The Ascent of Christian Pulisic

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DORTMUND, GERMANY - MARCH 08: Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund celebrates after he shoots and scores his teams second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Borussia Dortmund and SL Benfica at Signal Iduna Park on March 8, 2017 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

At the tender age of 18, U.S. National Team attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic isn’t your normal American teenager. No player in the history of football in America has enjoyed the success he has in the past couple of years. He’s a vital piece to the success of the U.S. National Team and an emerging star for Bundesliga powerhouse, Borussia Dortmund.

In America, where football isn’t the most popular sport, fans have a tendency to dub a player as the next great hope the moment they see him playing well. For example, Freddy Adu was instantly compared to Pelé after signing for D.C. United at the age of 14. After numerous transfers, however, his career quickly fizzled out into nothing. Pulisic, on the other hand, has that natural ability and confidence with the ball that you don’t see in many American players.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Head Coach of the U.S. Under-20s, Tab Ramos, said of Pulisic: “What attracted me to watching a little bit of the game was I was walking by to go coach my game, was the fact that I saw someone who was so little on the field. He completely looked like someone’s little brother that just jumped on the field and I was waiting for someone to get him out. Then I realized [sic], ‘Wow, not only does he look like he doesn’t belong physically, but he’s running the show. This kid is running the show.’… And until you watched the game for about five minutes and you realized that everybody was playing through him. And the pace of the game was completely run by him.”

As Pulisic shined at youth international tournaments with the Under-17 national team, clubs from all over the world took notice of his precocious ability on the ball. The 2013 Nike Friendlies proved to be his breakthrough. The Under-17’s swept the competition, defeating Brazil 4-1 in the final. Pulisic won the Golden Ball in the process, and proved to the world that football in America has potential.

Soon after, at the age of 17, Pulisic signed a youth contract with Borussia Dortmund. Thanks to his Croatian descent, he was able to obtain an EU work permit, making him eligible to play in matches. After shining in the handful of games he played with the Under-19 team, Pulisic was promoted to the first team and made his Bundesliga debut on January 30, 2016 against FC Ingolstadt. From then on, he has become a household name in Germany and amongst football fans in America.

His instant rise to success has come as a pleasant surprise to many American fans. He has become the youngest player to appear in a World Cup qualifying match; the youngest non-German to score a brace in the Bundesliga; the youngest to score for the U.S. Men’s National Team; the youngest player to score and record a brace in a World Cup qualifier; the youngest American to start in a World Cup qualifier; and the youngest American to score in a Champions League match.

Talk show hosts and analysts in the States are already talking about him being the best American player in the history of football. They may be right, but it’s best to sit back and enjoy watching him progress, for never has an American player at his age become such an international star so quickly.

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