Christian Pulisic's birthday week to forget on Chelsea bench

Another week and another game during which Christian Pulisic didn't get off the Chelsea bench.

Two games actually. Big ones. Both at home. And both losses.

Pulisic was an unused sub for the third straight game on Sunday when Chelsea lost to Liverpool 2-1.

The 5-2 win over Wolves a week ago followed the international break during which Pulisic returned early from the U.S. national team camp. This week began with a 1-0 loss to Valencia in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, a day before his 21st birthday.

It was only a couple of years ago that Liverpool was the team most often mentioned as the English destination for Pulisic, whose first season at Borussia Dortmund coincided with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp's last season in Dortmund.

"He will be a proper player," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's match. "He's a talent, dynamic, good with both feet. Super exciting player, good signing."

Indeed, Pulisic was Chelsea's only summer signing as it was handed a transfer ban that forced the club to act quickly and acquire him in January in a deal valued at $73 million. (The Blues loaned him back to Dortmund for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.)

Last season would have suggested Pulisic wasn't going to break into the Chelsea and take Stamford Bridge by storm.

After Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left, one would have expected Pulisic would have become one of the pillars of the Dortmund attack. But Pulisic's playing time plummeted, from 2,312 Bundesliga minutes in 2017-18 to 894 in 2018-19.

Injuries were partly to blame last season, but other young players pulled even or moved ahead of him at Dortmund.

Injuries aren't an issue at Chelsea,

“He wasn’t a victim of the injuries," said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. "I’ve got a squad to pick from. Before that, he had played a few games."

Lampard wasn't around in the winter when Chelsea bought Pulisic so it isn't like he any particular attachment to the young Pennsylvanian. (Chelsea's manager at the time, Italian Maurizio Sarri, said he knew nothing of the deal when it was announced.)

Lampard was at Derby County, where one of his players was Mason Mount, on loan from Chelsea. Lampard has a shelf stocked with players for the wide positions Pulisic plays, the 20-year-old Mount among them.

"Willian has come back in and been sharp and looked good," said Lampard after the Liverpool loss. "I decided to go with Mason today, because we needed to stay strong in midfield and play Mason high up the pitch. That is my choice to make."

Is it time to write off Pulisic? No. Chelsea has played only six Premier League games. But he is certainly the victim of his early success. He was only 17 when he enjoyed a breakout 2016-17 season with a very exciting Dortmund team.

And that hype carried over even when Pulisic didn't go the 2018 World Cup. He finished second in the voting, behind only France's Kylian Mbappe, for the 2018 Kopa Trophy, France Football's new award given to the best under-21 player in the world by a jury of former Ballon d'Or winners.

"He is actually as young, if not younger, than some of them," Lampard said of the players he is coming with for playing time. "His chances will come.”

But when he was planning out his first season in England, Pulisic probably didn't imagine that Wednesday's League Cup match against Grimsby Town might be one of those big chances for him.

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Photo: Shaun Brooks/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire

11 comments about "Christian Pulisic's birthday week to forget on Chelsea bench".
  1. frank schoon, September 23, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.

    Dortmunt receiving 70million for Pulisic must be  laughing all the way to the bank for I never thought he was worth that much...These transfer fees today are blown way out of proportion. To think the Cosmos  bought Pele for 6million and Pulisic couldn't tie Pele's shoe laces.

    I find that Christian should have developed to be a much better player than he is now for unfortunately in Germany and style of soccer they play has hampered his development. And going from Germany to England to play is not a postive move as far as his development goes, although it would have been if he were to play for City ,then he would have some good coaching and coaches to help him out.

    Watching him play against Mexico shows me he misses alot of the basics of wing play that any 16year at Ajax would have learned...He needs to work with some specialize expertise, like a retired wing, a former great like they do at Ajax, who can show him the ropes, tricks, insights of the game. But instead he's only experiencing that Stampfen und Laufen, running and fighting soccer culture of Germany and  it ain't going to get better in England, not much difference there.

    I'm beginning to worry about Sargent who likewise is in Germany ,currently. I wonder if he's working with a former goalgetter with his German club. These kids we sent over there need more specialized expertise, for we don't want them come back like McKenna, Morales and the rest of them who either grew up, playing in Germany or were send there and play for our NT and turn out to be just bunch of runners and fighters,and enforcers, lacking technical finesse and brains....

  2. R2 Dad replied, September 23, 2019 at 11:29 a.m.

    Frank, you know the finesse and brains players here wouldn't get playing time, right? We filter for size, speed, ambition and determination, not other characteristics that could produce a world-class player. Unfortunately, there was nowhere else for him to go. Ligue 1 has one top team, so league competition is poor. Dutch teams don't pay that type of transfer fee. Spain would have been better, but at half that transfer value. He's on his own. He seems to be a smart kid--maybe he will track down a couple of the legends for advice. Or maybe he just hits the gym to bulk up because he's perceived as fragile.  

  3. frank schoon replied, September 23, 2019 at 1:18 p.m.

    R2, maybe, pehaps, look we need to also change the mentality as far as the physical nonsense  goes, but  bulking up is not the answer.I didn't see Xavi, Iniesta, or Busquets needing to bulk up. It's smart thinking, thinking a step ahead, looking for space. The is one of the reasons Cruyff left the #9 position, leaving it open, always try receive the ball while moving, not trying to receive a pass with your back to the opponent, positioning for the open space and the next movement.
    The way I look at it is  US soccer should instill a program to bring over the specialized expertise,former great players from Europe/South America to come here to teach the higher level stuff. Even the basics that is taught at the DA I find lacking....Every kid after 7-10 years at the Academies need to be able to dribble and cross the ball and with either foot,  stationary and on the run, great bending away curves, able to shoot and pass with either foot... Look at Pulisic, he can't even do that. I don't know what these academies actually are good for , for they don't produce good technical players.....

  4. Philip Carragher replied, September 23, 2019 at 3:19 p.m.

    I used to watch an Academy team practice the drill where someone dribbles and crosses to an unmarked player who tries to score on a goalie; the players had trouble not only rarely scored but also had trouble just getting a shot on frame. Practices were mostly a series of different types of scrimmages with little or no intervention or insight from a coaching staff that spent most of their time chatting with each other or an owner or on their cell phones. Almost never was there any technical instruction. The common response to, "What did you learn from the Academy?", was, "Nothing". Most of any improvement was due to having a concentration of good players to scrimmage against.

  5. frank schoon replied, September 23, 2019 at 4:06 p.m.

    Philip, perfectly stated.....

  6. Kevin Leahy, September 23, 2019 at 2:01 p.m.

    Lampard won’t be around long if he doesn’t start winning! It is tough world in competitive sports and especially soccer. It will make you or break you.

  7. Right Winger, September 23, 2019 at 5:06 p.m.

    There should be a basic training ground for soccer. (Dreaming of course).  There should be several locations to accomodate those sincerely interested.  Spain, Dutch, Argentina, Brazil .  If you get throught the basic training then you go on.

  8. humble 1, September 23, 2019 at 11:22 p.m.

    Lots of soccer wisdom coming through SA comments section.  Kudos to the many contributors.  Germany and England the most common destination for young Americans.  Never the choice for Uruguay.  Uruguay has completely re-built their midfield from 2010 to 2018, all the boys came depart Uruguay through Argentina, Brazil, then Italy, Spain, Holland and the odd player France.  Even if they spoke English Maestro would never let them be blunted in England or Germany, only when they are ready for the big paycheck do they make that move.  Pulisic move to Chelsea was high pay, but also high career risk.      

  9. frank schoon replied, September 24, 2019 at 9:34 a.m.

    Humble 1, Great stuff...

  10. Right Winger, September 24, 2019 at 11:26 a.m.

    Question????

    Did CP have a choice concerning this move?  I don't know.

  11. Jamie Nicewander, September 25, 2019 at 2:25 p.m.

    Hey Coach, 2 losses without Pulisic on the field...time to think about him a little more now?

    Something to consier....Some players simply do not fit well with certain teams playing styles or player culture. Under certain coaches, some types of players will never get any meaningful minutes. Maybe Chelsea is a good fit, maybe not,,time will tell.
    I, for one, am rooting for Pulisic. Get it!!!

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