It’s a label that makes everyone in the American Soccer landscape cringe:
“The Future of American Soccer”
Ever since Freddy Adu’s failure to live up to the astronomical hype, young American Soccer prospects have been treated like scientists handling Weapons-Grade Plutonium. While we try to replicate everything the successful big nations achieve, we are scared to death of ruining young players with praise.
But it’s human nature to be excited about young talent, and so identifying talent and praising them for it should not be considered hype. More importantly, calling a player the future of an entire nation’s soccer program and labelling a player a great prospect are not the same thing.
Enter Christian Pulisic. Like many before him, he is considered a top prospect in the US youth system. Only 16 years old, Pulisic recently joined Borussia Dortmund. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania but has also obtained a Croatian passport, allowing him to sign with a club in Europe before turning 18. Most recently Pulisic trained with the BVB first team, even drawing praise from their manager Jurgen Klopp. Klopp told the German media:
He did a good job. He can kick the ball around really well. And in a very intense training session with narrow spaces, he did not stand out in a negative way. That is a real sign of quality.
While it’s not groundbreaking for a manager to praise a young player, for a manager who has coached the likes of Mario Götze, Marco Reus, and Shinji Kagawa to say things like that … you can’t help but take notice.
What sets Pulisic apart is his great technical ability and creativity. While he’s not a great “athlete” by other American sports standards, his first touch and composure on the ball make him an exciting talent. This video really highlights all of his abilities:
0:32 – His ability to pick out a pass before a play is fully developed is a skill very few Americans possess.
0:44 – His sublime first touch around the defender sets up his shot perfectly.
2:07 – Not only does he show great skill and composure but also has the strength to muscle through a challenge and finish.
2:24 – He can also attack defenders 1 v 1 with ability to keep close control of the ball.
1:39 – Mix all of his impressive skills together and he has the ability to pull of the truly spectacular moments.
While Pulisic probably classifies as a midfielder, his finishing is also well above average. It remains to be seen where his future position on the field will be. He’s shown glimpses of being a true number 10, but his one-versus-one ability also makes him an option as a winger.
Players with technical skill like Pulisic will be what takes US Soccer to the highest level, and once we start producing more and more players in the Pulisic mold, we won’t be tempted to overhype the few who emerge.
Christian Pulisic is not “The Future of American Soccer”. He’s simply a great prospect that we as fans and media should be excited about seeing develop. So let’s sit back, enjoy this young man’s skills, and hope for the best.