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Checking up on Christian Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund

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What's the status of the USA starlet at BVB?

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Possibly the biggest story of 2016 so far for the United States men's program has been the sudden rise of Christian Pulisic through the ranks of Borussia Dortmund, all the way to the first team. The young American spent several weeks with the BVB first team and even earned a start in a crucial league match.

However, the last few weeks have seen his name disappear from the Dortmund matchday squad. We decided now would be a great opportunity to speak with a BVB expert to get an update on Pulisic's progress. We sat down with Brian Meyers, the Managing Editor of SB Nation's Fear The Wall, a blog that exclusively covers the famous Bundesliga club.

We got the latest update on Pulisic and the two other Americans at Borussia Dortmund.

SSFC: How come we haven't seen Christian Pulisic with the Borussia Dortmund first team in the past few weeks?

BM: Pulisic has been playing with the BVB U-19s as they try to capture another U-19 Bundesliga title. He's featured well for the side and is still scoring goals and getting a full 90 mins most games. Hes also one of the leaders of the team as him and Felix Passlack are the only ones from that squad to play for the first team.

SSFC: Now that he's been sent back to the U-19's is there any cause for concern over his future?

BM: Absolutely not. Thomas Tuchel may have brought him into winter camp due to depth concerns but Pulisic proved himself in his time with the first team. The reason he's been sent back to the U-19s is because Tuchel wanted him to get 90 minutes a game rather then playing the 20ish mins a game he was getting with the first team. With our whole squad fit again there was just no reasonable place for Pulisic in the lineup yet.

SSFC: How do you think Pulisic performed in his time with the BVB first team? What were his strengths/weaknesses?

BM: When he was with the first team he showed lots of very positive signs for a 17-year-old playing in an elite title chasing team. His on-ball creativity was his most surprising trait to me. He seemed to already have the ability to create good chances for world-class players like Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan. His speed and dribbling were far better then I thought a 17-year-old american would be at as well. As far as weaknesses he did make some glaring mistakes with some of his passes. Also he wasn't strong enough to really be a danger on the defensive side of the ball. However his lack of strength and propensity towards bad decisions are just the territory of playing a 17-year-old in your first squad and I'm confident he will improve with age.

SSFC: What has to happen to the BVB squad for Pulisic to become a consistent first teamer? Who stands in his way?

BM: Well the number one option at the left winger spot is Marco Reus, so it's safe to say Pulisic won't be above him in the depth chart any time soon. As for the other players that take Reus's position when he's injured, generally we will use a fullback or Gonzalo Castro. With Shinji Kagawa losing form and Illkay Gundogan on his way out, it seems Castro will be more needed in the center from now on rather then the left, so that just leaves fullbacks like Erik Durm and Lucas Piszczek to be Reus's replacement. So I think the only way Pulisic makes his way back into being a consistent first teamer is a Reus injury and at least one of our fullbacks getting hurt as well.

SSFC: What's the outlook for Pulisic next season, then? More time in the reserves or could a loan be in the cards?

BM: We generally don't loan out young players to get experience because our youth system is good at developing talent. As much as I don't want to admit it we can't keep Reus forever so Tuchel may think of Pulisic as the long term replacement for Reus. But I don't think we are losing Marco this offseason. Next season Pulisic will probably find himself either as a first team bench player if we decide he's better the Adrian Ramos as an attacking sub or as a BVB II star. Hopefully he gets selected to the Olympic team (assuming they qualify) this summer where he can prove to Tuchel that he can be that kind of player already.

SSFC: Can you give us an update on the other two Americans at BVB? How are Junior Flores and Joe Gyau doing this year?

BM: Not well, unfortunately. Joe Gyau is coming back from a rough injury and still isn't in playing condition. The team is giving him a lot of support however and if he can find his old spark he may find himself starting for BVB 2. Junior Flores is a weird case. He's 19 and should be playing with the U-19s, but instead hes on BVB 2. That's weird because he doesn't play at all for BVB 2. I'm not sure if someone in the organization has lost faith in him or he's had trouble staying fit but it is a worrying situation for the American youngster. BVB 2 had a American coach under Klopp, but the coach left early this season and it seems the new German coach has no interest in playing him. Hopefully it doesn't affect Pulisic when he plays for BVB2 next year.