Christian Pulisic now wants to be seen as “a leader” and “the present” of the USA national team with the Borussia Dortmund star determined to steer his country back to centre stage of the global game.
Pulisic is just 19, but made his USMNT debut back in March 2016 — becoming his nation's youngest-ever debutant — and he already has nine goals and 21 caps to his name.
With the experience of 70 Bundesliga games for Dortmund and having tested himself in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and Copa America, Pulisic believes people should now disregard his age and only consider his qualities when he pulls on his country’s colours.
"I know what they say: the future, the wonderboy, the kid from Hershey. It's nice, but it's not really what I want to hear anymore. I don't want to be perceived as the future, or a boy, or a kid. I want to be seen as the present. I want to be known as a leader," Pulisic declared to ussoccer.com as part of their new series 'RISING: Emerging Faces of the U.S. Men's National Team'.
"I'm really excited to see young Americans getting their chance with the men's national team. I hope we can build upon a new group."
The USA's failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup was a bitter disappointment to Pulisic, who was not only devastated at missing out on his "biggest dream", but also highlighted the negative impact it might have on the sport's development State-side.
'I'd love to be a leader'
Ever keen to accentuate the positive, the teenager also views that low point as an opportunity for him to now step up and have a major influence in shaping a successful future that will lead to Qatar 2022.
"I'm going to give everything I can to put the team in the best shape possible. I definitely feel responsibility for helping to get us back to the World Cup. You know, I feel that I let some people down. I guess I just kind of want to make up for that and I'm going to continue giving everything for that reason," the Pennsylvania-born star explained.
"I would love to act as a leader for all the young players on the team. Of course I'm still a younger player myself, but I'm always there for these other younger players to talk through whenever they need it. I think my biggest role is just leading by example. It has always been my goal to inspire other Americans to do what I do. I'm happy to act as a leader to any young American."
'It's been cool'
Pulisic is already playing that part in Germany where the most high-profile of the fledgling American talent in Europe gathers together fellow young stars like Schalke's Weston McKennie and Haji Wright, fostering a positive relationship that has crossed the usually fractious Ruhr Valley divide and that can only bode well for the USA.
"I definitely have a good relationship with all the American players. We're pretty much talking every day. When we all have a free day or something, we all try to get together. I've had all the guys over here one time for a little party and you know, just to kind of get everyone together, talk about what’s going on and have a good time," said Pulisic, who is delighted more and more of his compatriots are now following the pioneering example he set.
"I mean, I was kind of the first one to be here and break through. It's been cool having other guys [do it], and seeing other guys doing what I was doing. It’s really exciting for me. Of course, seeing other Americans succeed is everything that I want."