When Joe Gyau was brought into Borussia Dortmund’s academy there was a lot of excitement.
Although there have been several US players who have played abroad over the past few decades, there have been very few who started on elite teams in Europe. Despite their troubles this year, Borussia Dortmund is regarded as one of the elite teams in Europe, and its academy is credited with churning out a multitude of talented players.
When American teenager Christian Pulisic was offered the opportunity to also join the Borussia Dortmund’s academy, it seemed only natural that he jumped at the chance, even though he had to leave his family and friends for a strange new life in the industrial city of Dortmund.
Christian Pulisic was born in 1998 to Mark and Kelley Pulisic in Hershey, Pennsylvania. His soccer genes can be attributed to his parents, who both played and later coached soccer at George Mason University in Virginia. His dad was also a professional indoor soccer star with the Harrisburg Heat. Christian himself gained some professional experience. albeit at a lesser level. Prior to joining Dortmund’s academy he played for the USL PRO Harrisburg City Islanders. He has also gained some valuable experience playing during various trials at several different academies across Europe. Chelsea and Barcelona were just two of the clubs that offered him trials, making it clear that there was no shortage of choices once Christian decided he wanted to train in Europe.
While growing up, Christian was blessed with a wealth of experiences. During his formative years his dad coached him, always pushing him to challenge himself. As Christian’s career progressed, he left his father’s team for the PA Classics and then joined the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Florida. In Florida’s program he became the youngest player in the program. Later he was fortunate to have one of the most important experiences in his young career. In 2005-2006 he and his family lived in England, where soccer is an integral part of the nation’s culture. This year abroad deepened Christian’s love for the game and prepared him for life in Dortmund, where he once again lives and plays in a soccer-obsessed culture.
Playing for U-17 USYT Christian Pulisic typically occupies the number 10 role. It takes a unique player to occupy this position. A player in the number 10 role has to be able to set-up attacks; he also needs the scoring prowess to finish in front of the net. This takes a special type of talent.
At 5’5 and 120 pounds, Christian is not a particularly impressive physical specimen. However, players such as Lionel Messi have proven that players do not have to fit a certain physical mold in order to be effective. Also, because he is only 16, Christian has plenty of time to grow and develop. And he will, with the help of his trainers at Borussia Dortmund.
American soccer fans are always looking for the next soccer prodigy. The weight this expectation puts on the shoulders of talented players such as Christian can ultimately derail their careers. Therefore, it is important to note that Christian Pulisic, although very talented, is not necessarily the number 10 America is looking for now that Landon Donovan has retired. Young American players have notoriously had a tough time being the fish out of water at foreign academies. And the extra element of the German language barrier only adds to the struggle that Christian will face at Borussia Dortmund’s academy. There is a big positive here, though, and that is that Christian recognizes the need to travel abroad in order to achieve his full potential. At the present time, soccer academies in the US are just not good enough to provide the exceptional training developing players require.
While playing in America, Christian was most likely the best player on all of his club teams. At Borussia Dortmund, he is just another talented youngster looking to prove himself. With the quality coaching staff and emphasis on youth that Dortmund’s academy provides, Christian has a solid chance to reach his potential. Although he has many years before he can even think about starting for the first team, rest assured that the training staff at the academy will do their best to get him there. And, if in the end he fails to make the first team, it is very likely that the training he receives will be good enough land him on another European squad.
It will be several more years before Christian Pulisic factors into the USMNT. While he will surely get a few call-ups here and there from Jurgen Klinsman, he has a lot to prove in his career before he becomes an integral part of the team. Borussia Dortmund is a world-class team with a world-class academy, so although Christian Pulisic will get the best training money can buy, he will also face extremely stiff competition for a first team spot. If he breaks into the first-team at Borussia Dortmund, then he could arguably be the best player on the USMNT. However, if he gets sold to a lesser Bundesliga or EPL club, he can still be an important player for the USMNT, although there is no guarantee.
Because he is so young, Christian Pulisic has the opportunity to spend the next few years playing in the midst of excellent competition. At Borussia Dortmund, he is on the right path so far. And, if he is lucky to make it onto the first team and his career falls under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, then the sky is the limit. The American soccer fans that have watched him closely certainly hope Borussia Dortmund’s academy will help him fulfill his potential.