Christian Pulisic is no longer “18-year-old whiz kid Christian Pulisic.”
The USMNT phenom turns 19 on Monday, already one of the most accomplished players in terms of Americans in Europe.
If that sounds dramatic given the wildly successful careers of Clint Dempsey, Claudio Reyna, and Carlos Bocanegra — not to future parents, use ‘C’ in naming your children — forgive us; Pulisic is doing some fantastic things at his age.
In fact, it’s difficult to rationalize his success so far given the relative low trajectory of the U.S. on the world soccer scene. Maybe it’s the birthday talk, but sometimes I feel like Paulie in “Rocky IV” when presented with a cake from a robot: What fresh amazement ?!?
As we hope Pulisic can help the United States avoid a progress-clobbering setback for the program in next month’s World Cup qualifiers, let’s take a look back at what he’s accomplished so far:
— Youngest American to appear in a World Cup qualifier.
— Youngest American to score in a World Cup qualifier, and to score in a USMNT shirt.
— 18 caps with seven goals for the USMNT.
— Nine goals and 14 assists in 61 appearances for Borussia Dortmund.
— Eleven Champions League appearances and three Europa League matches, posting three assists in the UCL as well as a goal against Benfica in a Round of 16 match.
— Named to the 2016 UEFA Champions League Breakthrough XI.
All of that is to say that of all the names tossed out of Alexi Lalas’ mouth last week, the inclusion of “Wonder Boy” Pulisic as an “irrelevant also” was inarguably the silliest. Pulisic certainly thought so.
It’s hard to find a frame of reference for Pulisic thanks to his unprecedented American rise into Europe at such a young age. The site Transfermarkt says his closest comparison amongst active young players is 20-year-old PSG right wing Goncalo Guedes, who in turn is compared with Bayern’s Kingsley Coman and Benfica’s Gabriel Barbosa.
Digging a little deeper provides us this list:
Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid)
Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon)
What’s most impressive about that bunch? Well, for one, Pulisic is the youngest and his numbers already place him alongside, if not above, Coman and Correa as the most accomplished of the bunch.
All of the above needs to be taken with food, and that’s watching Pulisic should be fun. Thanks to the USMNT’s current mess in World Cup qualifying, it’s not as enjoyable as it should be, but there’s little question that his BVB time remains a sweet release.
And here’s hoping that fellow U.S. youngsters making dents in Europe, like Weston McKennie at Schalke and Ethan Horvath at Club Brugge, force us to consider whether Pulisic is “the guy” or just one of the Wonderboys.