FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Teenagers in the World 2017: No.4, Christian Pulisic
America's greatest ever player at just 19? If that’s an overstatement, it’s a minor one.
It may give some impression of the dazzling talent that lies within the young man described in August by the Washington Post as "the player of USA soccer dreams".
Amid the catastrophe that was the USA’s World Cup qualifying failure, Christian Pulisic was their constant cause for hope. In their must-win penultimate game against Panama, the 19-year-old grabbed the game by its lapels, opening the scoring from a tight angle before bamboozling his marker to lay one on a plate for Jozy Altidore.
His team’s final-hurdle failure in Trinidad four days later was not for any lack on Pulisic’s part: he rifled in a 20-yarder but could do little about the concession of two at the other end.
It’s at club level, however, where Pulisic’s pedigree has become undeniable. In the exacting surroundings of Germany’s top flight, the Pennsylvania native has spent the last two years establishing himself as a standout player in Borussia Dortmund’s thrilling high-energy attacking unit.
Although much of his game time has come on the flanks, the accepted wisdom is that Pulisic is destined for a central role. It makes sense: he is adept with both feet and possesses the shape-shifting change of balance that is the signature of the best modern-era No.10s.
He's got a very good mentality, he works hard, wants to improve all the time. If he continues like that, he has a great future ahead of him
While breaking through at Borussia Dortmund under Thomas Tuchel, what impressed his former manager was a tactical understanding and willingness to work without the ball as well as with it. "He's very self-confident,” said the ex-BVB boss. “You can see it in training and the way he plays. He's not nervous, he's very ambitious."
A coolly taken goal in the Champions League last 16 against Benfica and match-turning outing from the bench in the German Cup final were among the highlights of a whirlwind year that took him from youth-team mainstay to first-team centrepiece.
That trajectory has only continued in light of Dortmund's summer transfer activity, and perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to Pulisic so far is that the departure of Ousmane Dembele has barely been felt. In fact, Dortmund are scoring more than they did last term and, after being bedded in off the bench, Pulisic's place in the starting XI is now more or less guaranteed.
Carrying a nation's hopes on your shoulders in no small task, but Pulisic has coped so far. The only way is up.
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