An American In Dortmund: Pulisic Seizes The Spotlight
This is a new column for the site from a slightly different perspective. Every week, we will take a look at the performance of Christian Pulisic, BVB’s “Captain America”, to track his development on the world stage and seeing if he is living up to the high expectations placed upon him. This column is focused on American fans of Pulisic and BVB, so for some BVB this may be redundant or narrowly focused; however, it is also an opportunity to track one of the Bundesliga’s brightest stars through his development.
It was a big week for Christian Pulisic. The American phenom turned 19 years old and the Bundesliga hype machine noted that he was better than Ronaldo and Messi at that age. Now, the metrics used were slightly misleading: Pulisic at this age has more club goals and caps for his country than the other two, but what that fails to account for is the circumstances. Ronaldo (Sporting CP and Manchester United) and Messi (Barca) played on deeper clubs and represent countries that relied less on them at that age. Still, the infographic caught attention and highlight just how good the Hersey, PA product has been as a professional.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 20, 2017
BVB fans know the actual production has been more mixed, and for a club used to developing world-class talent, this was not unexpected. However, Pulisic did much to push the narrative of his blooming stardom in the league this past week. Notably, against Hamburg on Wednesday, he scored the club’s 3,000th Bundesliga goal. Afterwards, he was the featured interview and focus of much media attention although his goal had been the third in a thorough victory. The Hamburg match, however, had shown exactly why the world is high on him. Faced with a shortened bench due to injury, Pulisic shined on the wings. His runs down the wing caused issued all night for the slowed Hamburg defence and he used judiciously his judgment on when to push the ball forward and speed by a flat-footed defender, and when to pull back and use his footwork. It was the later that helped him set up Aubameyang’s second goal. At times he does fall into a bad habit of holding the ball too long and trying to take on too much, but this is not unusual for a young player. The sin is that for a club with so much talent, he does not need to be selfish.
For an American viewer, this is the hardest thing to reconcile. For the national team, Pulisic needs to be the creative force behind the attack; he is (maybe by far) the most talented offensive player for his country and thus needs more often to try and “make something happen”. When with his club, his development will focus more on the team component and fitting into the system. With a number of players returning, he will be rotated (see yesterday’s match) so next time we will examine how he is dealing again with the increased competition for time.