Ever since he made his USMNT debut in March, American fans have been getting excited over Christian Pulisic. After all, it’s not every day you get to see a 17-year-old American getting first team minutes at a major European club. From the moment he stepped on the field in a World Cup qualifying match against Guatemala, fans have been begging for more Pulisic, to the point that many were angry that he wasn’t starting at last summer’s Copa America.
[link_box id=”23231″ site_id=”158″ layout=”link-box-third” alignment=”alignright”]Pulisic isn’t the first American teenage prospect to be hyped though, and more often then not, the previous ones have flopped. That’s why every time Pulisic dazzled us we were quick to temper our expectations. “He’s just 17,” “we need to bring him along slowly,” “don’t put too much on his plate at once” and “remember he’s still just a teenager” were just a few examples of all the things we said over and over as we tried to tame our expectations for him. It extended onto the field as well. After Pulisic’s sensational first start for the USMNT against Trinidad & Tobago, the media couldn’t write more than one sentence without saying, it’s against Trinidad & Tobago, let’s hold off on the praise until we see him play against tougher competition.
The Trinidad & Tobago match was just over a month ago and now it’s time to remove the asterisks. It’s time to remove the ifs, ands and buts. Christian Pulisic is no longer “someone who will be really good one day.” Pulisic is officially someone who is really good right now.
That doesn’t mean he’s reached his potential or capped his growth. Pulisic is still getting better, but it’s time to take the training wheels off. Pulisic isn’t just an American prospect, he’s now one of the best teenage players in all of Europe.
It’s ok to admit this now and you don’t have to worry about him not being brought along the right way. He’s playing at Borussia Dortmund, a club that does a fantastic job developing young players, with a manager who knows exactly what he’s doing.
Prior to the this season, I was skeptical of how much playing time Pulisic would receive. Over the summer, Dortmund lost attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Manchester United. They responded by signing not one, not two, but four attacking midfielders. Two of which were World Cup veterans, while the other two were highly touted teenagers.
Suddenly, it looked like Pulisic had fallen too far down the pecking order in order to make an impact this season. There were rumors of Pulisic wanting to get a loan away from the club, but in the end he chose to stay put.
What a decision that was. Since returning from the last international break, Pulisic has started both games BVB have played, giving him six starts on the season. But Pulisic’s season shouldn’t be numbered in the amount of games he’s started. It should be measured in what he’s done on the field.
Last month, with Dortmund trailing by a goal against Real Madrid, Pulisic entered the game and completely turned the game around. For everyone who wanted to see him do it against a more challenging team than T&T, Real Madrid certainly falls into that category.
Last Friday, with Dortmund again needing a goa,l Thomas Tuchel once again looked to his bench. He brought on teen sensation Osumane Dembele, one of the most highly touted teenagers in Europe. Dembele came on to replace Mario Gotze, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, leaving Pulisic on the field to chase the goal.
Earlier in that game Pulisic displayed exactly why fans of not just the United States, but why Borussia Dortmund and the rest of the Bundesliga are excited about him.
Sure he made the wrong pass at the end of that run, but the run itself is why you should be excited. The United States doesn’t have anyone that can make that run and Pulisic is doing that against a very good German team at just 18-years-old.
Last season when Pulisic made a few starts in the Bundesliga, it was because Thomas Tuchel was rotating his squad to keep them fresh for the Europa League, which Dortmund had a better chance of winning than the Bundesliga. However, it’s a different story this year.
There is no ‘first choice’ squad at Dortmund this year. With so many players Tuchel is always picking a different squad, ensuring that everyone is always fresh and that everyone is always fighting for spots. That means whenever Pulisic is in the team, it’s not because Tuchel is trying to rest someone else, it’s because Tuchel believes he gives them a legitimate shot to win. He won’t play every game at Dortmund, but that is also a good thing, as it will keep him hungry to keep getting better and give him an opportunity to rest.
We’ve now hit mid-October and you can officially say the United States has a player who is a legitimate first team player at not just a European club, but one of the biggest and best clubs in Europe. Pulisic’s play has even started rumors that Barcelona are interested in the American. He’s not their only choice, every minute he gets on the field he’s earned.
Christian Pulisic is no longer the future. He’s now the future and the present. It’s ok, you can admit it now.