With Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus suspended until the final day of the season, Christian Pulisic could be given the chance to say the perfect farewell to the Signal Iduna Park faithful, from his favourite No.10 position…
BVB academy graduate Pulisic has smashed a host of records since making his Bundesliga debut as a fresh-faced 17-year-old against Ingolstadt in January 2016 – the youngest non-German to score in the league, the youngest American to play and score for the USMNT in the modern era, among others – but he has been used sparingly this season.
Chelsea agreed a deal to sign the final-third operator in January before loaning him straight back to Dortmund until the summer. Pulisic has made 15 starts in all competitions this term – due to a combination of injury, the explosion of Jadon Sancho’s talent, and Raphael Guerreiro’s and Jacob Bruun Larsen’s natural left-footedness on the opposite flank – but he remains a top-level performer.
Watch: Pulisic's Top 3 goals for Dortmund!
Six goals and four assists have come at a rate of every 77 minutes Pulisic has played in 2018/19, an incredible number given he has had to adjust to the flow of a game from the bench 13 times, also doing so from out wide.
“I feel good,” Pulisic told bundesliga.com after scoring against Werder Bremen in the DFB Cup last 16 in February, where their journey eventually came to an end on penalties. “I’m just happy I could be on the field and play a full game, 120 minutes even. I’m happy and excited to be out there and help the team.”
Dortmund’s Cup campaign is now over, and they also have fading hopes of a first Bundesliga title since 2012. Four points off leaders Bayern Munich with six left to play for, Die Schwarzgelben’s fate is no longer in their own hands, and they were dealt a double blow on Matchday 31.
Watch: The Revierderby didn't go Dortmund's way...
Schalke took Revierderby spoils with a 4-2 win at the Signal Iduna Park, and Marco Reus was given his marching orders for a rash challenge on Suat Serdar. Reus has made the No.10 role his own this season, enjoying a Dortmund career-best of 16 goals and eight assists tucked in behind Mario Götze or Paco Alcacer.
Having already missed Saturday's 2-2 draw with Bremen, the BVB captain will also sit out the Matchday 33 game against Fortuna Düsseldorf, with his two-game suspension meaning he can only return for the final-day clash with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Even if Dortmund win both games, it is unlikely to be enough to reel in a rampant Bayern.
Götze slotted into the gap left by Reus against Bremen - after all, he was Germany’s FIFA World Cup winner in 2014 from exactly that position - but it was Pulisic who stunned the Weser-Stadion with a brilliant solo goal on just six minutes. With the USA international out on the left wing Alcacer led the line, and doubled BVB's lead with a superbly-struck free-kick. However, Lucien Favre's men were left to ponder what might have been as Kevin Möhwald and Claudio Pizarro rescued a draw for the Green-Whites.
For the second time in eight Bundesliga outings, Sancho was not involved in a goal for Dortmund, but it has still been some campaign for the 19-year-old. He is currently outstripping even Barcelona’s Lionel Messi as the leading assist provider across Europe’s top five leagues per UEFA coefficient, with 14 laid on for his teammates in the Bundesliga, alongside 11 goals scored of his own.
Watch: Sancho's incredible rise under the tactical microscope
Could Pulisic be the answer more centrally for the Düsseldorf game? Those who have seen him play for the USA know that the overwhelming answer to that question is, quite simply, yes indeed. The USMNT may have fallen short of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia last summer, yet Pulisic had a hand in 11 goals in qualifying; from just 13 games; most from central midfield.
New USA coach Gregg Berhalter, for one, has the same faith in Pulisic that predecessor Jürgen Klinsmann had during that ill-fated campaign.
“I think it's been amazing, from where he came from a couple of years ago to where he is now,” the former Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich man told bundesliga.com on taking the USA job in December. “He's a legitimate international star.”
“He's a real quality player, a player that can be the catalyst for our attack, can easily unbalance defenders, has a very good understanding of the game and it's been really nice watching him progress over the years.”
The US are undefeated since Berhalter took charge, beating Panama, Costa Rica and Ecudaor before the 1-1 draw with Chile in March. Pulisic started the Ecuador game at attacking midfield; and was one of three patrolling the middle of the park against Chile, a game in which he opened the scoring with his 10th international goal.
“I want to enjoy it that much more [knowing it’s my final season at Dortmund],” explained Pulisic. “I love being here. I’ve had a great time here and I just really want to finish strong.”
Now fully recovered from a niggling thigh injury, and with his path to his favoured position in the BVB first team unblocked, for one game at least, Favre could do worse than giving Pulisic that chance as he looks to say a fond and fitting farewell to the Signal Iduna Park.