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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.

(Sorry.)

A first look at the old Vet Stadium Liberty Bell now outside of Citizens Bank Park

A first look at the old Vet Stadium Liberty Bell now outside of Citizens Bank Park

It was 15 years ago today that Veterans Stadium went crumbling to the ground. But a piece of Vet Stadium history has risen from the ashes for a second life at Citizens Bank Park.

The giant 19-foot Liberty Bell that stood high atop Vet Stadium has been refurbished from storage and placed near the Pattison Avenue and 11th street entrance of the ballpark, next to the new Pass and Stow area that will feature a beer garden and some great new food options. The Pass and Stow name is in homage to John Pass and John Stow who re-cast the original Liberty Bell in 1753. Their names can be found on the original, slightly more famous bell with a crack in it across from Independence Hall.

With opening day just a week away, fans passing the ballpark on Thursday got their first glimpse of the bell’s new placement. The bell was installed today.

It’s hard to miss and will surely make a nice new photo opportunity for Phillies fans and out-of-towners looking to capture a memory.

The bell you see today was actually the "second and final bell that was displayed at Veterans Stadium," according to the Phillies. It was installed on the Vet's catwalk prior to the 1983 season and remained there before being removed prior to the Vet's implosion in 2004. It is made of steel and aluminum, weighs more than 5,000 pounds and contains over 300 light bulbs.

The new (old) bell outside the ballpark will make a nice complement to the bell inside the park that lights up and rings whenever a Phillies player hits a home run. In a nice twist, this season the Phillies' team Twitter hashtag will be #RingTheBell. Brett Brown likely approves.

As you can see from the short video of the bell above, the weather in South Philly today was wet and dreary. The forecast for opening day next Thursday when the Phils host the Atlanta Braves is much better, with no rain currently in the forecast and highs in the upper-50s. Not exactly hittin’ weather, but not bad for the first day of baseball either.

We can't wait.

*

Here's a look at the Vet going down 15 years ago today. Miss that dirty old place.

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Joel Embiid hangs with Steph Curry, talks about being 'tired of The Process' nickname

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Unanimous Media

Joel Embiid hangs with Steph Curry, talks about being 'tired of The Process' nickname

Joel Embiid was kind enough to grace Steph Curry with at least five minutes of his time when the Sixers traveled out to the Bay Area for their game against the Golden State Warriors back in January.

Joel joined Steph on his series called "5 Minutes From Home" in which the duo sit in the back seat of a car and chat on the way to Mrs. Curry's restaurant. Curiously, the clip lasts over 8 minutes.

Somehow, the two of them didn't mention their sneakers.

There's not a ton of new ground covered in their chat -- Joel talks about his journey onto the basketball court again -- but they do discuss Embiid's desire for a new nickname.

"The Process is never gonna be over. You gotta win a championship. When you win a championship, it starts over."

"I do like [the Process nickname]. Mainly because of the history of how we got here. That's why I like it. I'm actually thinking about creating something else. I'm tired of 'The Process.'"

Any suggestions, Sixers fans?

Embiid and Curry finish their trip with a meal at Steph's wife's restaurant.

The waitress jokes that the burrata appetizer they eat will be the key to the players dropping 50 points in the game the following night.

Almost. Steph went off for 41 but the Sixers got the win.