At just 17 years of age, Christian Pulisic experienced something millions of teenagers dream of when he made his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund, giving fans a glimpse of just how bright his future could be.
The American lingered on the pitch long after the final whistle had been blown on BVB’s 2-0 win over FC Ingolstadt 04. Grinning from ear to ear, he savoured the momentous occasion, one which despite his age, he didn’t let get the better of him.
Coming off the bench in front of 81,000 expectant fans inside the sold-out SIGNAL IDUNA PARK was “an incredible feeling” in Pulisic’s own words. In the 22 minutes he was on the pitch for, the youngster wasted little time in demonstrating why many at Dortmund believe he may be the next big thing to come out of their youth academy.
His confidence certainly wasn’t lacking as he showed off his ability to push the pace, beat his man on the dribble and remain composed when trying to pick out a team-mate. "Christian displayed the courage he has in training during the game," praised head coach Thomas Tuchel after the encounter.
'Of course I was nervous!'
Nerves didn’t appear to play a role. There was a degree of cheek in Pulisic’s performance as he constantly sought to provide fresh impetus in Dortmund’s attacking movements, which had at times been laboured, highlighting his incredible potential in a variety of ways.
"Of course I was nervous!," admitted 17-year-old with a chuckle. "As I was about to enter the game the head coach told me: 'Enjoy the experience, you can do it!' I have worked very hard for this day to come."
The dialogue on the sideline is just further proof of the belief Tuchel has in Pulisic, who rubbed shoulders with Marco Reus and Co during the teams' winter training camp in Dubai. Given the opportunity to prove himself alongside players of undeniable individual quality, the Hershey, Pennsylvania native didn’t look out of place.
Confident but level-headed
The fact that the versatile youngster scored twice in the mid-season friendlies he featured in was another important step in building his confidence and furthering his development according to Tuchel. "He has seen that he can keep up with the team and cope at this level," said the 45-year-old.
Although very self-assured and technically gifted, Pulisic also has the humility required in the early stages of what promises to be an incredible career. In reference to the balancing act in training he claimed that the younger players "have to have respect for the first-team players, but also compete for our place in the team on a daily basis".
Dortmund’s next big thing?
With the exception of Nuri Sahin and Mario Götze, Borussia Dortmund’s youth academy has fallen short of producing elite talent in the last decade. However, in the Bundesliga’s eighth youngest debutant, they may have discovered a rising star with mass appeal on either side of the Atlantic.
The Bundesliga's ten youngest debutants
Already a prominent performer for BVB’s title-chasing U-19 side, Pulisic is in the perfect position to seize upon an opportunity afforded to few players his age. In Tuchel, who describes the youngster as "always having a smile on his face", he has a coach who has a proven track record of developing talent at the highest level.
Furthermore, with Jonas Hofmann and Adnan Januzaj both leaving the club during the winter break, Pulisic is unlikely to be a one-and-done performer this season. His brief appearance on the weekend isn’t the only proof that he can play his part for the five-time German champions and, like Dortmund’s faithful, Tuchel is excited to see the American reach his full potential. “It gives me a lot of joy to have him around.”
Dietmar Nolte reporting from Dortmund