Christian Pulisic must start on Tuesday

By Mike Woitalla

Coaches like to be secretive about their starting lineups, which is the only way to explain why Jurgen Klinsmann answered so apprehensively about whether 17-year-old Christian Pulisic would start on Tuesday against Trinidad & Tobago.

"Starting [Pulisic] is also questioning how long can he actually go, because we don't know,” Klinsmann said shortly after, in 24 minutes of play, Pulisic scored two goals and assisted in Friday’s 6-0 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “He's barely started [in] preseason, he hasn't had any games. So we start him and suddenly he starts cramping up at 60 minutes because his legs aren't built yet and you have only three subs. So these are kind of important things."

Of course, Pulisic is fit enough. In July, he started preseason training with one of the top clubs in the world, Borussia Dortmund, alongside a host of world-class players. I’d wager his legs are built up pretty good.

True, Pulisic did not play in Dortmund’s Bundesliga and German Cup openers, but he started in both friendlies Dortmund recently played for its reserves who also include three 2014 World Cup champions (Roman Weidenfeller, Mario Goetze and Andre Schuerrle) and one Euro 2016 champ (Raphael Guerreiro).

Less than two weeks ago, Pulisic went 63 minutes and scored in the second Dortmund friendly. Eight days before that, he played 90 minutes. And way back on July 28, he made a 45-minute appearance in a friendly and scored against Manchester City, six days after playing a half hour against Manchester United. (If you were wondering, Goetze and Guerrero were in good enough shape to start for Germany and Portugal, respectively, in international games this week even if they're not starting for Dortmund.)

And if there are doubts that he can go 90 minutes against Trinidad & Tobago, so what? Klinsmann has three subs at his disposal and frequently has started using them before the 70th minute.

Is there any possibility that a player who has trained for six weeks with Borussia Dortmund could not be fit enough to play 70 minutes against Trinidad & Tobago? I don’t think so.

Of course, I didn’t expect Klinsmann to reveal his starting lineup four days before kickoff. He’s not the only coach who likes to hold his cards close to his chest. And coaches also have their theories on how the training environment might be affected if players know far in advance whether they’re starting or not.

And coaches tend to be protective about very young players, feeling they have to ease them into to high-pressure situations.

But all indications are that Pulisic, who during the first half of 2016 played in a dozen competitive games for Dortmund, can handle the challenge.

It’s not even risky to start Pulisic against T&T, but if it were, some risk-taking is what we’d expect from a coach who frequently urges his players to takes risks.

The USA will qualify for the final round of World Cup qualifying unless it losses to T&T and Guatemala beats St. Vincent & the Grenadines by margins of 12 goals. Then the road gets tougher in the Hexagonal, with opponents such as Mexico and Costa Rica and likely Honduras. It would suit the USA if by that time, an attacker as dangerous and creative and confident on the ball as Pulisic is completely integrated into the team.

Pulisic has already played seven games for the USA, a total of 177 minutes in which he has scored three goals and assisted once -- contributing at a rate of more than two goals every 90 minutes.

Klinsmann has challenged his young players to “push the older ones out.” Now it’s time for Klinsmann to hold up his side of the bargain -- to bench one of the attackers who clearly isn’t as talented as the kid from Pennsylvania.

23 comments about "Christian Pulisic must start on Tuesday".
  1. Allan Lindh, September 3, 2016 at 7:56 p.m.

    Yes, but Jurgen the Clown is beyond rationality, and when he screws it up, beyond accountability. So we're into the final match of the prelims and still not assured of a place in the Hex, let alone winning our group. Fire the Clown, he's not funny anymore.

  2. R2 Dad replied, September 3, 2016 at 8:52 p.m.

    I think it's too easy to be a Monday morning quarterback because we don't have to live with these players as people. They're old, they're injured, they're switching clubs, they're on the bench, there are ego issues--it's just not Who Starts The Next Match. I've certainly been impatient in the past, but I don't see the big foul in playing MLS vets against weak CONCACAF teams--where is the harm in that? I don't see Pulisic starting, and that's OK. I'd be more critical if Sasha, who played well on Friday, didn't get more time to show he belonged. He is certainly a alternative to Bradley, and he's really contributing to his club.

  3. j bapper, September 3, 2016 at 8:05 p.m.

    I would be shocked if he started Pulisic... just to prove to all his critics that he's in charge and he won't bow to media pressure. Expect more mediocrity in the starting line-up from Beckerman, Zusi and Bedoya.

  4. Kent James, September 3, 2016 at 8:27 p.m.

    Yes, fitness is always a problem with those young guys...

  5. Joe Linzner, September 3, 2016 at 10:06 p.m.

    I recommend that Mr. Woitalla is made National Team coach since he is so much better at interpreting players talents and potential fitness. Always has better solutions and recommendations than Mr. Klinsmann. People must get a petition signed to remove JK and install MW. I do wonder, however, has MW ever coached any team and if so at which level and what were his results.

  6. Wooden Ships replied, September 4, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.

    No need to be so thin skinned. Joe, you have faithfully supported Jurgen and that's admirable. I think many, (most) fans of the USMNT want to be behind him. Like any coach, person, there are perceived strengths and weaknesses. Mike, me, you and others live through the ups and downs of the team. There are and have been questionable decisions that JK and AH have made. And, he does contradict himself, which invites criticism.

  7. Ric Fonseca replied, September 4, 2016 at 9:55 p.m.

    WS: I don't think that Joe is being "thin skinned," and IMHO I respect that he's been supportive of JK. If he has then it is his business and I respect him for it. And Joe, as for MW's coaching background, other than having played the game, youth through college, and coached at the youth level, this PLUS his being one of SA's stalwart reporters, and a very loyal one I might add, he IS entitled to his opinion, though I must also admit that he wears his dislike of JK and what he's done or not done very much so on his sleeves.

  8. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, September 5, 2016 at 9:14 a.m.

    I see these comments a lot from JK supporters. Instead of defending their hero, they attack the person criticizing them. We are fans and Mike is a writer. Soccer fans and writers criticize managers. They have every right to do so and, in the case of JK, they have every reason to criticize given some of the poor performances we've seen with him in charge.

  9. Kent James replied, September 6, 2016 at 8:27 a.m.

    Joe, you make many good comments, but in this case, I agree with Wooden Ships, ad hominem attacks aren't helpful. It would only matter MW's coaching experience if we were trusting him to make a decision without hearing the reasons. As it is, he's expressed an opinion, and given his reasons for it, and if you think he's wrong, you should say why rather than say he's unqualified to express it.

  10. Jens Rehder, September 3, 2016 at 11:58 p.m.

    Mike, you are spot on as usual and I hope Klinsi follows your advice.

  11. Bob Ashpole, September 4, 2016 at 2:43 a.m.

    Pulisic has been great coming off the bench for the USA. I am more concerned about who starts in the back than I am about fixing something that isn't broken on the flank. I am more concerned about who starts centrally in the attack than I am about fixing something that isn't broken on the flank. If Pulisic starting on the flank somehow answers those other questions, then fine. I can see the attraction for your point, but that is looking at strengths instead of problems.

  12. Wooden Ships replied, September 4, 2016 at 9:10 a.m.

    Agreed Bob. With Yedlin and Brooks unavailable, (didn't see the game, was Yedlins caution avoidable), I hope JK doesn't go to his default of having Fabian drop back. The better our mids and forward(s) can take care of the ball the easier it will be for the back line. I'm okay though with starting CP if the plan is to have our most technical and creative players trying to score multiple goals. I'm personally exhausted with Klinsmann's tentativeness.

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, September 6, 2016 at 1:31 a.m.

    Yedlin's caution was harsh. It was just inside our half. I suspect that the referee thought Yedlin pulled his opponent down, but the replay showed little contact. Yedlin is fast enough that he doesn't need to pull down a man beside him to make a play. The opponent went down very easy.

  14. Wooden Ships replied, September 6, 2016 at 7:46 a.m.

    Thanks Bob.

  15. John Mcdermott, September 4, 2016 at 3:31 a.m.

    If not now, when? Klinsmann has the chance to put his money where his mouth is. Now it's his turn to actually take a risk(which in fact is no risk at all). That as aggressive and bold a player, as Klinsmann was, turned out to be such a cautious coach remains a disappointment. His act is indeed wearing thin...of course if his employer were practically any other country he would have been replaced a long time ago.

  16. Gus Keri, September 4, 2016 at 4:09 a.m.

    A good outing against a very week opponent with tired legs doesn't make a superstar. Slow down, guys! Klinsmann is doing right by Pulisic, taking easy on his introduction to international game. I am satisfied with bringing him off the bench against T&T.

  17. Daniel Clifton, September 4, 2016 at 12:44 p.m.

    I would like to see Pulisic start but I think the more important question is: Where is Fabian Johnson going to start? I believe he should stay in the midfield, but I doubt Klinsmann will do that, especially with Yedlin out. I can see moving Besler to left back and putting Omar in at CB alongside Cameron.

  18. Wooden Ships replied, September 4, 2016 at 2:36 p.m.

    Acosta, Birnbaum could play fullbacks, Cameron and Besler too. Fabian plays a better mid than a back. Did Acosta play acceptably at left back?

  19. Paul Estrada, September 5, 2016 at 12:29 a.m.

    What the hell is wrong with you people? Zusi, Beckerman and Bedoya et al. are past their primes? Yah, sure, they are the old guard, but they demonstrated their superiority against StVG. I can't even believe there are complaints here about their performances against an inferior opponent. These guys still have something to contribute. Eventually they will move on, but for now have some respect.

  20. Ric Fonseca replied, September 5, 2016 at 1:46 p.m.

    Paul, perhaps it'dbe best if our comments were to have been aimed at Ridge Mahoney's ranking of players after the game played against what seemed to be a good NCAA Div II team, which in turn gave the players a false sense of accomplishment. And then if Mike W wants to perhaps convince JK to start Little Chris Pulisic, sure why not, but I'd take a different approach in beating Pulisic's drum. Look what happened to Morris, gee willikers, wasn't he being baptized the next great forward? Qhat happened to him? Just sayin' PLAY ON!!!

  21. Bob Ashpole replied, September 6, 2016 at 1:43 a.m.

    Mr. Estrada, I reread the comments to be sure, but no one complained about any player's performance against SVG here. I think you misunderstand what the concern is here. The use of players (who will likely be too old to take to Russian in 2018) against a very weak opponent is not what you expect of a coach preparing for the future. It is a very risk-adverse management approach.

  22. Wooden Ships, September 5, 2016 at 2:50 p.m.

    Not because they said it, Eric and Warren on FS1 moments ago, does it make it so. But, they said the ball doesn't know how old CP is and that he would be starting in most countries. And Ric, who is calling him a superstar? Morris still has the chance to be a prolific goal scorer, with the right mindset and service. Coming to MLS I think will delay his development. Pulisic has the total skill set, IMO, in fact much of what he has shown reminds me of Meuller. Insert laugh track here if you want, but that's my impression. FIre, was correct, MW is a writer and like your mention of Ridges ratings, these are opinions and these allow us to contribute. And, I said that Joe was admirable in his support of JK and that he was thin skinned in his sarcasm directed at Mike and he was. There was no need to serve as a diplomat. R2 said it wasn't a foul to use veteran MLS players in CONCACAF qualifying. For me, if they are being used at this point then Jurgen is not discounting them for The Hex and Russia. That's where I again question his selections. We have better than Jozy, Bradley and Beckerman and Zuzi. We will play a better game without them.

  23. Ric Fonseca replied, September 5, 2016 at 11:09 p.m.

    WS: Que dijiste? (What'd he say?)

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications