WEMBLEY — His 19th birthday is next week. Remember that.
[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]
Christian Pulisic put in yet another superb display for Borussia Dortmund but they lost 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Speaking in the mixed zone afterwards, a downbeat Pulisic, 18, reflected on his display as he tore Tottenham apart in the first half, had a goal disallowed and battled against the best defense in the Premier League.
He wants those calls back as Dortmund had a second, more contentious, goal chalked off for offside.
“Things didn’t go our way and that’s how the sport is sometimes. We had to take some other chances but things didn’t go our way with decisions and other things,” Pulisic said. “I have to see them again but my goal in the first half, I guess Auba was off but he didn’t touch it. I don’t know if he was offside. The second one I didn’t think was offside. Obviously refs make mistakes and the game just changed after that.”
Pulisic was everywhere in the first half, giving both Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld a tough time from the left but he told Pro Soccer Talk he still wants to do better.
“I always tried to bring confidence to the game. I still need to do more and create goals and score goals. I couldn’t do it today,” Pulisic said.
Pulisic started out on the left and had plenty of touches early on, ghosting between Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld. His run and cross led to an attack which eventually saw Andriy Yarmolenko curl in a stunner for Dortmund’s opener. In the 19th minute Pulisic cut inside and his shot deflected off Alderweireld and went out for a corner.
The Kid kept going.
He then raced clear on the half hour mark and his cross to the back post towards Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang was brilliantly cleared by Jan Vertonghen. A great chance then arrived for Pulisic with Aubemayang the provider but the Hershey, PA native couldn’t get enough on his effort as he stretched to get on the end of the cross.
Right on half time Dortmund could have been level with Pulisic scoring at the back post as he controlled and finished calmly.
The offside flag was up way before he finished, but although Aubameyang appeared to be in an offside position he didn’t touch the ball. The jury is out as to whether or not he was interfering with play.
That was the kind of night it was and Pulisic is getting used to it.
“This is how professional soccer is now. Of course it’s a lot for me, it’s my first year, but now my second year playing this many games,” Pulisic said. “I’m getting used to it. My body is okay. It is how it is. I always prepare myself to play every single game.”
With the season in full flow with Dortmund as they chase a Bundesliga title and aim to get back on track, the USMNT’s crucial World Cup qualifiers next month are never far from his mind.
“Obviously now I am focusing on Dortmund. We have big games coming up. But it’s there,” Pulisic admitted. “We have to do everything we can and I am going to do everything I can do to help us qualify.”
Over the weekend Fox Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas called out Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to step up for the USA.
He also rounded on Pulisic, saying “even you, wonder boy” when asking the U.S. to win key World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago next month. What did Pulisic think about Lalas’ comments?
“I heard about it. I am not going to lose sleep about what Alexi Lalas has to say about us. He can say what he wants,” Pulisic laughed.
The Kid is growing up.
Before kick off Pascal Girwert was walking down Wembley Way with a beer in his hand, his friends by his side and Christian Pulisic’s name and number on the back of his Dortmund jersey.
“He is a very, very, very big talent. Now that Ousmane Dembele has left us, he has a place in our team for every match. We are very happy to have him,” Girwert, a Dortmund fan who had traveled to London for the game, explained.
Are Dortmund worried about him leaving as his star continues to rise?
“Dortmund is the biggest thing he can reach!” Girwert laughed. “I love that he is very happy at Dortmund. He likes to play and doesn’t want to move. That makes us very sympathetic to him. We are very happy to have him.”
After the game Dortmund’s coach Peter Bosz was very complimentary when asked by Pro Soccer Talk about his teenage talent.
“He is a huge talent and I still see room for progression. This is not the end of his journey,” Bosz said. “He has a lot of quality. He shows us in training and also showed it in the game. He is still 18. Big talent.”
With Pulisic’s cousin, Will, in Dortmund’s youth team as a goalkeeper last season, the fans at Dortmund are quite eager to help nurture more young American players.
“It would be brilliant for Dortmund to have more American kids to come to us, but also for American soccer. He usually plays off the right for us. It is a very good position for him. I think the quality of the Dortmund team is much better than the USA national team, so maybe that’s why he plays in the middle,” Girwert chuckled.
He, Pulisic and the rest of Dortmund’s fans weren’t chuckling at the end of the game as Spurs ran out winners but the teenager from Pennsylvania can take solace from the fact that he tormented one of the best defenses in the Premier League multiple times.
Every time you watch him in a big game he steps up and there is plenty more to come from the kid who turns 19 next week.
Reflecting on a short stint when he trained with Tottenham as a youngster over a decade ago while his family moved to England for a year, Pulisic was reflective about how far he’d come in such a short period of time.
“Those were great times,” Pulisic said. “It is pretty crazy playing at Wembley for the first time and it is pretty special, coming this far.”