1. Pulisic Shines
Let us take a few moments to reflect on the week Christian Pulisic had for Borussia Dortmund.
On Wednesday, Pulisic was in the XI for a potentially tricky away match in Warsaw, becoming the youngest player ever to start in Champions League for the club. Per usual, he was far from out of place. Dortmund would dominate from start to finish, with Pulisic playing a major role throughout. After making numerous key passes, he'd cap the day with an assist on BVB's 5th goal, en route to a decisive 6-0 win.
Three days later, Pulisic would get the call again on short rest. On the day before his 18th birthday, the Hershey Kid would take over the game in the second half. His first goal of the season in the 54th minute gave Dortmund a 3-0 lead. Assists in the 78th and 88th minutes would pile on for a familiar 6-0 score line vs. Darmstadt.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pulisic's final stat line was impressive as well, earning him a spot in the Bundesliga's official Fantasy Team of the Week:
Here's your #BLFantasy best XI from #Bundesliga MD3! Did you have any of them in your side? https://t.co/UrhfjVQV06 pic.twitter.com/DqklEKtPeL— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 19, 2016
The recognition wouldn't stop there. On Monday, Pulisic was voted Bundesliga MVP for Match Day 3. We're not talking Man of the Match. More like Man of the League.
Congratulations Christian #Pulisic! The @bvb and @ussoccer teen ⭐️ is your #BLMVP for MD3!! ⚫️ https://t.co/IRq4QvasVh #BVB #USMNT pic.twitter.com/aX4aoXbBaD— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 19, 2016
With a crowded schedule continuing in the coming weeks for Dortmund, combined with the quality of these performances, we're certain see much more of Christian Pulisic. Exciting times.
2. Johnson Down, Then Up
It was a mixed week for Fabian Johnson and Borussia Monchengladbach. Things didn't go so well in a midweek Champions League match at Manchester City. With Johnson in the starting lineup, the Fohlenelf fell hard, losing by a 4-0 margin. The goal differential will hurt most, making Gladbach already a huge underdog to advance to the knockout rounds. Advancement now will likely require a similar margin of victory in the return match, or an upset win against mighty Barcelona. Either task is daunting.
Back in league play on the weekend, it was a sunnier result. Gladbach got the early lead, thanks to an 11th minute assist from Johnson on Thorgan Hazard's goal (skip to 0:53 of the video):
The home side would coast to a 4-1 victory over hapless Aron Johannsson's Werder Bremen (more on him in a moment.) Gladbach creeps back up to 6th place on the Bundesliga table ahead of Wednesday's clash against surprising 2nd-place RB Leipzig.
3. Jóhannsson Up, Then Down
As mentioned above, the other side of the Gladbach-Bremen clash featured USMNT forward Aron Johannsson. AronJo began this one on the bench, but entered after halftime with his club already trailing 4-0.
Johannsson would help trim the margin in the 73rd minute with a perfect touch on a chip pass to Serge Gnabry, who volleyed it home with a glorious finish:
The good feelings for Johannsson wouldn't last long. Believing he'd been fouled in the 81st minute, he chased the referee toward midfield, pleading his case and gesticulating his displeasure. Whatever came out of Johannsson's mouth, the official didn't like, as he quickly stopped play and issued a straight red card. Johannsson would later claim his words were misunderstood, but he'll be serving a two-game suspension nonetheless.
The ban comes at perhaps an inopportune moment for the U.S. striker. Following Sunday's dismal defeat, manager Viktor Skripnik was relieved of his duties. Through 3 games, Werder Bremen is bottom of the table, earning zero points with a -10 goal differential. Interim manager Alexander Nouri will have to make his changes with Johannsson unavailable. It'll be on Johannsson to assure there's still a place for him in the lineup when he returns.
4. Future Bundesliga Gaines?
The Bundesliga has become the league to watch when it comes to the USMNT's attacking talent. There just might be another young American joining their ranks sooner than later. U.S. U18 forward McKinze Gaines is off to a flying start with VfL Wolfsburg's U19 side. With 2 goals and an assist this week, Gaines is turning heads. Through his first five games, he's racked up 5 goals and 3 assists.
2 goals & assist for @McKinzeGaines in a 8-0 Wolfsburg A Junioren win. Mckinze with 5 goals in the season so far pic.twitter.com/vM92WiGlMG— Dr Pepper Dallas Cup (@dallascup) September 19, 2016
Speculation on a promotion to the senior team is probably getting way ahead of things. But if Gaines can sustain anything resembling that sort of production, an opportunity just may come way ahead of schedule.
5. Boyd Returns
Another milestone along the long comeback road for Terrence Boyd was reached this week. Boyd made his return to competitive play after nearly two years out of action. He started twice in the past week for RB Leipzig's reserves, even going the full 90 minutes midweek in a 1-1 draw:
Die #RBLU23 mit @TBoyd91 holt verdienten Punkt in Babelsberg. Zum Spielbericht: https://t.co/HWfiQA2yV6 #SVBRBL pic.twitter.com/OmuJTiQumm— RB Leipzig (@DieRotenBullen) September 16, 2016
With RB Leipzig off to an impressive 3-0 start in its Bundesliga debut season, cracking the senior team lineup will prove challenging. However, earning extended injury-free minutes with the U23s isn't a bad place to start.
Germany's top division is well-stocked with American attacking talent. Already, nearly every game in the league has a USMNT flavor; having Boyd back in the mix only enhances our viewing menu.