Christian Pulisic: the new Captain America

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Clint Dempsey might have scored a hat trick in the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras on March 24, but the true star of the game was 18-year-old midfielder Christian Pulisic. Pulisic put on a show on against the Hondurans, scoring a goal himself to go along with two assists.

The game was pretty much over by halftime with the U.S. leading 3-0. Everything after that was just icing on the cake. We could go into even more depth about America’s demolition of Honduras, but instead, let us focus in on Pulisic.

Bid adieu to Freddy Adu

Negative nellies out there will say that he could turn into the next Freddy Adu. Adu, much like Pulisic, was christened the savior of American soccer. Adu burst onto the scene in 2004 at 16 years old and became the youngest player to play and score in the MLS with D.C. United.

The pressure of an entire nation was thrust upon Adu, and he did not handle it well. Adu quickly moved to Benfica in 2007 and failed to impress. After an unsuccessful period in Europe, Adu returned to the MLS with the Philadelphia Union and soon faded into obscurity.

Adu now plays in the United Soccer League (USL) for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He has become one of the faces of failed wonder kids. Why will Pulisic be different?

Pulisic’s Dortmund Days

One of the big differences between Pulisic and Adu is how different their journeys have been to becoming professionals. Adu was drafted straight out of high school by D.C. United and was thrusted into the public eye. For a 16 year old, that can be a lot of pressure.

Pulisic, on the other hand, has spent his entire youth career with Dortmund, a team that has produced the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus. Dortmund knows talent when they see it, and they also know how to nurture that talent and mold young players into stars.

Along with Pulisic, fellow Dortmund youngsters Julian Weigl (21 years old) and Ousmane Dembélé (19 years old) are the most recent cream of the crop that Dortmund has at their disposal.

Before Pulisic even made his professional debut with Dortmund in 2016, he had been training with Dortmund youth teams and then eventually the first-team players. He built up all of this experience and learned from the very best before Dortmund felt he was ready for the next step.

His talent was fostered, not rushed.

Different League, Different Style of Play

Pulisic is playing in the German Bundesliga, which is one of the top leagues in Europe, widely considered the most competitive continent to play club soccer in. On top of that, Pulisic is also getting playing time in the Champions League, which is the best European club competition on offer. It is where the best players and best teams in Europe play each other.

Considering the experience that Pulisic has built up with his time playing in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, along with his time spent at the Dortmund’s youth academy, he is a more well-rounded player than Adu.

Just look at some of the best players in America right now. Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard have all played, or currently play, their club soccer in Europe. All of those players have taken what they have learned in Europe and brought it back to America for when they play internationally.

Pulisic is just doing the same thing, except at a much younger age.

Versatility

Soccer teams are looking for versatility in players. The ability to play multiple positions is crucial, and Pulisic can do that.

He can operate on either the left or right wing, and even directly behind the striker as a No. 10. Against Honduras, Pulisic started on the left wing, but when Sebastian Lleget went down injured late in the first half, Pulisic was forced to play more centrally to compensate for winger Alejandro Bedoya.

Pulisic’s ability to adapt to and succeed in whatever system that he plays in makes him a hot commodity in soccer. Considering that, his youth, talent and pedigree, there is no wonder that some of the largest teams in Europe are sending their scouts to watch Pulisic play.  

Extra Time and Final Thoughts

Pulisic has become one of the most coveted players in Europe. All the attention that he receives is great for the future of American soccer.  More European teams could send their scouts across America in search of the next Christian Pulisic. That is great exposure for American soccer.

Pulisic himself could inspire the next generation of American soccer players to try even harder to  be the next Pulisic. That is a scary thought when you realize that Pulisic is only 18 years old. Because of Pulisic’s youth, barring any career-ending injury, American soccer fans will potentially be able to watch him for the next two decades.