Christian Pulisic’s father finds sensational hype 'quite amusing'

USA TODAY Sports-Trevor Ruszkowski

The U.S. phenom has dazzled fans and media alike, but his parents are prouder of his off-field accomplishments – like straight As and mastery of German. 

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Like many parents, Mark Pulisic loves his children and wishes the best for them.

He is proud of the accomplishments of his of sons, Christian and Chase, and daughter, Devyn.

But even he felt the hype and expectations for 18-year-old Christian, already a regular starter for the United States men’s national team and a key contributor for Borussia Dortmund, have been over the top.

Prior to the United States' 1-1 draw in Mexico last Sunday, Christian Pulisic’s pictured adorned the front page of the sports section of the Mexican newspaper, Reforma, with the headline, SUEÑO AMERICANO.

Translated: AMERICAN DREAM.

The American media has taken the hype machine to another level. A sampling of headlines:

  • Christian Pulisic isn’t just another great American hope – he’s already a star
  • Christian Pulisic could be the best U.S. soccer player – ever
  • Christian Pulisic is the USMNT’s biggest star and his age doesn’t matter
  • U.S. finally has a soccer star in Pulisic
  • Christian Pulisic Is America’s First World-Class Soccer Player
  • Is Christian Pulisic Already Better Than Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey Ever Were?

And on it goes.

"It's borderline amusing," says Mark, currently an assistant coach for the Rochester Rhinos. "For them to compare a 17-, 18-year old player to a Landon Donovan, for instance, who has done so much, who has been so successful in this country, who had such a great career – I don't care if it was in Europe or the U.S. – for his national team, is ridiculous."

He's a young kid. Just let him play, let him develop. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the now.

- Mark Pulisic

Donovan performed in three World Cups and is the all-time U.S. men's leader in goals (57) and assists (58).

Christian Pulisic entered the American international soccer scene with a giant splash. He has tallied seven goals in 15 international appearances, including playing a vital part of eight of the last nine USA goals.

"Landon Donovan had a great career. Landon Donovan is Landon Donovan and he'll always be remembered as Landon Donovan," Mark said. "Don't put another name next to that. It's not fair, it's not right to do.

Photo by Michael Lewis

Photo by Michael Lewis

"My son's so young. He hasn't had a serious girlfriend yet. Who knows how he's going to react to that part of his life? Who knows how he's going to react to his first major setback when he's left out of a national team? How he is going to come off an injury? How is he going to psychologically handle that?"

Mark Pulisic then knocked the wooden table in his office three times.

"I mean, he's a young kid," he continued. "Just let him play, let him develop. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the now. For me, as much as the media says they don't want to put too much pressure on him or hype him too much, like did Freddy Adu, they're still doing it.

"I think it’s important for [U.S.] Soccer to be very smart on how they handle their young players. Not Christian, all of them. There are some very good other young players coming up in U.S. soccer. Christian is one player."

Don't get Mark wrong. He said he understood the media's role.

"I understand the hype," he said. "I'm not saying I'm surprised by it. I understand what media has to do and I understand their job. I guess as a parent we're just trying to be a little more protective. So that's just a natural protective mechanism as a parent. You don't want your son to hear all those things. You just want him to focus on playing. I get it all. But some of the things I do read and do hear are quite amusing and are a little bit too much.”

At 18, Christian's maturity belies his age. He was a straight-A student in school, mastered German quickly and is now living on his own in Dortmund. He’s cordial with the media and rarely toots his own horn, if ever.

Mark and wife, Kelley Pare, don’t just take pride in their Christian’s accomplishments on the field.

"Soccer-wise, we're so proud of what he's done," Mark said. "We talk about more things about Christian, not that he scored a goal on the weekend, or he's playing in the starting lineup. We talk more about, we hear an interview with him speaking German. How proud we are that he stuck it out and did all those language lessons, how he could speak another language fluently."

Mark remembered when Christian's youth coach was quoted about his son in a German newspaper: "He's a great kid, he's so easygoing and he's respectful."

"My wife and I will share those articles on Facebook to our family. We find more pride in those things than his soccer accomplishments. That's just what type of people we are. My wife and I want to them to be good people. Of course, we're so proud of him. If he scores a goal, we're so proud and we want to let everyone know. But there's just so more to Christian that people don't talk about enough."

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