Christian Pulisic’s past few weeks have been a bit of a mixed bag.
On one hand, he’s contributed to the score sheet, having assisted on a Michy Batshuayi goal in two of the past three games he’s started. He’s also been the subject of rumors once more, with Chelsea the latest big Premier League side reported to be interested in his services.
But he has also, on form, not been quite as good as three of the players who play his position for Borussia Dortmund, and the result was a trip to the bench to start the club’s 1-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday. And it may not get much better in the short term.
Three things have happened that may make Pulisic’s playing time situation a bit more interesting over the next few weeks. One is the return of Marco Reus. The attacker is finally healthy once more, starting all three games since his return and scoring the winner against Gladbach.
The second is the strong play of Andre Schurrle. While Schurrle dropped out of favor for a time under Peter Bosz, Peter Stoger’s hire has re-energized him. He’s scored two goals and added two assists in Dortmund’s past four games and went at least 87 minutes in all four. Pulisic, meanwhile, has gone 72, 85 and 85 minutes and then was off the bench against Monchengladbach.
And the third is a nice run of form for Mario Gotze. He scored in a substitute appearance against Hamburg on Feb. 10 and again emerged off the bench to chip in two assists in the 3-2 Europa League win over Atalanta. That got Gotze rewarded with the start against Gladbach.
Though Pulisic hasn’t been playing badly — lots of players would enjoy a run where they picked up two assists in four games — overall it’s hard to argue his play has been better than that of Reus, Schurrle and Gotze. And with the second leg against Atalanta this week followed by a matchup against Augsburg the following Monday, some more rotation is certainly possible.
Early in the season, the presence of increased competition from Andriy Yarmolenko and Maximilian Philipp brought out the best in Pulisic. It will be interesting to see if this battle for playing time does as well.
Chandler scores again for Eintracht Frankfurt
Over the past month, while most of his fellow Americans playing overseas have struggled, Timothy Chandler has been on fire.
Coming into Monday’s Eintracht Frankfurt match against RB Leipzig, Chandler had a goal and four assists in his past seven games, dating back to his return from knee surgery in mid-December.
Chandler added to that total with a goal in the 22nd minute, sneaking back post to pounce on a ball off a scramble from a corner kick. He fired it home to level the score at 1-1. Minutes later, Kevin-Prince Boateng would score to give Frankfurt the lead and the 2-1 win.
Timmy Chandler finds the equalizer for Frankfurt! That's the American's second goal of the season, both coming in 2018.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 19, 2018
Frankfurt 1-1 RB Leipzig https://t.co/3obfhmuUqT
It was another game for Chandler starting on the left, where he has displaced Netherlands international Jetro Willems.
Statistically, this is arguably Chandler’s best season. He had never scored more than one goal in any Bundesliga season until this year, and the four assists are also a career high. And this production has come despite Chandler missing time with a knee injury, and still having another third of the season to better his totals.
Meanwhile, the result moved Frankfurt up to third in the Bundesliga table as the club's incredible run continues.
McKennie returns to training
Weston McKennie was expected to be sidelined for about six weeks due to a knee injury, but there are positive signs he may return before that.
The midfielder returned to individual training last week and was able to complete some running sessions. McKennie does not look as though he is back in full training yet and was not in the 18 for Schalke’s 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, but it certainly looks like he is in good shape to beat the estimates.
While McKennie seems to be a quick healer, John Brooks continues to struggle with knee and foot problems. He missed Wolfsburg's 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday, and has not suited up for the club since Dec. 12. Overall, Brooks has played just seven of 23 Bundesliga games this season for Wolfsburg and will have his third manager of the season when he gets back on the field after Martin Schmidt resigned Monday.
Fabian Johnson's return date is just as murky. He has not yet returned to training as he remains plagued by a back problem, having not suited up for Gladbach since November.
Rough weekends for Johannsson and Lichaj
Aron Johannsson’s rejuvenation has been one of the better stories for Americans playing abroad recently. Seemingly finished at Werder Bremen, he has managed to push himself into the starting XI over the past two weeks.
But his run of good performances came to a halt Saturday as he had a rough game, committing the mistake that cost Bremen against Freiburg.
Tracking back, Johannsson gave away a needless penalty that Nils Peterson converted to give Freiburg the lead, and an eventual 1-0 victory over Bremen.
But it seems as though he still has the support of coach Florian Kohfeldt.
"I just hugged him," he said of Johannsson after the match. "I did not feel Aron was particularly bad today."
Meanwhile in the Championship, Eric Lichaj had his second straight rough game. After being subbed off at the half last week against Hull City in a 2-0 loss for Nottingham Forest, he lasted just 28 minutes before seeing a straight red against Burton for a violent tackle, though Forest managed to get a scoreless draw.
Lichaj has bounced back from a lack of playing time at the start of the season to make himself a fixture in the Forest XI once more. But he’ll be forced to miss at least one game as he serves his suspension.
Diskerud shines in Goteborg return
At the end of the season in the Swedish Allsvenskan, a Mix Diskerud return to IFK Goteborg seemed to be best for all parties. He appeared amenable to it and the team wanted him back.
After a roundabout journey this winter that saw Diskerud’s New York City FC contract canceled so he could sign with Manchester City proper — likely so the club could see some profit when he is eventually sold — he has finally landed back at Goteborg for another loan.
He made his season debut for the club in the Swedish Cup and what a debut it was, coming on as a substitute and scoring the only goal in Goteborg’s 1-0 win over Varberg.
It is more of the same for Diskerud in Sweden. He was very good for Goteborg last season, scoring five goals and adding three assists in the Allsvenskan, while lining up centrally and on the right for the club.
And it certainly looks like Diskerud is set to continue with that success this year.