You all know the name. Christian Pulisic. Captain America. He’s garnered many nicknames already in his young career, and some strong titles as well. Some throw around the “best American ever” title already, but Pulisic is just a 20 year old kid living his dream.
From Hershey to Germany
I’m not going to get in to his entire young life, but I’ll quickly run through it. Pulisic was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania (Yes, like THAT Hershey). His mother and father were both college soccer players, so he was raised with the game from birth. As per usual with professionals in their younger years, Pulisic dominated every kid within 4 years of his age as a child. He actually learned futsal from a young age as well, which helped with his technical ability. He spent a year in England as a kid too, helping him get more exposed to other talented kids his age. As he outgrew the underwhelming youth system in the US, though, he was being looked at by numerous clubs abroad. Dortmund eventually won out, and he signed his first contract with them at just 16 years of age.
Pulisic tore it up in all of his youth soccer days. Whether it was with Dortmund’s U-17s or U-19s, or the U-17 United States team, he dominated. In 34 U-17 national team appearances, he had 20 goals. His first U-17 start came as a 14 year old, by the way. In 8 U-17 appearances with Dortmund, he had 6 goals and 5 assists. In 17 appearances with the U-19 Dortmund side, he had 8 goals and 8 assists. He moved through the ranks pretty quickly with his dominant form, proving to be first-team quality as a 17 year old.
Pulisic’s record breaking teen years
Pulisic broke numerous records for club and country as a teenager. When he scored his first goal for Dortmund against Hamburg, he was just 17 years, 6 months, and 30 days. He became the youngest foreign-born player to score in the Bundesliga. By playing in that match, he also became the eighth-youngest player ever to debut in the Bundesliga. Just a few weeks later, he scored his second career goal against Stuttgart. This made him the youngest player ever to score 2 Bundesliga goals.
On the international level, he did similarly great things. At 17 years and 253 days, he became the youngest American to score in the “modern era” with this tidy finish versus Bolivia. Less than 100 days later, he broke another record vs Saint Vincent and the Grenadines with this goal, which made him the youngest American to score in a World Cup qualifier just a couple weeks before his 18th birthday. He added a second in that match, becoming the youngest American to record a brace as well. He broke numerous other records for his country on top of those.
Dortmund was a spectacular landing place for Pulisic. They’re known as one of the best clubs in the world at developing young players, which was perfect for him. He was able to move through the ranks at Dortmund very quickly, making his debut for the senior team less than 2 years after joining their U-17 side. Pulisic finished his time with Dortmund senior team with 19 goals and 26 assists, averaging a goal contribution every 166 minutes, a respectable figure for a kid that started getting minutes at age 17. He was crucial in Dortmund’s run to win the DFB Pokal in 2016/17. He scored the go-ahead goal in the quarterfinals. Later, he drew the penalty that proved to be the decisive goal in the final of the same competition.
He didn’t just succeed domestically, though. Christian proved himself in European competitions as well. He notched an assist in his first Champions League start. In the next match, he scored his first UCL goal. To mark his 100th Dortmund appearance, in a UCL match versus Club Brugge, Pulisic scored the lone goal in an important win. His Dortmund career was full of success. However, it is now time for the next chapter.
The next chapter
Christian Pulisic is ready for the next step in his career. Dortmund was wonderful for him and his development. While they’re a big club, Pulisic will move to an even bigger club–Chelsea FC. The Blues are a historic Premier League side. They just splurged $60 million on him, a record fee for an American, and now Pulisic will get the chance to play under Chelsea legend Frank Lampard. He has huge shoes to fill, with fellow attacker Eden Hazard leaving for Real Madrid. The fans will have high expectations for him and will be quick to turn on him when he turns in a bad performance, so he’ll have his work cut out for him next season. When the lights shine brightest, he’ll need to perform. The fans will chant his name when he succeeds (just wait for their version of a Christian Pulisic song) and call for his head when he fails, but he’ll need to be able to tune out the noise and let his play do the talking.
Christian Pulisic, the American savior
Pulisic has had a tremendous career with the US Men’s National Team so far. He’s already the 14th highest goal scorer in USMNT history in just 31 appearances with 13 goals, and he’s added 10 assists. He nearly carried the USMNT into the World Cup after horrible performances from many of his team mates. During WC qualifying in 2017, Pulisic had a string of games where he scored or assisted on 8 straight US goals. His best moment so far has to be his 2 goal outing versus Trinidad in a 2-0 win. That match was the epitome of Pulisic–doing it himself when the outlook looked bleak. It was scoreless at the half, in a match the US should dominate. Then, Pulisic scored 2 goals in 10 minutes (mind you, he was 18 at the time) and the US came out 2-0 victors.
While he may be just 20 years old, he’s already earned the respect of every US player. He may not be the vocal leader of the team, but he leads by example with his performances and consistent high level of play. Despite being just 20, many have claimed he could well be the greatest American player ever already. He’s been the face of the program since he was a 17 year old, and he’s living up to the hype.
Saving America with an un-American style
His play style is rare among Americans. He excels with the ball at his feet. His dribbling is world-class and his first touch is spectacular. He loves playing in tight spaces. His finishing is clinical. He’ll happily create for others before scoring. It’s a style that is rarely seen in America. Rather than using athleticism to beat players, he uses his technical skills and high soccer IQ. His only real glaring weakness is his size, which makes it hard for him to win headers, but otherwise, he’s as complete of a player that the US has ever seen. He’s also as versatile a player as we’ve seen. Whether he’s starting out wide as a winger on either side or playing the 10 role in the center of the park, he can do it all. That all comes back to his soccer IQ. Few American’s have developed that IQ like he has, and it shows. He just feels the game. It’s an instinct.
Expectations are extremely high for Christian. It’s unrealistic to say he’ll step right in and replace Eden Hazard’s production immediately. But Pulisic has that kind of ceiling. In a few year’s time, he may well be in the top tier of players in the world. It’s scary to think that he’s this good and just 20 years of age. While it’s fun to imagine, it’s important to not set the bar too high. Pulisic won’t be the best player in the world. He won’t be a Ballon D’or winner. But the US doesn’t need that. We just need a dependable superstar. And that’s exactly what Pulisic will be for the next decade. Is it too soon to crown him as the best American ever? It’s tough for me to decide. Personally, I think he’ll undoubtedly end up as the best player of this generation and the best American player in history. It’s not too far fetched to put him as an eventual 12-15 goal player for Chelsea who could also throw in double digit assists every season.
Despite that, it’s important to remember that the kid is just 20 years old, and that’s exactly what he is: a kid. He can’t even legally drink in the United States yet. His best is yet to come, so give it some time. Don’t give up on him if he goes 8 or 10 games without a goal contribution. It may not always be pretty, and there will still be growing pains, but that makes those moments of greatness all the more special. And there will no doubt be plenty more of those great moments from the new Captain America.
All stats are courtesy of transfermarkt.com
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