Leave it to the kid to put it all into words for us.
Christian Pulisic was one of the only inspired performers of the last international window, one that saw a spineless performance cost the entire nation its quadrennial chance to watch the USMNT in a World Cup.
While the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star won’t be on the pitch for the United States against Portugal on Tuesday, Pulisic did tak to his keyboard for a long The Players’ Tribune post on how he feels about the team, his country, and soccer here.
[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose vs. Portugal ]
First and foremost, Pulisic isn’t pulling any punches about player development. He’s angry that the best and brightest U.S. players can’t head to Europe without a European passport, something he had from Croatia that allowed him to go to BVB at 16.
In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a “star” — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot. In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been “the best player,” and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day— both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.
That includes a dark lining of what a lot of pundits — us included — as well as many fans have said: There’s entitlement in the “Please don’t leave our youth club, best player” American soccer system.
Pulisic says it’s okay to stay home, and he doesn’t begrudge players that choice, but that he cannot fathom where he’d be without the growth he’s had at BVB.
He also lays out his feelings about the collapse, which was hardly his fault considering the defensive tactics of CONCACAF were to foul the heck out of the kid and dare anyone else to beat them (Spoiler alert…).
“And I won’t lie — I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this past month. The thought of having to wait four more years, just to get the taste of losing our last qualifier out of my mouth … just to find out if we’re going to the next World Cup? Man, that’s tough. Four years, you know? It feels like a lifetime.”
There’s a lot of young leadership in the American star, and it’s a shame — no hyperbole — that his international development won’t get the boon of his first World Cup. In fact, Pulisic may only get two or three depending on injuries now, and that’s absurd for a player already on pace to be one of the better players in Europe and perhaps the best in U.S. history (I know, I know, this is where naysayers want to say he’s being overhyped because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that a 19-year-old is literally one of the top performing talents in one of the Top Three leagues in the world. Be willing to be wrong. Have a strong take. This is ours).