He’s lightning quick, highly ambitious and admits he’s getting better with each passing week, and with Christian Pulisic in full flight, it may only be a matter of time before Borussia Dortmund are flourishing once more under recently appointed coach Peter Bosz.
Following an electric start to 2017/18 – when Die Schwarzgelben won six of their opening seven Bundesliga games – last season’s third-place finishers are currently enduring a run of five matches without a win. Yet in the 19-year-old Pulisic, BVB have a player setting a solid standard as they look to steady the ship.
Watch: Pulisic - Dortmund's star attraction in action!
“I am playing every week in the Bundesliga, in the Champions League, against top teams; when you do that every week, you are going to improve,” the Hershey-born star said in an interview with The Independent. “When you play against the best players, you’re going to grow. I’m learning a lot: tactically, technically, gaining strength.”
Incredibly, Pulisic is already in his third season at Dortmund, the club for whom he debuted at just 17 in January 2016. Yet as the player with 20 USMNT caps explains, things would not have progressed quite as quickly without the assistance of his paternal Croatian grandfather Mate.
On acquiring a Croatian passport with the assistance of that country’s football federation, Pulisic was deemed an E.U. citizen and could thus join the Dortmund academy at an earlier age, as opposed to having had to wait until he turned 18.
“I wouldn’t have been able to play U-17, U-19, I wouldn’t have been able to play for any of these teams,” he told The Independent. “And I made my pro debut when I was 17. Obviously you imagine: what if I had to wait to show my abilities until I was 18, how far behind I would have been. As opposed to how it actually happened for me.
“I knew I would need that passport, but I knew I had the chance to get it,” he added. “It was a little bit of a process, but luckily it went through when I was still 16. That gave me the ability to play, so it has helped me so much.”
Painting a picture of what life was like for him as a young teenager arriving in one of Europe’s biggest leagues and looking to impress at world renowned Borussia Dortmund, Pulisic said, “When I came here, nobody knew who I was, nobody really cared.
It was me against all the other players fighting for positions. Coming here, nothing was easy, and I worked for it all. What I learned is that nothing is given easy to you. Nothing was going to be spoon-fed to me. If I made a mistake, the coaches were going to let me know, and tell me right away what I can do better. That’s why it was a huge step in my development, and the perfect environment for me.”
Pulisic and his Dortmund teammates have been looking to channel that fighting spirit in recent weeks as they try to find a way to reverse a winless sequence that began with a loss away to RB Leipzig in mid October. Indeed the Bundesliga’s youngest foreign-born scorer said that Dortmund’s players were, “starting to build an understanding,” of coach Bosz’s methods.
As he learns to adapt, the fundamentals of what make Pulisic tick are all too apparent when he speaks of his love for the game. “I love having the ball, just running with it, and going through difficult situations,” he said.
“It’s just fun for me whenever I have it.” Asked about improvements he would like to make to his game, the BVB youngster said, “I’m working on my final ball, my precision in front of goal, my one-on-one attacking ability, just new ways to beat defenders and help my team.”
Despite his disappointment at failing to reach the FIFA World Cup finals with the USMNT, Pulisic is hopeful for the future, especially with players like Schalke’s Weston McKennie – whom Pulisic will face in the Revierderby at the weekend – coming through.
“It’s amazing for me to see a kid my age [like McKennie] do the same thing,” he acknowledged. For now, it’s domestic and European duty at his club that requires Pulisic’s full attention, and he insists he will, “continue to give the best I can with Dortmund. I think we can turn things around quick.”