17-year-old American Christian Pulisic gets Bundesliga debut
Feb. 05, 2016
BERLIN (AP) — Christian Pulisic made a big impression in less than half an hour.
The 17-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania, made his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund last Saturday, entering before a crowd of 81,359 in the 68th minute of a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt.
"Unbelievable, just the experience, to train with these guys every day and then going out and playing in front of these amazing fans," Pulisic said. "It was just an amazing experience."
At 17 years and 133 days, Pulisic became the eighth-youngest player to appear in the Bundesliga. He had 12 touches of the ball, completed half of his eight passes and ran 1.75 miles.
"Christian showed in the game the courage he shows in training," Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel said.
Pulisic stayed on the field long after the final whistle, cherishing his achievement.
"I dreamed about these moments when I was younger, and yeah, of course I was a little bit nervous," Pulisic said, "but when the ball comes to your foot, then it all goes away and you're just focused on the match and trying to win the game."
Tuchel had a hand in settling any nerves Pulisic may have had before running out in front of so many passionate football fans. Dortmund's stadium is known for its Gelbe Wand (Yellow Wall) of 24,454 fans during league games: Europe's biggest standing-terrace.
"The coach simply told me to enjoy it, have fun. 'You can do it, you can play,'" Pulisic said.
And on Thursday, Tuchel added Pulisic to his roster for the Europa League, the continent's No. 2 club competition behind the Champions League.
A son of soccer-mad parents Mark (a former Harrisburg Heat star) and Kelley, Pulisic played club soccer for the Michigan Rush and then the Pennsylvania Classics in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
National team program scouts spotted him playing for Pennsylvania Classics under-16s and he was among 80 played invited to a U.S. under-14 camp. Pulisic joined the U.S. under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Florida, in August 2013, and he quickly established himself as a leading figure for the American under-17s.
Dortmund scouts noticed him at the 2013 Nike Friendlies, where he was MVP, and the Aegean Cup tournament in Turkey in January 2014, which the U.S. under-17s won.
Pulisic moved with his father to Germany that July while he awaited Croatian citizenship, which he was eligible for through his grandfather. He joined Dortmund's under-17 team in February 2015, quickly earned a promotion to the under-19 side and became a key member with outstanding performances.
Skillful, fast, and comfortable shooting with either foot, Pulisic can operate in the center of the field or on either wing in an advanced position.
Despite a first-round elimination for the U.S. at last year's Under-17 World Cup in Chile, Pulisic played well. And Tuchel included Pulisic on Dortmund's squad that traveled to Dubai for a training camp during the Bundesliga's winter break.
Playing alongside stars such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, Pulisic scored in an exhibition win over South Korea's Jeonbuk, then got another goal during the break in a 3-1 exhibition win at Union Berlin on Jan. 24.
Just one week later, Pulisic made his senior competitive debut.
"He could see," Tuchel said, "that he can live with the team at this level."