Analysis

Contract extends perfect marriage between Christian Pulisic, Dortmund

Pulisic is entering a stage where too many U.S. prospects stall. Staying at Dortmund will help him stay on course.

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The future of the most promising player in the United States men’s national team was made more clear this week when Christian Pulisic signed a contract extension with Borussia Dortmund.

There are few things that will receive as much attention in U.S. soccer circles as the growth and development of the 18-year-old winger. Pulisic is considered the best young American talent since Landon Donovan, and his decision to sign an extension at Dortmund is one American fans can celebrate.

Pulisic, who has thrived since breaking into Dortmund’s first team last year, will stay with a club that is known for developing younger players. He’s also staying with a club where he is receiving meaningful minutes on huge stages in the Bundesliga and the Champions League. As important, Pulisic is also in an environment where his comfort level will constantly be challenged.

While it was certainly tempting to imagine Pulisic starting for Liverpool in the English Premier League, the most important factor to consider was where Pulisic had the best chance to continue to grow. There is not a more important timeframe in the development of a professional player than between the ages of 17 and 21. U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena has called it the black hole of American soccer, because players are so often lost in the developmental chain in this country, which includes short college seasons and, previously, a reserve league that did little to develop players. For Pulisic, that crucial period will be spent playing and starting for one of the best clubs in one of the best leagues in Europe.

Moving to another club would always carry the risk that Pulisic could be frozen out of meaningful minutes, the most important factor in a young player’s progress. Pulisic will get that at Dortmund – or at least he’ll have the opportunity.

Since breaking into the first team in 2015-16, Pulisic has made 36 appearances with 27 starts, including 13 appearances in 17 league games this season. Pulisic also has five starts in the Champions League.

Those minutes are important, but so is what happened this past offseason. Despite Pulisic’s bright play last season, Dortmund signed four attackers: Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Ousmane Dembele and Emre More. Dortmund wasn’t going to simply hand the job to Pulisic. More importantly, Pulisic didn’t demand a transfer. He stood up to the challenge and won a starting job.

At a club like Dortmund, Pulisic has found the right home in which he can maintain his current progress. He also knows that comfort level is not a given.

Pulisic has just 11 caps with the national team, including five World Cup qualifiers, yet he’s already considered one of the program’s most important players. If the teenager is going to take on a bigger role with the U.S., especially with a World Cup just around the corner, it is vital he is pushed to mature into a game-changing player. Staying at Dortmund will give him that opportunity.

Borussia Dortmund has as much to gain from Pulisic’s continued growth. The club brought him through its youth system and now has another valuable young asset. In addition, Pulisic undoubtedly makes Dortmund more attractive in an American market the Bundesliga is desperately trying to cultivate.

If Pulisic continues to develop at this rate, there will be more transfer offers. At a certain point, moving to a bigger club might be the best move. For now, it’s the perfect marriage at Dortmund and U.S. fans can take comfort that Pulisic is in the right place.

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Paul Tenorio is a reporter for FourFourTwo. He works as a freelance reporter on Fire home TV broadcasts. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulTenorio.