USMNT Has Found Its Diamond in the Rough

Christian Pulisic has established him self as the next big star for US soccer.

Christian Pulisic has established him self as the next big star for US soccer.

By Andrew Posadas

Christian Pulisic has established him self as the next big star for US soccer. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The U.S. Men’s National Team came into Friday evening in desperate need of a win against a formidable Panama team. With its hopes of making an eighth straight appearance in the World Cup still in the air, the USMNT rose to the challenge to romp Panama in convincing fashion, 4-0. While this victory almost certainly punches its World Cup ticket to Russia in 2018, the biggest story may not be about the team, but one of the pieces who has emerged into the greatest young player in U.S soccer history: Christian Pulisic.

Since 2000, fans of the men’s national team have been fortunate to see two very good players in Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. Notice the words I used to describe them: “very good.” Obviously, that is no knock on two men who have valiantly guided the program in competing with the rest of the world. In their primes, they were great. However, there is no comparasion to the 19-year-old Pulisic, there is no comparison. The kid isn’t even old enough to drink yet, but right now, his talent exceeds Dempsey and Donovan at their best. Don’t be alarmed, because that isn’t the most alarming revelation. What’s even scarier? Christian Pulisic is only going to get better… and better…and better… well you get the picture.

It seems as though each country that is historically dominant in soccer is blessed with generational talents. Argentina had Diego Maradona and have Leo Messi. Brazil had Pele and now has Neymar. Italy had Andrea Pirlo. Germany had Franz Beckenbauer. I could go on and on. The biggest question that U.S soccer fans have had for decades watching the rest of the world had to be: When are we going to get our generational player? When will we have our superstar that can single-handedly lead the country to soccer greatness? Look no further America – you’ve got your man.

Pulisic, originally from Hershey, Pennsylvania, fits the cliché “that kid was born to play soccer.” His parents both played soccer at George Mason University. He quickly came up on the U.S. Soccer radar while climbing up the ranks, starting from his entrance to the Development Academy in 2008 to dominating for the under-17 men’s team in 2013. He was named captain of that U-17 squad while netting 28 goals in 34 international games. Pulisic wasn’t just on the radar of the U.S., the world began keeping an eye on him. Ultimately, this prompted his decision to join Borussia Dortmund in Germany.

Making the move at Dortmund in 2015 at age 16, it took him only a year before he moved up to the first team for the entire 2016-2017 season. Playing for one of the best clubs in the world helped him earn a roster spot with the USMNT. On March 29, 2016, he became the youngest player to appear in a WC qualifying match against Guatemala.

Think about that: at 17, most of us were getting ready for our senior year and applying for colleges, our greatest fear being a college letter of acceptance or rejection. While we were signing yearbooks, he played on the biggest national soccer stage against grown men, trying to prove he belonged.

Fast forward to the present day, Pulisic is now the foundation of the U.S soccer program and the key cog in its journey to the World Cup. Friday night saw the young star add another goal and another assist. Of the last 16 goals scored in World Cup Qualifying for the team, he has scored or assisted on 11 of them. Needless to say, when the kid has the ball, good things tend to happen. The flow is predicated on him. It is imperative to have him out there for 90 minutes. The team is immensely successful when he controls the pace.

With praise and success comes failure and scrutiny. We know he is the best prospect U.S has ever seen, and earning that title brings unimaginable expectations sponsored by colossal pressure. Every once-in-a-lifetime player faces those hurdles, especially when they’ve shown to be extraordinary at such a youthful age. The World Cup in 2018 will be the biggest stage yet for Pulisic. The eyes and the weight of an entire nation prepares to mount on the shoulders of his number 10 jersey. By then, only one question will remain on everyone’s mind: will he handle it?