Bruce Arena weighs in on Christian Pulisic’s best USMNT position
Get ready for a lot of talk about whether Christian Pulisic should play in a central attacking midfield role or out wide for the United States.
In recent Dortmund games against Bayer Leverkusen and Benfica, Pulisic played a much more central role in the “2” of a 3-4-2-1 formation alongside Ousmane Dembélé and behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. There’s a lot less defending involved, and Pulisic has been able to focus on getting forward, where he scored a huge goal for Dortmund in Champions League last week.
The sense is that Pulisic will ultimately play in the center full-time for the U.S., which is where the player himself wants to play. But right now it’s up in the air. When asked on Tuesday, ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, if he sees Pulisic as a central or wide player for the U.S. right now, coach Bruce Arena told SI.com:
“I actually think it’s both. We’re going to see his comfort level when he gets into camp and talk to him a little bit. 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.”
Former U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann did deploy Pulisic centrally in the 2-1 loss to Mexico in November, but Klinsmann switched out of that formation in the first half after Mexico had regularly sliced open the U.S. defense.
Pulisic had a goal and an assist in each of the wins over Leverkusen and Benfica before coming off the bench for the last quarter of an hour in a league loss to Hertha Berlin over the weekend. He started and scored in Dortmund’s DFB Pokal quarterfinal against third-tier Sportfreunde Lotte on Tuesday.