The “next big thing” has been a US soccer mantra for players going back to Jovan Kirovski’s time at Manchester United two decades ago. Time and again, American soccer fans and the media have hyped teenage players. First, it was Kirovski, then it was John O’Brien — a great whose career was curtailed by injuries. Then there were an assembly line of players who were hyped to succeed including Jamar Beasley (whose brother DaMarcus actually turned into a bonafide star while he ended up spending most of his career playing indoor soccer), Landon Donovan — who did pan out — Freddy Adu, whose odyssey ushered in an era where every hyped young American player ended up underwhelming. Added to this list are Jozy Altidore, Charles Renken, Juan Agudelo and Joseph Gyau. Only Altidore ever became a regular for the US Men’s National Team. But at the club level, with the exception of one season in the Netherlands, the hype never matched his output either in Europe or even at home in MLS.
So it would be natural for most observers to be skeptical of the current poster child for prodigal American talent – Christian Pulisic. At 17 years of age, Pulisic has already been capped for the senior US Men’s National Team, and been elevated to the first team at Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.
American fans have a habit not unlike those in other nations but perhaps more loudly and reflexively to hail anything that appears positive for a young player. But in Pulisic’s case, the hype might finally be justified.
Like many other young Americans who draw interest at a young age from top European clubs, Pulisic became a curiosity to those in the American soccer media who cover the youth national teams and Americans abroad. But unlike most of the other youngsters that have gravitated to Europe, Pulisic has actually been garnering the attention of the more critical German and British press for about nine months now. A standout at the youth level for Dortmund, it was still surprising that when an injury crisis hit the Bundesliga club, which sits safely in second place in the league, that Pulisic was called into the first team.
Given an opportunity to impress with Thomas Tuchel’s side, the young Hershey, PA native did not disappoint and is now a full fledged first-team member. Pulisic has already earned more plaudits and played in more meaningful games than many American youngsters who are three or four years older than him.