The trajectory of Christian Pulisic's career has been unprecedented for a young American — and impressive by any standard. Still only 18 years old while entering his third Bundesliga season, Borussia Dortmund’s personnel issues will present opportunities — and add pressure.
(Photo courtesy of Borussia Dortmund.)
Pulisic started 20 of the 43 competitive games he played in during the 2016-17 season. Going into to Saturday’s 2017-18 Bundesliga opener, such is the BVB injury situation and uncertainty about Barcelona target Ousmane Dembele that Pulisic has become increasingly important to Dortmund’s quest to unseat perennial champion Bayern Munich.
At least BVB doesn’t have to fret over Pulisic’s loyalty to the club, as has been the case with Dembele, whom it suspended for missing practice during the Barcelona negotiations.
“I am very happy in Dortmund,” Pulisic told Sport Bild upon asked about ongoing reports that he’s being lured to Liverpool by former Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp. “Yes, I’ve read that. What should I say to that? To make it clear: I am not considering a club change. After all, just at the beginning of this year I extended my contract through 2020.
“In the past season, in Dortmund I established myself with a top European club, which was by boyhood dream. My next goal is to play consistently.”
In 2016-17, Pulisic scored five goals and assisted 13 times. He started 15 of the 29 Bundesliga games he appeared in, four of the 10 UEFA Championship League games, and one of four German Cup games. He came on as a halftime sub in the German Cup final and drew the penalty kick that led to the winning goal of a 2-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.
In the first competitive game of the 2017-18 season, he scored in BVB’s German Super Cup 2-2 tie with Bayern Munich in the 12th minute, before BVB fell on PKs.
On Wednesday came the news that André Schürrle, the winger who assisted on Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning goal, will be out with a thigh injury for a month. Marco Reus remains sidelined with the knee ligament injury suffered in the German Cup final. Mario Goetze, who scored the World Cup winner, is back after an illness that sidelined him for five months last season, but he is not so suited for the wing. And Dortmund’s Dutch coach Peter Bosz is big on wing play, a proponent of the 4-3-3.
On whether Pulisic sees himself playing centrally or on the wing, he said: “I don’t have a preference. I think I’m flexible in the offense. Peter Bosz is inclined to see me play wide, and that’s perfectly fine with me.”
Last season, when Pulisic stayed on the bench for the first two games, the team seen as the most likely to upset the Bayern Munich dynasty lost its second game of the season and was out of the race by October.
Pulisic is poised to be a Bundesliga starter from the get-go this season. The injuries to Reus and Schürrle, and the suspension -- and likelihood that Barcelona will eventually make an offer for Dembele that BVB can’t refuse -- will put a spotlight on Pulisic like never before.
How he does won’t make or break the career of a player who turns 19 in September. But if Pulisic helps keeps BVB in the title race through the early part of the season, it will be another unprecedented achievement for the young American.