18-year-old wonderkid takes American soccer by storm
At 18, most of us were seniors in high school, completely checked out of our last year of school and ready to embark on the college journey. We felt a looming sense of independence with our departures to college imminent, but we were still kids. At 18, I would go home after my fifth period reprographics class, a course I dedicated to beating my best friend’s high score in Fruit Ninja, only to eat leftovers out of the fridge and binge watch reruns of “The Office” and “How I Met Your Mother.” At age 18, Christian Pulisic has already been deemed “The Savior of American Soccer,” and he is starting for one of the most revered European clubs in Germany, Borussia Dortmund.
Pulisic, at 17, was the youngest American to score a goal in a World Cup qualifying match, just after becoming the youngest foreigner to score a goal in the German Bundesliga. Whether that’s more impressive than my Fruit Ninja high score of 957 is for you to judge, but Pulisic is the present — and the future — of American Soccer. The 5-foot-8 winger out of Hershey, Pennsylvania was raised by George Mason University soccer players Mark and Kelley Pulisic. While he spent most of his childhood in Hershey, he spent some time in Michigan and England as well.
Despite his age, Christian Pulisic has an incredible amount of composure. He never drops his head, and he has yet to seem noticeably phased by the spotlight.
“I’m sick of people saying, ‘He’s only 17.’” Pulisic told ESPN FC back in September. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I feel like I can make an impact. That’s it.”
Bruce Arena, the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, has stated that Pulisic “has a long way to go before he gets to stand next to Landon [Donovan],” and, while this comment is relatively benign, it completely understates just how exceptional a player Pulisic actually is. Obviously, Landon Donovan is the gold standard of players when it comes to American soccer, but there is a clear consensus that Pulisic is miles ahead of where Donovan was at his age, a sentiment that Donovan has stated himself. The expectations for Pulisic are so high that it would be underwhelming if he ends up being only as good as Landon Donovan was at the prime of his career, which is saying something. The wonderkid has the tools and demeanor to grow into a global superstar, as Carsten Cramer, Borussia Dortmund’s marketing executive, put it. Arena was most likely trying to temper expectations for the 18-year-old amidst a flurry of attention that has come Pulisic’s way, as well as give some love to Donovan, who the previous head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, had a falling out with. Nonetheless, it simply is not an apt comparison. Americans should revel; we may finally have that generational talent that has been absent in our soccer world.
Those currently engaged with American soccer already know what I’m talking about with Christian Pulisic. But for the pseudo-soccer fan who’s knowledge of the sport is limited to their knowledge of FIFA 17 ratings, for those of you who show up every four years for the World Cup and buy the newest kit after John Brook’s 85th minute header against Ghana (okay fine, that one was me), you should be excited. We got ourselves quite the gem, and if you aren’t like me and have no qualms with sporting the gear of an athlete who is younger than you, I suggest you go out and grab yourself his jersey — the name is only going to get bigger.
Written by: Michael Wexler — firstname.lastname@example.org