Christian Pulisic’s goal and assist off the bench on Saturday might just have saved Borussia Dortmund’s season, with the American’s 15-minute cameo in a crucial 3-1 win over Stuttgart keeping BVB even on points — if not goal difference — with Bayern Munich atop the Bundesliga table.
The 20-year-old U.S. national team star has struggled with nagging leg injuries and form for most of the season. But he was the difference-maker in a match that Dortmund, which has seen its huge lead in Germany’s top division evaporate over the last number of weeks, simply had to have.
With the score knotted at one and just 12 minutes of the 90 remaining, BVB manager Lucien Favre summoned Pulisic. It marked just his third appearance, all as a substitute, since Feb. 13 as he continues to gain match fitness after returning from a muscle injury. And Pulisic made the most of the opportunity, his clever footwork inside the box setting up Paco Alcacer’s all-important go-ahead goal in short order:
Then Pulisic, who will move to Chelsea this summer after agreeing to a $73 million transfer in January, got onto the scoresheet himself deep into stoppage time. The first-time finish with his left foot off a pass by Mario Gotze easily beat Stuttgart keeper Ron-Robert Zieler to the far post:
The goal sealed the vital three points for the hosts. It could also help Pulisic earn more playing time as his tenure in Germany winds down. Pulisic’s last two starts came in the German Cup and the Champions League, competitions Dortmund is no longer involved in. The Pennsylvania native has not made Favre’s lineup for a Bundesliga match since late last year, before his looming move to Chelsea was announced.
Maybe this is why BVB insisted on Pulisic sticking around until the end of the season, with the club bent on ending Bayern’s string of six Bundesliga titles this spring. Dortmund has not won the domestic championship since 2012. The two clubs both have 57 points after Bayern crushed Wolfsburg 6-0 on Saturday, and Bayern’s plus-2 goal differential give it the top spot. If Dortmund does manage to reclaim the lead and break its chief rival’s stranglehold on the trophy between now and May, the impact Pulisic made on Saturday will be a big reason why.
Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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