Commentary

Christian Pulisic and expectations

On Sunday, Christian Pulisic starts his third season as a professional at Borussia Dortmund when it hosts Wolfsburg to open the second half of the Bundesliga season.

He was only 17 when he joined the Dortmund first team for its winter camp in January 2016. A few weeks later, he played 20-odd minutes in his first appearance.

Since then, Pulisic has become one of the most important players on Dortmund, one of Germany's biggest clubs trying to recover from a dramatic slide that cost its lead in the Bundesliga and then its coach, Peter Bosz, his job after less than half a season in charge.



Back home, following the USA's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Pulisic is being asked to fill the vacuum left by its elimination. He is supposed to save American soccer on the field and be its face off the field.

Pulisic is thoughtful enough and humble enough and grounded enough to admit that at the age of 19 he is still trying to figure everything out and the best thing he can do is take it one day at a time at Borussia Dortmund.

"I would say that the expectations some Americans would put on me are too much," he told ESPN FC this week. "But I don't take it that way. I know no one means harm to me or wants to put too much pressure on me. It's kind of what they've done or do in the past. A lot of countries do. I understand what they mean, coming into a bigger role on the national team."

What isn't realistic is that Pulisic should be thrust into the debate about what is wrong with American soccer and the soul-searching that has taken place following the USA's exit from the World Cup. I guess I'll modify that: he shouldn't be thrust into the debate any more than he has already.

In a story he penned for the Players Tribune, Pulisic talked about the advantages of the German environment in which he developed -- and his good fortune of being able to sign at 16 because of his dual citizenship.

There are many reasons for why Pulisic is the player he is, beginning with the fact he is an incredibly talented and unusually smart player and he has two parents who care about the welfare of their children first and foremost and also happened to have both played college soccer and love the game.

One of the critical steps took place came when Pulisic was 7 and his mother, Kelley, received a Fulbright scholarship to work in England on a teaching exchange. It wasn't like Pulisic family moved to Tackley, outside Oxford, to envelop Christian in an "soccer environment," and it isn't like that soccer experience is impossible to duplicate here. But what it is clear is that year was special and impacted his soccer development.

All the rest of Pulisic's early soccer development took place in the United States, at PA Classics and with the national programs, beginning when Manfred Schellscheidt had him at age of 12 in the U-14 camp in 2011 and he went on the id2 national selection trip to Spain in 2012.

The debate about what's wrong with American soccer will rage on, but Pulisic wants to take his name out of the discussion, taking the unusual step of responding on Twitter to the assertion that he became the player he is in spite of American soccer.


What is true is that Pulisic is on a path that no other American soccer player has ever taken so there is no way to know where it will lead.

He is the second most highly valued player of his age in the world after Frenchman Kylian Mbappe with a transfer fee of $84.6 million, according to the latest survey by the CIES Football Observatory. That is enough to keep him front and center on the transfer sections of Europe's tabloids, soccer papers and specialized Web sites. But then there is the American factor.

The Independent reported this week that Manchester United was ready to bid for Pulisic, if there is ever to be a bidding war for him: "While the 19-year-old attacker is obviously seen as an excellent football signing in his own right and fill a hole for Jose Mourinho’s side, an extra angle is the view that talent could well make him the USA’s first megastar in the sport, with all of the commercial value that will bring. United’s marketing side would see him as another Paul Pogba in that regard, as do many other suitors."

We've been on the Pulisic hype train for several years. It might be time to put the brakes on for now.

3 comments about "Christian Pulisic and expectations".
  1. beautiful game, January 14, 2018 at 1:04 p.m.

    After watching Pogba with Man-U; IMHO, the price paid was too steep based on performance.

  2. Ben Myers, January 15, 2018 at 12:59 p.m.

    Christian Pulisic, take heed!  Never Mourhino!  Never!  Mourinho kills creativity, imagination and enjoyment of the game.

  3. Kevin Leahy, January 16, 2018 at 8:55 a.m.

    I would steer clear of Mourinho too

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