Christian Pulisic – The New Face of American Soccer

Christian Pulisic – The New Face of American Soccer

Manuel Veth –

It was the second leg semi-final of the German U-19 championship between 1860 Munich, and Borussia Dortmund. The Lions from Munich won the first leg 1-2, which was played in front of 15,000 fans at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund. Dortmund, therefore, had to win the return match by a margin of two goals in order to win the match in regular time.

There was significant pressure on Dortmund’s youth setup, as the squad included several highly talented players, among them, the German Felix Passlack, the Danish talent Jacob Bruun Larsen, and the American wunderkind Christian Pulisic.

Pulisic Already Displays a High Level of Maturity

In some ways, Pulisic appeared to be out of place at the match, as the 17-year-old had featured regularly in Dortmund’s senior squad in the second half of the 2015-16 Bundesliga season. Furthermore, when playing, the offensive midfielder often displayed a maturity at the highest level in the Bundesliga, which makes it easy to forget that the American is just 17.

Borussia Dortmund coach, Thomas Tuchel, must have felt the same way, because he started the American four times in the Rückrunde, including the all important derby against Schalke 04.

In April, at just 17 years and 212 days old, Pulisic scored against Hamburger SV; this made him the youngest non-German and the fourth-youngest player to score a goal in the Bundesliga. With his goal against VfB Stuttgart on April 23, Pulisic broke another Bundesliga scoring record by becoming the youngest player to score two goals in the German top league.

Pulisic – The Future of Borussia Dortmund

FutebolCidade was at Sportpark Heimstetten to witness the return match of the German semi-final between 1860 and Borussia Dortmund. The small stadium, which officially has a capacity of 1,500, and is located on the outskirts of Munich, was packed with 1860 supporters. Fans stood right next to the line, and 1860’s Cosa Nostra supporters group created an extremely hostile atmosphere for Borussia Dortmund.

Added to this, were extreme weather conditions, as Munich experienced heavy thundershowers throughout the day. Pulisic didn’t seem to notice, however, as he was a relentless threat for 1860’s defensive line. Then in the 32nd minute, Pulisic made it 1-0 after he converted a low cross from Felix Passlack, which levelled the score on aggregate.

Pulisic continued to be a major threat to 1860, but the game remained level as both teams were afraid to make the final mistake that could cost the game. Then in the 89th minute, when both teams seemed ready to bring the game into a penalty shootout, a long ball sailed into the 1860 box. Munich’s keeper Maximillian Engl tried to reach the ball, but only managed a poor clearance right to Passlack, who just had to poke the ball home to make it 2-0 and 3-2 for Dortmund on aggregate.

Dortmund then went on to the final where they managed to beat TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s U-19 in a wild final that ended 5-3 in BVB’s favour.

Next season, Pulisic, along with Passlack, is expected to play a major role in Borussia Dortmund’s squad. A squad that is quickly becoming a hotbed of some of the most exciting talent in European football, as the club has added the highly talented French attacker Ousmane Dembélé, the Turkish striker Emre Mor, and is also expected to sign the Portuguese winger Raphaël Guerreiro.

But before the 2016-17 season can kick off, Pulisic will feature for the United States at the Copa America Centenario in the United States.

Pulisic, who was born in Hershey Pennsylvania to a Croatian father and an American mother, has quickly risen to become the most exciting prospect from the United States. Indeed, football fans (or soccer fans as they are called in the USA) are closely tracking Pulisic’s progress in Germany.

Can Pulisic Become the American Soccer Messiah?

Former Germany national team player and current USA coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, has also taken note of Pulisic’s progress in Dortmund. In March, Klinsmann called the young midfielder up for the World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala and, two days later on March 27, Pulisic made his debut for the United States and became the youngest national team player of the United States to play in a World Cup qualifier.

Pulisic’s meteoric raise continued when Klinsmann also included Pulisic in the Copa America Centenario squad. As a result, Pulisic missed the U-19 final against Hoffenheim, but any possible disappointment on missing out on the final, must have been quickly replaced by satisfaction at the prospect of playing in one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. Indeed, in the build up to the tournament, Pulisic made further history when he scored in the 4-0 win against Bolivia in a friendly, thereby becoming the youngest player in USA history to score.

The United States has waited for a soccer messiah for a long time—a player with star potential who can bring the game out from under the shadow of the other major US Sports. It is indeed possible that Pulisic could become that player. His development at Dortmund has been breath-taking and, with the yellow-and-black returning to the Champions League next season and several young exciting talents added to the squad, Pulisic is in the perfect environment to grow.

Furthermore, it can be expected that he will receive plenty of playing time for the USA national team, as Klinsmann and the US Soccer Federation have already recognized the star potential of the play maker. The United States lost the opener to Colombia in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium on June 3 with a score of 2-0. The country is, therefore, already under pressure to get results in today’s group stage match against Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago and against Paraguay on June 11 when the USA will face Paraguay in Pulisic’s home state Pennsylvania.

Klinsmann is certainly known for thinking outside the box, and Pulisic could feature in the national team’s coach’s tactical approach for both matches. But even if Pulisic doesn’t shine at the Copa, it is only a matter of time before he becomes the face of soccer for an entire nation.

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and PhD candidate at King’s College London. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. His thesis is entitled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be available later this year. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.