Christian Pulisic Could Change Positions After Interesting Choice For New Dortmund Coach
Get the best email in soccer.
Borussia Dortmund needed a change, this much was obvious. The club was in a massive tailspin in both the Bundesliga and Champions League. So Dortmund fired coach Peter Bosz on Sunday. But the man they replaced him with as Dortmund coach — Peter Stöger — was just fired from the one club that has been more disappointing in the Bundesliga this season: Cologne.
There’s no doubt Bosz had to go. The club’s only win since Sept. 30 was against third-tier Magdeburg in the DFB-Pokal Cup. Dortmund fell out of the Champions League, barely even parachuting into the Europa League, and has gone from first place in the Bundesliga to eighth, 13 points behind Bayern Munich.
Bosz, which Dortmund brought in to replace Thomas Tuchel over the summer, had guided Ajax to the Europa League final (a loss to Manchester United), but will not be given the chance to return to Europe’s secondary club competition, in which Dortmund was drawn against Atalanta on Monday.
Dortmund was extremely complimentary and cordial in announcing Bosz’s dismissal.
“Last night, we decided in a meeting with Peter Bosz that he will immediately be released,” Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said. “It was very emotional, but classy. And Bosz took it with class.
“I would like to thank him in the name of everyone here at the club. We still believe he is a very good coach, and an outstanding personality. The cooperation was outstanding. And we would like to thank him for that.”
That’s one classy way to fire someone. But I think most Dortmund fans would have preferred the club had made a better hire in the summer.
Stöger, Christian Pulisic’s new Dortmund coach, isn’t exactly a name to get BVB fans excited. He was sacked a week earlier by Cologne after a dismal start to the campaign and his appointment is an odd one given that he was struggling more than Dortmund while in the same league.
Stöger’s Billy Goats scored six goals in 14 Bundesliga matches. The first match after his sacking, Cologne scored three goals (though they still lost 4-3 in a wacky match). Can he get Pulisic, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the rest of the Dortmund horses running at full speed again?
Stöger guided Cologne to a ninth-place finish in 2016 and fifth place last season, earning the club entry into European competition for the first time in 25 years. But once there, the club sputtered, finishing behind Arsenal and Red Star Belgrade to be knocked out of the Europa League.
But Stöger’s struggles in the Bundesliga will be more relevant to Pulisic and his team, which leads us to our primary question: How will a Stöger-led Dortmund play? And how will that affect Christian Pulisic?
With Cologne, Stöger employed an old-school 4-4-2, with his right and left midfielders (not inverted wingers) sending balls into the box to a target striker as much as possible. If Stöger brings those same tactics to Dortmund, Pulisic will be in for a position change.
Under Tuchel and then Bosz, Pulisic typically played on the left as an inverted winger with few defensive responsibilities. Under Stöger, Pulisic may wind up as a right midfielder in an antiquated formation. As a right mid, Pulisic would be asked to play more defense and find himself further from the goal. While assists will still be a part of his game, goals could dry up. Given how important Pulisic’s goals have become for the USMNT, that could be a problem.
Whether Stöger brings in his 4-4-2 or goes to a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 remains to be seen. He undoubtedly has talent to work with (at least when they’re all healthy), but it’s a group that’s accustomed to playing a certain style.
Stöger’s work with undermanned Cologne was remarkable, at least it was prior to this season. Whether he can succeed with one of the best rosters in Europe as the new Dortmund coach is the question, one to which many American fans will be wanting an answer.