The sign of any truly great player is seen in how they respond in times of adversity and with one as young as Borussia Dortmund and USMNT star Christian Pulisic displaying maturity beyond his years with the chips down, you know a very rare talent has emerged.
And it was in just such a scenario - his Dortmund team appearing to be headed for a point against Hoffenheim on Matchday 17 - that Pulisic produced the goods to propel the hosts to an important home win. Latching onto a through pass in the closing seconds, the only outcome appeared a goal, yet as he cleverly lifted the ball over goalkeeper Oliver Baumann before applying a simple finish, the watching world was again left amazed by the enormity of the young American's talent.
Watch: You voted Pulisic's Matchday 17 winner was the December Goal of the Month!
Has there ever been a player who, having battled brilliantly through his club’s youth ranks in a culture and language different to his own, has then responded to his superstar status not only with humility, but a responsibility that often beggars belief on shoulders as young as his? At just 19, Pulisic has become the voice of America’s footballing nation, all the while looking to lead by example in a Dortmund side who have recently lost their way.
Watch: Christian Pulisic - Dortmund's attacking example!
The on-field numbers are already there, the Hershey-native boasting better stats than recent Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi produced at Pulisic’s age. By Matchday 4, when he was still 18 for example, the youngster had played 60 games for Dortmund, more than Ronaldo or Messi had managed at that age. The youngest non-German player to chalk up 50 Bundesliga appearances, the flying winger has already scored ten goals in an impressive 75 games across all competitions for Die Schwarzgelben.
Attempting 291 dribbles and managing a 76.2% successful pass rate in Germany’s top division offers an insight into just the type of threat Pulisic represents to opposition defences, numbers many players with far more experience could only dream of.
What’s more, where most teenagers in the limelight would understandably seek shelter and comfort in times of strife, Pulisic has chosen to come to the fore. Dortmund’s travails this term have been well documented, with BVB struggling to adapt to their recently departed coach Peter Bosz’s ways. Yet Pulisic has offered consistency throughout a trying campaign, his pace, vision and willingness to take on opponents providing the Black and Yellow faithful with moments to savour.
Watch: Pulisic has already produced historical moments for Dortmund fans!
The USMNT’s failure to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup hit the teenager hard and caused him to pause and reflect. He subsequently penned an article that provided distraught footballing fans across his nation with plenty to ponder looking ahead. “I’m not a prodigy – or a ‘wonderboy,’ as some have put it,” Pulisic insisted.
“I think – I hope – that we’re going to be able to build something, here, with US Soccer, where it’s not just going to be about one lost match, or one lost cycle, or one lost team. It’s going to be about an entire country, rallying around an entire sport, in a way that lasts,” he said in his piece published in the Players’ Tribune.
Pulisic registered five goals in eight of the USMNT’s qualifiers while also displaying his versatility in being able to play off the front two, as in the 2-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago, when he scored twice, some of the feats that earned him the 2017 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year award.
And so for the teenager who scored Dortmund’s 3,000th goal, the stakes are getting ever higher. The aim to help reignite his country’s footballing fortunes is a tremendous one while seeking to be a key contributor in coach Peter Stöger’s BVB revolution is a certainty. His latest feat in helping to down Hoffenheim and send Dortmund into the winter break with back-to-back Bundesliga victories will only help to highlight why this 19-year-old is the best teen around.