In case you were worried about Bruce Arena, a grizzled veteran manager looking to get the USMNT’s World Cup qualification back on track, not picking a talented 18-year-old like Christian Pulisic for his lineup, there’s some good news for you.
Arena told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl that the question about Pulisic is not if he’ll be in the USMNT’s lineup, but where exactly he’ll be deployed.
“Until recently, he was playing out wide [for Dortmund] and at times playing in a real two-way role, so he had a lot of defensive responsibilities. He’s demonstrated at a young age that he’s capable of getting the job done in a lot of positions. With our team, at the moment I’m on a computer doing that with the options of him playing at both spots and organizing our team accordingly.”
The debate of whether Pulisic is a winger or a central player seems a moot one for fans or media to fret over. Ultimately that’s up to his managers at the club and international level. It’s a role that will constantly change and one he’s not required to stick to. A player of his skill level should be granted positional freedom to drift inside or outside as he sees fit. Landon Donovan did it in his career and Pulisic will likely too.
The bigger story, at least in my eyes, is that Arena seems all but certain that Pulisic is someone he’ll build his lineup around. While he was the manager who brought Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley to the 2002 World Cup as teenagers, it was always a worry that Arena would be over-reliant on veterans to get the team up the Hex standings. While there’s still a chance we’ll see some older players feature, it doesn’t appear that Pulisic will be sacrificed for them and that’s something to be happy about.