An American in Dortmund: Pulisic on Par with Aubameyang?
When writing a title for an article, you want to tease the audience into clicking and reading the entire piece. I will admit my title for this one was an attempt to at that, as based on talent and experience Christian Pulisic has miles to go to be on par with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. However, there is one thing I think both have in common, and that is that both may now be lock first-team selections for Peter Bosz… at the moment. That qualifier will be explained towards the end of this article.
Our week in Pulisic is two matches, one appearance, ninety total minutes (plus stoppage time). Midweek, The Black and Yellow defeated Magdeburg in the Pokal with a mix of starters, substitutes, and players returning from injury. Both Pulisic and Aubameyang were not on the squad that traveled, as both were according to Bosz still recovering from injury. For the American, it was a nagging calf injury. Even leading up to the match against Hannover, the manager cast doubt on the two forwards’ participation.
As we now know, both Aubameyang and Pulisic started and played the full 90 in the match. As we also now know, the two had vastly different matches. Within the disaster, the Gabon international misplayed a number of passes and wasted numerous opportunities both receiving service and creating opportunities. Two examples in the first-half when the match was still in doubt highlight this. The first was in the 18th minute; Pulisic had the ball on the left (this was a theme) and while cutting inside laid off a great pass to his left to Aubameyang with tons of space. The centre-forward had a great chance to put a good cross and find Yarmolenko or a midfield runner but instead shanked the shot over the goal. Six minutes later, Pulisic again beat his defender on the left and put in a near perfect cross across the goal. Aubameyang made a great run but when the ball arrived he weakly stuck out his foot and missed what could have been an easy goal.
Pulisic was one of the few players who gave Bosz what he wanted from the match – individual skill to create pressure and goal-scoring opportunities. It is a testament to his play and skills that he played the full 90, with Yarmolenko coming off before instead of Pulisic. It seems at this point that Pulisic, despite a low goal output, has used his work rate and ability to create opportunities to earn an almost automatic spot in the starting XI except in matches against lower league sides or to rest. This exalted status may be temporary, however, as Dortmund’s downturn in form continues. At some point, maybe in the near future, Bosz will need to make changes to his strategy, formation, or preferred starting XI, or some combination of those three. Then, even with his good play, Pulisic could make way for players returning from injury simply because the manager wants to try something different. Until then, Pulisic seems to have earned his manager’s trust.