An American in Dortmund: Is Missing the World Cup Good for Pulisic?
This week’s action saw Christian Pulisic start and play decently in the U.S.’s debacle against Trinidad & Tobago while starting on the bench against Leipzig. Rather than walk through his performances this week in matches that will drag up bad memories, let us look for positives in a bad situation, namely the fact that Christin Pulisic will not play in the World Cup next summer. He is in good company on this Dortmund side – Aubameyang’s Gabon was also bounced out in qualifying as were Turkey (Sahin and Toprak) and Ukraine (Yarmolenko). How does missing the world’s biggest tournament impact these players’ club performance?
The first impact is one of playing time. World class footballers play almost non-stop throughout their careers. If they play at a high level and feature for their national teams, they play eleven out of twelve months between league play, cup ties, international friendlies, qualifying tournaments, the World Cup every four years, potentially the Olympics, and preseason friendlies. It is no wonder despite their advanced training, many footballers go through extended periods of poor form or injury as recovering for a malady is the only way they can actually rest from the game. With their nations eliminated from the World Cup finals, Puli and the others will be called up for the various international fixture dates as their countries undoubtedly will travel and serve as warm-ups for nations that did qualify. In June and July, however, these players will be training and that’s it; it will be an opportune time for them to rest, recuperate after winning a trophy or two (we hope) and be fresh for the beginning of the 2018-2019 season.
That leads to the second positive from this situation, that of BVB. Unlike Bayern, Dortmund will have key players resting in the summer which means fresher legs and a chance to accumulate points early as their main competitors have key players struggling to recover from a long summer of football. In addition to the rest, these players will be “hidden” from the public’s view. While we know Pulisic and Aubameyang are coveted regardless of playing in the World Cup finals, the tournament has an amazing ability to over-hype players who excel at the tournament. Every four years obscene amounts of money is spent on players who led their nation out of the group stage or make critical plays at critical times. These players receive the buzz from media and fans, which makes it more likely Dortmund can retain its young stars.
The downside many will bring up is the lack of competition. With the U.S. for example not having a competitive match until 2019, Pulisic on international dates will be either rested or not playing in the most pressure-filled conditions. However, as Dortmund fans know, the Bundesliga is a week-in, week-out set of challenges for players between training with the world’s best and facing top competition within the league itself. There is no need to rely on international duty to improve the players.
Overall, from an ego perspective, it hurts that Pulisic, Yarmolenko, and others are not in the World Cup finals. In the long-run, however, it may be massively beneficial to another title or two for Dortmund.