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SBI Question of the Day: Should Christian Pulisic start for USMNT?

Christian Pulisic USA Bolivia 05282016

Heading into Tuesday’s clash with Trinidad & Tobago, just one spot in the U.S. Men’s National Team lineup is guaranteed. Tim Howard will be making the start in goal for the U.S. after missing out on the prior game, but it is the status of the team’s 17-year-old star that has been the topic featuring the most debate.

One player that could join Howard in the starting lineup is Christian Pulisic, who shined with two goals and an assist in Friday’s 6-0 win over Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. The pair of finishes made him the youngest player to ever score for the U.S. in World Cup qualifying while also sealing the record for youngest USMNT player to record a brace. To date, Pulisic has made seven appearances for the U.S., scoring three goals despite not earning a start in his young international career.

Jurgen Klinsmann says he is fully aware of the importance of giving a “special talent” like Pulisic his minutes as he continues to assimilate into the group of U.S. regulars. However, the USMNT boss says he has to make sure the time is right for him to experience the challenges that will come with the international game.

“There will be setbacks throughout his career, but right now it’s going very smooth for him,” Klinsmann said. “We’re hoping that, when he gets back to Dortmund, he gets his minutes there too. It’s not easy. They are fully loaded on their roster. We bring him along and when I have the feeling that I need to hold him back a little bit, I will hold him back. When I have the feeling that I need to let him go, I will give him a go. Having him now and seeing that learning curve also throughout the Copa America, as coaches, it’s important to see every training session and how he progresses and how he gets more confident and takes people on. It’s fun to watch.

“I would say he’s ahead of his curve, probably,” Klinsmann added. “Physically, already, it doesn’t seem like he’s behind physically in any way. That’s impressive. Some, they build earlier, and some kids it takes until they’re 21, 22, 23 to get that stability and that strength. He seems to be an early development and we are happy to take it that way. There’s also the mental growth. That’s an aspect and we want to make sure that we’re not overshooting him.”

What do you think? Is Pulisic ready to join the starting lineup, or should Klinsmann be wary of giving the 17-year-old winger too much, too soon?

Have your say in Tuesday’s SBI reader poll and state your reasoning in the comment section below.

[polldaddy poll=9514446]


  1. I didn’t like the options above, but I’m in the “don’t rush him, use him as a supersub” group. But he has earned his minutes with the US, and maybe a start based on performance. He has earned minutes with Dortmund despite their talented roster and performed there. He certainly passes the “eye test.” He may already be one of the best attacking options we have, but he’s not so much better that he is a game-changer. Yet. And since this is not a must-win (Guat is not going to score 11 goals or whatever) I will preach caution.

  2. Dont buy the whole dont rush him thing. I say lets see how far he can go then decide where he’s at. He is certainly better than Bedoya and has earned a start. He and Sacha blew away the starters. Make them the starters this time and give Antiscore the night off. It’s hard playing a man down when he’s on the field

    • C’mon Buster. Enough with the Jozy hate. Jozy was a beast and terrorized their defenders all game long. They fouled him constantly because they couldn’t handle him, and they still were worn down by the time the subs came in.

  3. Does the question come down to formation? Jozy and Wood seem to work better in a two striker formation, although either can play as wings in a pinch, but it isn’t their best spot. The same is true of Morris. Zardes has had some success with USMNT as a wing forward, but has been better playing more centrally for Galaxy. Rubin plays in a two forward set for Utrecht as does AJ for Bremen. Green has played wide coming through, but appears to be making a switch to a center forward. Pulisic seems better suited at least for now as a wide playing forward who can make diagonal runs through the box.

    We do seem to have more options at forward, but since it seems most of them fit in a 4-4-2 we can still only play two at a time or end up playing Zardes and Pulisic deeper than they like as midfielders. Its much like our midfield depth, where we have a lot of players, but 3/4 of them are deep lying or defensive midfielders.

  4. The fact that this is even a question is an absolute joke. The US pool contains so few players that have proven they can play in the top-tier of professional football (La Liga, Bundesliga, EPL). By my count, in the current pool, since the exodus of the last generation of USMNT players from Europe (Demspey, Bradley, Jozy, Howard), these are the guys who are currently playing, or have recently played, in a top-tier league: Pulisic, Guzan, FJ, Cameron, Brooks, Wood, Chandler, Yedlin. On that list, only 1 person doesn’t figure to be a starter moving forward (Chandler), only one person provides a genuine goal scoring threat (Wood) and only one person is arguably a better overall player than Pulisic right now (FJ). Pulisic is better than any other MF option right now. No MF option provides his creativity. Period.

    At the end of the day, it boils down to a simple question: is Pulisic our best attacking MF option right now? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Therefore, he should start, unless and until he proves that he shouldn’t.

  5. The answer here is obvious. YES. He should absolutely be a starter. The fact that this is even up for debate is ludicrous. There’s a very simple question that no one here has asked: is Christina Pulisic one of your best 11 players right now? The answer is undoubtedly YES. The kid started 4 games for the 2nd best team in a top-3 league in the world last year. Not only did he start 4 games, and have 5 substitute appearances, he had an impact! He scored 2 goals in that time, and showed himself to be a creative force in a top-tier professional league. You have a handful of American field players in this pool who have played consistently in a top-tier professional league (since Dempsey moved back, Jozy flamed out and Bradley left Roma)–FJ, Cameron, Brooks, Chandler, Yedlin (last year, but still couldn’t get picked up by a top-tier league this season) and Wood (if he can carry his form up a tier). So look a that again. Almost all of those guys, with the exception of Chandler, figure to be regular starters moving forward. Pulisic is currently better than almost all of them–currently, as in RIGHT NOW.

    The difference between Pulisic and the group of “Altidore, Agudelo, Adu, Mix, Green, Rubin” is that Pulisic, in the 9 opportunities he got, has proven himself capable of playing world-class professional football. Altidore, for all the hype, never succeeded in a league better than Eredivise, Agudelo never played a minute in a top-tier league (and is still only 23), Adu never succeeded outside MLS, Mix never breached 3rd tier leagues (Norway, Belgium, Denmark, MLS), Green has never succeeded anywhere that isn’t a reserve team (and is still only 21), and Rubin has yet to get out of the Eredivise (and is still only 20). So Pulisic ALREADY has a better track record in top-flight professional soccer than any of the players in that bunch. I really hate when people make the comparison between Pulisic and the players in that group. It’s absolutely lazy, superficial, and ignores the reality of the situation.

    Pulisic is the real deal. He is worthy of top team minutes, not because we need to develop him, but because he’s the best option we have for a creative, attacking midfielder.

  6. and you can add Jozy to that group. He’s now 3rd all time in USMNT scoring and potentially has 5-8 years left (assuming his hamstring holds). Yeah he may have a career-ending injury tonight, or he could go on for another decade. If he just averages 5 goals per year for the next 5 years, (not inconceivable), he would pass LD.

  7. There is a lot of pressure being anointed as the “best attacking player” for the USA. Remember Altidore, Agudelo, Adu, Mix, Green, Rubin, … The only thing they have in common is that they enjoyed early success and were hyped as the next great thing. With the possible exception of Altidore, they have fallen short, some rather spectacularly.

    I know, “this time it’s different”.

    When Wayne Rooney was at Everton as a teenager, he spent a long stretch playing as a sub (and scoring goals). I do not see how making CP a substitute is in any way a bad idea, if he is that good, it will become obvious, if not…

      • Very good point.

        I’d also add that the remainder of the group–Altidore, Adu and Mix–never had any success in a top-tier professional league. Altidore tried and failed. Adu only ever succeeded in MLS, a third tier league by the most generous interpretations and Mix only ever succeeded in third tier leagues (Norway, Belgium, Denmark). Pulisic has already proven he can play and succeed in a top-tier league. There is no comparison.

  8. Can we win without him? Yes. And that applies to all the games in qualifying–we are capable of winning without him. So, what’s the rush? JK’s job is to field the best team, not develop CP. When it comes to CP, what’s important is 2018 and, even more importantly, 2022. He will be 19 during the 2018 WC and then 23 in 2022. By comparison Messi didn’t play his first game for his national; team until he was 18 and first started in a qualifier later that year. He was 19 when he played in his first WC and Landon Donovan was 20 in his first WC. It’s best to bring him along slowly. Let him start in one or both of the upcoming friendlies–Cuba and New Zealand. There’s plenty of time and you need to take the long term view.

    • “Can we win without him? Yes.”

      so if that’s the litmus test, his first competitive start should only be in a match where we absolutely need him? that seems like a bad idea. “the rush” is that we might soon be in a match we definitely need to win, and he already looks like one of our best attacking options; if he continues to perform well, it makes sense to move him along.

      “JK’s job is to field the best team, not develop CP.”

      if his job is to field the best team, then i think it contradicts the rest of your argument. pulisic may already be one of our best players (have to see him start in a competitive match first), so you’re saying he should probably be on the field.

      and the messi comparison is weak: first of all, it assumes that pékerman made the right call; secondly, every player is different; and most importantly, pulisic isn’t trying to play for argentina.

    • I would start him if this were a must-result or Hex game because he is the best player at his position and has started important games for Dortmund previously. But this isn’t that game or situation. One more game to build experience/confidence seems appropriate for a 17 year old, especially in a game where a 60-minute sub might impact the result. Then start him in the friendlies and build for the Hex.

    • JK almost never starts the best team. He starts his favs. Im no big Sacha fan but he blew Bedoya off the field and he’s not the only one that can do that. Nagbe could and so can Lee N. My biggest complaint on JK is that he doesnt reward performance (or lack of) with minutes. Pulisic has earned a start. Give it to him. Maybe if starters werent quite so secure they would produce more.

  9. He’s kind of like the midfield equivalent of Maximiliano Urruti (at least the way the Portland Timbers used him) as I see it–a fast player with either starter-quality or near-starter-quality play, who is quick enough to potentially make an even better super-sub.

  10. i picked the first option — because i don’t think he should just start on tuesday — only with the the tweak that he “should be in consideration as a starter going forward”. we don’t really know how he’ll perform as a starter, so (a) this is a good match for him, as it’s competitive but not do-or-die, and (b) if he’s mediocre, then they can decide from there whether to risk it in the hex.

    if we had lots of (or even a few) other options at the wing — assuming fabian and yedlin are at fullback — then this would be a much more difficult decision. as it is, he’s proven in limited minutes to be possibly our most dangerous attacking winger. klinsmann needs to start integrating him as soon as possible so he can determine if pulisic is ready, and — if he is — move on to experimenting with other positions once he gets established.

  11. JK will no start him for the simple reason that the fans are clamoring for him to get the nod. He is a contrarian (see Donovan, Landon circa 2014) and will not be made to feel like his hand is forced by uneducated US soccer fans.

    I think this game is just about the right amount of stakes involved that it would be a good opportunity to see what CP18 can do. Only the most shocking combination of results would keep the USMNT out of the Hex, but obviously we want to finish tops of our group. So give him a start; if anything it may quiet down the hype machine.

    As to Aguinaga’s comment above about JK’s statement that playing time trumps all, JK has shown time and time again that he only follows that rule when he feels like it.

  12. Is ready, yes. I’ll take him over zusi any day. On another note did anybody else see where AJ scored 5 goals in a friendly the other day

  13. I know peeps are antsy, but not rushing him is the best choice.

    1. CP starting is more than just about him. Besides whether or not you’re pushing him too much (he’s already said it feels too fast), another question is how will it impact team chemistry. JK has preached playing regularly at club level to everyone, if that doesn’t apply to CP equally, that could be a problem.
    2. This is not a must win game where you have to go with your absolute best 11, in which case, team chemistry be damned.
    3. The plan should be let him finish this WC qualifying round by coming in at the half or 60th minute, and continue to set him up for success. Hopefully that translates into a some minutes with the Dortmund first team. We can then reconsider starting him in the Hex if he continues to show progress at club level.

    Am not a fan of JK, but have to believe he knows exactly when to slow down and when to push a young offensive talent. I think he’ll bring him off the bench today.

    • “JK has preached playing regularly at club level to everyone, if that doesn’t apply to CP equally, that could be a problem.”

      if this was going to be an issue, then it would’ve happened, i don’t know, about 5 years ago.

      • I agree agiun. There really isn’t much to gain from having him start, he already has a ton of positive momentum with the national team. If we were to have a bad outing, starting against T&T it could hurt confidence chemistry etc with the team. He’s 17, he will start for us eventually. For now a super sub and confidence boosting role in a critical qualifier seems like a good place to be.

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