For the first time in, well, forever, Americans have a footballer who can dominate in European nights, who has earned a place amongst the best talents in world football, and who can make their country proud. This player’s name is Christian Pulisic.
The Borussia Dortmund player dipped his feet into Europe during the 2015-16 Bundesliga season, but continued his brilliance into his 2016-17 breakout season. Pulisic is a very likeable youngster; he’s hard-working, competitive and he doesn’t let the pressure get to him. In fact, like most Americans, he thrives under pressure. The United States men’s national soccer team is known to be at their best when their back is against the wall, and Christian Pulisic embodies this mentality, which his best performances coming during the biggest occasions.
Pulisic started off his 2017-18 season right where he left off, as he scored in Dortmund’s DFL-Super Cup Final loss to Bayern München. Pulisic stripped Javi Martinez of the ball after a poor touch and found himself through on goal with just the keeper to beat. Despite having his club’s most deadly striker next to him, he confidently took the shot on himself and ran off in celebration. The young American will be hoping for more of this in the upcoming season, but let’s look back at his most recent season where he really broke onto the scene.
As any youngster would, Pulisic had hoped to get more minutes than he did in the season prior. In the 15-16 Bundesliga season, Christian Pulisic made just nine appearances. His first goal made him the youngest foreigner to ever score in the Bundesliga, and his second made him the youngest player to ever score two Bundesliga goals. Right after all of this, Christian Pulisic became the youngest player to ever score for the United States. However, Pulisic didn’t settle there and continued to exceed expectations in 2016-17.
September was a busy month for Pulisic, as he became Dortmund’s youngest ever player to play in the UEFA Champions League and also became the youngest ever American to score in a World Cup qualifier. Still in September, just a few days later in his first Bundesliga game of the season, he scored a goal and grabbed two assists which set him up for his best season to date. Despite the additions of Mario Götze, André Schürrle, Ousmane Dembéle and Emre Mor, the American was still finding his way in the XI for Dortmund.
In a September match against Real Madrid, Pulisic changed the game shortly after entering as a substitute. Pulisic entered the match with Dortmund trailing the European champions by a goal with just over fifteen minutes to play. Shortly after coming on, he got in behind Sergio Ramos and forced a tough save out of Keylor Navas. Then, with just three minutes to go in the match, Christian Pulisic displayed his brilliant dribbling ability before playing a cross to the back post, which was banged home by Andre Schürrle for the late equalizer. This was his second Champions League assist in his first two appearances in the competition. Pulisic played a key part in helping his side finish top of a group thath featured the eventual champions of the competition.
To nobody’s surprise, Pulisic’s record-breaking season didn’t end there. In early March, he broke yet another record when he became Dortmund’s youngest ever UEFA Champions League scorer. After a first leg loss, Pulisic helped defeat Benfica in the second leg, grabbing a goal and an assist to advance into the quarter-finals of the competition.
While Pulisic has obviously done wonders at Dortmund, he has achieved far more for the USMNT. We’ll take a look at individual moments shortly, but first, let’s talk about what Pulisic’s future could be. At 18 years of age, he is already the best player at Bruce Arena’s disposal, which is crazy for a nation who has made it to at least the round of 16 almost every time since his birth. Just like at Dortmund, Pulisic has already broken multiple records for his country, and is on pace to break even more.
In 16 appearances for the red, white and blue, he has seven goals. To add to that impressive tally, most of his success has come in World Cup qualifiers and not friendlies. Pulisic has appeared in nine qualifiers and chipped in with five goals and six assists. Despite still being a teenager, he is, without question, the United States’ most important player. In fact, for games that he has been in the squad in, he has been directly involved in eight of America’s last 11 goals in all competitions.
Without a doubt, Pulisic is the leader of an American golden generation that has already made an impact on the senior squad. With young Americans finding playing time throughout Europe, and with MLS teams finally starting to create products of their own like Andrew Carleton and Erik Palmer-Brown, the Americans might really have something to take the next step into international football’s elite. Despite being younger than many of America’s new crop of youth, Pulisic is far ahead of the rest of his compatriots. The New Jersey native is a player who doesn’t play down to his age like some young talents; he is a player that plays to his full capability every time he steps on the pitch.
Pulisic is not just exciting for Dortmund supporters, Pulisic is not just exciting for Americans, Pulisic is exciting for all lovers of the beautiful game. He controls the ball with such ease, weaving in and out of defenders almost like they don’t exist. He creates for his teammates no matter where he is on the field. His versatility can see him play on either flank as he does in Germany, or as the central playmaker behind the strikers, as he does for America. His confidence in front of goal would have you think he has played at the top level for a decade, and everything he has done in his career so far has attracted the interest of European giants, including Liverpool. A move to Liverpool would reunite him with the man who brought him to Dortmund, Jürgen Klopp. Bayern München have also shown interest, but Pulisic insists he wants to stay with Dortmund, at least for now. No matter where Pulisic ends up, he’s destined for greatness.
By: Jay Stucchio/@JayStucchio
Photo: Louie Hendy/@LH_BCFC