosmos coach, as well as former Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and current Sporting Kansas City assistant Kerry Zavagnin. One source said the most likely scenario involves Minnesota hiring someone who has not been a head coach in MLS before.
Many observers think Savarese, who played for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, New England Revolution and San Jose Earthquakes during his well-traveled career, will coach in MLS at some point and may be more likely to take a job sooner rather than later with the troubles that the NASL is having.
Savarese has enjoyed plenty of success with the Cosmos, winning league titles in 2013 and 2015, and he was in contention for Houston Dynamo job that ultimately went to Wilmer Cabrera.