Player Profile: Christian Pulisic – The American Star

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Former Dortmund youth coach Wolf wholeheartedly agrees, explaining to Kicker: “As soon as he came to us as a 15-year-old it was clear what he was all about. He’s a mix of technical ability, great speed and serious attitude to his craft. That was very impressive.” Pulisic’s father Mark is equally effusive in his praise of Wolf’s part in his son’s success, telling Goal website: “From the moment Christian arrived in Dortmund, he was made to feel wanted and the most important person in all this was Hannes Wolf. He really helped Christian find his feet in a new country.

“He was a trainer as well as a friend, both on and off the pitch.”

Given his genealogical input there was always a strong possibility that Pulisic would one day earn a living from football as his parents, Mark and Kelley, both played collegiate soccer at George Mason University in Virginia, with Mark later turning pro and spending eight years on the books of indoor-arena side Harrisburg Heat.

Pulisic senior later ran the soccer programme at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, taking charge of Detroit Ignition in the Major Indoor Soccer League and tutoring youngsters at PA Classics, where his son played. Mark also served as a youth coach at Dortmund for 18 months, from 2015 to 2017, and was an assistant at three lower-league outfits in the US: Harrisburg City Islanders, Rochester Rhinos and Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

Growing up in such a sports-orientated environment, it was no surprise that Pulisic came to prominence so quickly.

In late 2013 he starred for the USA under-17 side against Brazil at the Nike International Friendlies series and was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player – at just 15. For those with their finger on the pulse of US soccer, an ascendant Pulisic was just what they expected; a case of class will out.

“I first saw him when he was probably 11 or 12 in Washington DC,” USA midfielder turned national under-20 coach Tab Ramos told Sports Illustrated magazine. “He was playing for PA Classics against DC United in an under-14 age-group match. I was walking by and I saw someone who was so little on the field. He completely looked like someone’s little brother who had wandered out onto the field. I was waiting for someone to pull him off. Then I realised he was running the show.

“He clearly was younger, smaller and did not look as though he belonged.

That is, until he was around the ball. After watching the game for five minutes, you realised that everybody was playing through him. The pace of the game was completely dictated by him.”

Loaned back to Dortmund for the remainder of this season by Chelsea means Pulisic won’t make his Premier League debut until next term, and it feels like a moment for which he has been waiting all his life.

At the age of seven he spent 12 months with his family in Oxfordshire while his mother concentrated on her teaching-exchange business and his father studied for his UEFA A coaching badge. A big fan of Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney, the youngster visited a number of England’s top grounds – among them Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane – and played in the junior ranks of Brackley Town, a club in the neighbouring county of Northamptonshire.

Playing for the U17 national side (Getty Images)

On returning to the States he had a short spell with Michigan Rush – while his dad coached Michigan Ignition – and then joined US Soccer Development Academy club PA Classics. Capped by the USA under-15s when he was 13, he scored 20 in 34 games for the under-17s and by the spring of 2016 – aged 17-and-a-half – he made his full international debut. A couple of months later he became the country’s youngest-ever goalscorer, netting in a friendly victory over Bolivia in Kansas City.

“This player’s potential is limitless,” declared US boss Jurgen Klinsmann. “I’ve always said you have to write your own story and he’s doing it right now. I think it’s rare in America for a player to be so developed at such an early age.”

Clearly someone with a lot of faith in the youngster, on the eve of the Bolivia game he even allowed Pulisic to fly back to Pennsylvania for his high-school prom. Klinsmann’s one-time assistant, the ex-Austria playmaker Andreas Herzog also is a fan, declaring: “Amazingly for one so young he is almost the complete player. He’s technically very strong, is exceptional when dribbling in one-on-one duels, gets stuck in with a lot of dynamism and is sensationally quick.

“He has a flair for quick thinking, for assessing a situation and coming up with the solution.” Steve Klein, director of coaching at PA Classics, says Christian’s success boils down to his talent, his mentality and the support system around him.

“I don’t think you can teach a lot of the stuff he has,” he told NBC Sports. “You definitely knew at an early age that he was going to be a very good player. It was just his feet. He had a sense on how to play through balls.

“For him to go over [to Dortmund] at a young age and fight with grown men, he had to have a strong character. That’s where his parents have done such a good job. Not going crazy when they’ve seen they have a very talented player.

“There are a lot of soccer people who have kids and go nuts because they dream of what their kid is going to do and ruin them.”

Pennsylvania is known as a breeding ground for some top American Football quarter-backs, such as Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Dan Marino. Now it seem soccer wizardry grows there too.

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