Fans of U.S. soccer have been through all of this before so there’s understandably a bit of caution tempering the excitement around Christian Pulisic. After all, Pulisic, an attacking midfielder for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is the latest in a long line of American teenagers who’ve been anointed as “the next, great hope” of U.S. soccer.
But there are some fundamental differences between the Hershey, Pennsylvania native who turned 18 last month and the likes of Freddy Adu, Juan Agudelo, Julian Green and others who’ve found themselves the focal point of American soccer hype.
For starters, Pulisic developed under the radar for the most part. Unlike Adu, who was dubbed the “next Pele” before he’d even signed a professional contract, Pulisic was a relative unknown to U.S. soccer watchers until this year. There was little fanfare around Pulisic when he signed with Dortmund’s youth team in 2015.
People really only began talking about Pulisic when Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel called him up to the senior team in January of this year. By the time he scored his first goal for Dortmund, last April against Hamburg, the hype train had begun to roll. But by that point, Pulisic had already earned a regular place as a starting attacker for one of the top teams in the Bundesliga, a league considered among the very best in the world.
Pulisic’s impressive half season with Dortmund put him on the radar of USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann. The German tactician has spent years scouring the globe looking for emerging U.S. talent. But even he seemed unaware of Pulisic until last spring. Klinsmann quickly came around however, calling Pulisic up for a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala and including him in the squad for the Copa America Centenario.
He scored his first national team goal in that tournament, notching a late goal in a 4-0 win over Bolivia. Last month, he scored twice in a 6-0 win over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, becoming the youngest player to record a brace in the history of the USMNT.
In Germany this season, he’s largely picked up where he left off last season. He’s started three games in the Bundesliga, scored one goal and registered two assists. He’s also made two appearances in the Champions League and even provided a vital assist in Dortmund’s 2-2 draw with Real Madrid last week.
Pulisic was subbed off at halftime on the weekend as Dortmund slumped to a loss against Bayer Leverkusen. But he was called up by Klinsmann as the U.S. heads into a pair of friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand ahead of the USMNT’s crunch game against Mexico in World Cup qualifying next month.
Yes, it’s early days. Yes, the kid has just turned 18. But Klinsmann has from time to time spoken of the need for the U.S. to produce a player capable of making an impact as an attacker for one of the top teams in one of Europe’s top leagues. Based on what we’ve seen over the past year, Pulisic may be that player.
Watch Pulisic with Dortmund this season on Fox Sports 1 and catch the USMNT playing a historic friendly in Cuba Friday October 7 at 4:00pm ET on ESPN.