When the opening whistle blew to begin Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago, history was made. 17-year-old Christian Pulisic became the youngest player ever to start such a match for the Americans.
This is just five days after setting the record for youngest American to ever score in a qualifier. It’s been a pretty darn good week for the highly touted phenom. But for Pulisic, it’s basically par for the course as far as his 2016 has gone. This time last year he was just arriving at Borussia Dortmund’s under-19 team, now he’s a part of their Champions League roster and is becoming a vital member of the U.S. national team.
While many around American soccer have begged for caution when hyping up Christian Pulisic, he’s made it virtually impossible with his consistent impact performances. Any time praise would go his way the “hype train” jokes would begin to fly. While there are no official rules on what a “hype train” entails, one has to wonder when does such a thing finally reach its destination?
Pulisic will soon be able to answer that question if he continues along his current path. On Tuesday night, he not only held his own against a very respectable Trinidad and Tobago side, but he was arguably the most impactful play on the field.
It seemed that every U.S. player was looking to find the youngster’s feet in the attack any time a chance presented itself. When the ball did come his way, he had one focus and that was to go forward and put the defense on their heels.
Jurgen Klinsmann has preached about a “proactive” style of play since day one. Christian Pulisic’s demeanor and attitude in the attack and on the ball exudes confidence and personifies that “proactive” idea. Which is why, after all the mixed messages in the media about playing it safe and taking it one step at a time, Klinsmann finally gave in and started him in a meaningful match.
With comparisons to Landon Donovan being heaped onto his back, he took full advantage of his opportunity. Is this truly the beginning of the Christian Pulisic era of the USMNT? While it’s too early to say just yet, performances like this one will certainly point to that being the case.
The real measure of where Pulisic lies within the national team structure is what his role will be on November 11th when the USMNT host bitter rivals Mexico to begin the Hex. Is he ready for such a big moment and occasion? Is Klinsmann ready to trust him in such a match? Or will the reins be tightened in favor of conservation?
There’s a long ways between now and November. While T&T was is coming out party, if Pulisic can eek out some minutes for Borussia Dortmund, there’s a very good chance that Mexico in Columbus could be his coronation.