Hershey's own Christian Pulisic is 'opening a lot of eyes toward American soccer'

Hershey's own Christian Pulisic is 'opening a lot of eyes toward American soccer'

A couple of days ago, a soccer thing went viral for all the wrong reasons as a Chicago-based reporter asked the MLS' newest high-profile star Bastian Schweinsteiger -- twice -- if he could win a World Cup with the Fire.

What followed was a minute of pure awkwardness as Schweinsteiger, who won the 2014 World Cup with Germany, had no idea how to respond, given that the World Cup is an international competition reserved for, um, countries.

The most generous explanation is the reporter, who doesn't usually cover sports, meant the FIFA Club World Cup (which no MLS team has ever come close to winning, or publically aspire toward). The more likely one is that he doesn't know much about soccer but had heard that "World Cup" term thrown around every four years when more of the country pays attention to the sport.

Which, in a weird way, brings us to Christian Pulisic.

The youngest player on the U.S. national team just got done helping the Americans regain their footing in actual World Cup qualifying by completely shredding Honduras in a breakout game for the ages last Friday. Just watch the highlights:

And, if you haven't seen it yet, check out his marvelous assist vs. Panama from Tuesday: 

At this point, we should remind everyone that he's an 18-year-old kid from Hershey, Pa.

My co-podcaster Kevin Kinkead wrote an excellent piece on the ever-growing hype surrounding Pulisic after chatting with Union head coach Jim Curtin, who sort of poo-pooed the comparisons between another former wunderkind in Freddy Adu (who, let's just say, didn’t really develop like everyone hoped).

But making comparisons are only natural, of course, and many have thrown Pulisic in the same boat as Landon Donovan, who also got an early start to his career and (perhaps until now) is probably the best soccer player this country has ever produced.

After practice Thursday, I decided to get the perspective of Union center back Oguchi Onyewu, who came up through the national team ranks with Donovan. He smiled when Pulisic's name came up.

"People compare," Onyewu told me. "Just like people compared Landon to everyone else. I'm not gonna do that to Christian and put pressure on him. I don’t think he needs to have that pressure. I think he’s playing well enough in his own skin not to be compared to anyone else.

"I think if he continues what he's doing -- and I'm confident that he will -- pretty soon people will be comparing others to him. I think he's done a great job and I want him to continue. He's making everyone proud and opening a lot of eyes toward American soccer."

The last part struck me the most. Without being asked, Gooch mentioned that more eyes are being opened to American soccer -- this from a person who, along with Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley and others from that generation, is responsible for opening a whole lot of eyes himself. But it's clear, from the Schweinsteiger press conference and other cringeworthy-moments of that ilk, that there's still a long way to go to improve the sport's visibility. And it's also clear that Pulisic is making the casual sports fan pay attention and get even more excited about soccer.

And hey, who knows, maybe one day the kid from Hershey can even help the Americans win a World Cup -- if they can only get past the Chicago Fire.


Villanova hits icy patch on road to Final Four


Villanova hits icy patch on road to Final Four

The Philadelphia area — Villanova is not located *in* Philly proper — is being blasted by a huge snowstorm on Wednesday.

Could it keep the Wildcats from getting off campus and out of Philadelphia for the big NCAA Tournament game on Friday against West Virginia up in Boston?

It could! Check out the footage of their bus getting caught on the ice:

But the answer to the above question is probably "no." Jay Wright said they made it out OK.

The key takeaway here? The road to the Final Four needs to be properly plowed and salted.

Allen Iverson raves about Ben Simmons playing beyond his years


Allen Iverson raves about Ben Simmons playing beyond his years

The voice of the Sixers, Marc Zumoff, hooked up with perhaps the most famous Sixer of all-time, Allen Iverson, to talk about Brett Brown's team that is poised to take Philly to the playoffs for the first time in years.

Iverson was a guest on Zoo's Views podcast this week and spoke about "his little dudes," his loving name for the current Sixers squad.

Ben Simmons is a guy who sticks out for not looking like a rookie.

"I see someone who is a great player far beyond his age," Iverson said. "You don't usually see a player with that mindset. The athletic ability, you see it all the time, but his mindset, he plays the game the right way."

"At times out there he looks like he's been in this league for years and he's a rookie. That's very unique for a guy to come in and be so unselfish, caring about the team, and having every aspect of his game getting better. You can tell he gets better all the time. You can see when people tries to take things from him, he still gets it done."

As for The Answer's advice for today's Sixers, it's all about sticking together.

"I think the sky is the limit for this team. We should want it now but if not my message to them would be to not get frustrated in the process. Understand that there will be some learning experiences. There will be some ups and downs. Stick together, believe in each other night in and night out. Win together, lose together, laugh together, and cry together. I'm looking forward to these coming playoffs. Win four games and we on to the next."

You can listen to the full conversation between Zoo and A.I. below or download and subscribe to Zoo's Views right here.

2:00 — Iverson’s thoughts on this year’s team?
3:00 — Big fan of Brett Brown ... Reminds him of Popovich ... And Larry Brown
5:00 — Ben Simmons plays like a veteran
8:00 — Embiid is great for Sixers and the NBA as a whole
9:30 — Would he have been big on social media if it existed during his career?
10:30 — How would a 30-year-old Allen Iverson fit in with this Sixers team?
12:00 — He would’ve been a better player with this roster
12:20 — Advice for this team