Commentary

Christian Pulisic: A promising new chapter for Americans in the Champions League

By Mike Woitalla
@MikeWoitalla

Christian Pulisic, who last month turned 18, played in his third UEFA Champions League game on Tuesday. It was a big win for Borussia Dortmund, increasing the chances that he'll rise on the list of U.S. products who have played in the world's top club competition.

Since the European Cup transformed into the UEFA Champions League in 1992, only 16 U.S. products have appeared in the Champions League proper.

The first USA-raised player to play in the competition also appeared for Borussia Dortmund. Jovan Kirovski, who is currently the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Technical Director, made two appearances during Dortmund’s run to the title in 1997.

DaMarcus Beasley is the American who played the most Champions League games (22) and went the farthest -- reaching the 2005 semifinals with Dutch club PSV.

When it was still the European Cup, solely a knockout competition limited to each European league’s first-place finishers -- runners-up now also qualify -- Illinois product Steve Trittschuh played in Sparta Prague’s two first-round losses to Spartak Moscow in 1990.

Second to Beasley, currently playing for the Houston Dynamo at age 34, in Champions League appearances is current New York Red Bull Sacha Kljestan, who appeared in three straight seasons with Belgian club Anderlecht.

What makes Pulisic’s current run so exciting, besides his age, is Dortmund’s prospects of advancing. The 2-1 win at Sporting in Portugal means that when the teams meet again Nov. 2, a Dortmund win will clinch a spot in the knockout round.

Last season, Pulisic played in three Europa League games for Dortmund, becoming the youngest American to debut in a major European competition. He entered this season surrounded by speculation that, despite having played nine Bundesliga games last season after his January debut, he would be riding the bench because Dortmund spent more than $100 million on new players.

But he has appeared in five of Dortmund’s seven Bundesliga games (one goal, two assists). And in Dortmund’s Champions League opener, while becoming the club’s youngest player to start in the competition, he dazzled in a 6-0 win at Legia Warsaw. In Dortmund’s second UCL second game, against Real Madrid, Pulisic came on in the 73rd minute and assisted on Andre Schuerrle’s 87th minute equalizer to earn Dortmund a 2-2 tie.

Against Sporting, Pulisic missed a 23rd minute chance, had a touch early in the sequence that led to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal, and hit the crossbar on a 20-yard shot in the 78th minute.

Most importantly, he was part of a crucial win for Dortmund that paves the way to knockout stage -- creating more opportunities to see the young American on the big stage.

U.S. PRODUCTS IN UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
22 DaMarcus Beasley
PSV, 2004-06 (15 appearances), PSV, 2005-06 (5) Rangers, 2007-08 (5), Rangers, 2009-10 (2)

14 Sacha Kljestan
Anderlecht, 2012-13 (5), 2013-14 (5), 2014-15 (4)

10 Tim Howard
Manchester United, 2003-04 (7), 2004-05 (3)

8 Claudio Reyna
Rangers, 1999-2000 (4), Rangers, 2000-01 (4)

8 John O’Brien
Ajax, 2001-02 (3) Ajax, 2002-03 (5)

7 Tony Sanneh
Hertha Berlin, 1999-2000 (7)

6 Michael Parkhurst
FC Nordsjaelland, 2012-13 (5)

5 Jovan Kirovski
Borussia Dortmund, 1996-97 (2), Borussia Dortmund, 1997-98 (3)

5 Frankie Hejduk
Bayer Leverkusen, 1999-2000 (5)

4 Maurice Edu
Rangers, 2010-11 (4)

4 Oguchi Onyewu
Malaga, 2012-13 (3), AC Milan, 2009-10 (1)

4 Robbie Russell
Rosenborg, 2004-05 (4)

3 Benny Feilhaber
Hamburg, 2006-07 (3)

3 Christian Pulisic
Borussia Dortmund, 2016-17 (3)

2 Landon Donovan
Bayer Leverkusen, 2004-05 (2)

1 Gedion Zelalem
Arsenal, 2014-15 (1)

Note: This list includes only U.S. players who played in the group stage or knockout phase. It does not include foreign-raised U.S. national team players.

1 comment about "Christian Pulisic: A promising new chapter for Americans in the Champions League".
  1. ROBERT BOND, October 19, 2016 at 9:55 a.m.

    let's hope Julian will also get a chance! Bayern need to get younger, esp. need to get Lahm out of there!!!

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