Scout report: Profiling Christian Pulisic, the young American making waves in Germany
Pulisic's stock as a footballer continues to rise with every passing match day.
One of the aspects of German football that has made them world beaters is their insistence on the right mix of players being recruited from abroad at an early age as well as their own youth developmental set up.
The German league arguably boasts of some of the best talents in the game when it comes to young players and one club, in particular, has set the trend with their proven track record for developing young players, Borussia Dortmund.
The club’s famed academy has already given the footballing community the likes of Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan and Shinji Kagawa in recent years and has certain hot prospects for the future in the form of Ousmane Dembele and Emre Mor.
Another player who is making waves with his performances is the young American, Christian Pulisic.
In this segment, we look at what makes the 18-year-old so special.
Born in Hershey, Pennsylvania on 18th September 1998, Pulisic learned the tricks of the trade at the US Soccer Development Academy Club PA Classics between 2008 and 2015. The youngster was always destined for greater things even at a very young age and it did not come as a surprise to many when he was invited to train with his local club Harrisburg City Islanders as a teenager.
However, for the player to truly achieve his potential, it was necessary that he move to a better league with a proven track record of developing youngsters. That opportunity came in 2015 when German heavyweights, Dortmund, decided to sign the then 16-year-old. He was immediately assigned to the side’s U-17 team and made an instant impact.
He scored 10 goals and assisted another eight for the club’s youth sides and with Thomas Tuchel and co. always willing to bring in new blood, he was called up to the senior Dortmund squad during the winter break of the 2015-16 season.
The attacking midfielder/winger made his Bundesliga debut on 30th January 2016 when he came on to replace Adrian Ramos against FC Ingolstadt.
After being restricted to bit-part appearances during the last season, Pulisic has found game time easier to come by in the current season and has already featured in 28 games (16 of them being starts).
Style of play and strengths
The 18-year-old primarily operates as a central attacking midfielder. However, he is capable of operating on either of the wings as well as a playmaker when presented with an opportunity.
The one aspect of his game that catches the eye is his speed on the ball. Pulisic is not afraid to take on his man and beat him with his pace and skill on the ball. He has showcased great close control and a low centre of gravity allows him to create space for himself even with numerous defenders closing in.
In the season thus far, the talented teenager has attempted 85 take-ons and come out on top on 49 occasions, which is an indication of how good he is at beating his man. Another aspect of his game that is truly jaw dropping is his movement off the ball, as the 18-year-old has shown an ability to find pockets of spaces in attacking oppositions, thereby stretching opposition’s defences.
With his abilities on the ball, it is only obvious that Pulisic creates a number of opportunities when he is on the pitch. He has so far created 25 goal scoring opportunities for his attacking colleagues, with seven of them resulting in goals.
Further, having scored four goals himself thus far in the season, the American’s stock as an attacking threat is continuing to rise with every match day.
Playing on the wings often requires players to drop back and help out the defence and Pulisic is more than a willing contributor. He is not afraid to launch into tackles when needed and also makes vital interceptions in the middle of the park.
Perhaps Pulisic’s biggest area of concern is his physicality. He is starting to attract attention from the opposition defenders and with footballers these days often flying into strong tackles, Pulisic will need to improve his physique to continue his growth as a player.
Another aspect of his game that needs to improve is his decision making. While he remains level-headed, he has a tendency to make poor decisions whilst in possession, often misplacing passes or making the wrong pass, however, with the right approach in training and help from his coaches, he should be able to improve on this aspect.
One person who has been involved with Pulisic since his arrival in Germany is BVB’s U-19 coach Hannes Wolf and the youth coach has been vocal in his appreciation for the youngster.
Wolf was quoted as saying, “Pulisic’s strengths are his mentality, his speed and his skills. He is a team player and strong in every part of the game. Christian learned German very fast and is deeply respected by his teammates because of his personality and quality”.
The 18-year-old has constantly been linked with Liverpool having impressed the former Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp with his abilities. However, he recently signed a contract extension with Dortmund that keeps him at the club until the end of the 2019-20 season, thus ending all the speculation concerning his future.
The goal for the player would largely be establishing himself as a Borussia Dortmund starter and also helping the US Men’s national team make the big step up amongst the footballing elite.
He already has 11 appearances for the USMNT and given his performances for club and country, it would be fair to say that he could go on to become one of the mainstays of the USMNT for a long time to come.