Christian Pulisic has been called up to the United States national team for Tuesday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Guatemala, continuing a rapid ascent for the 17-year-old. Pulisic will be joined on the U.S. team by Graham Zusi, who has also been added to the squad, while Fabian Johnson has been sent back to Borussia Monchengladbach because of a groin injury that is still causing him problems.
That Pulisic is with the senior team already is mind-boggling, but most of the last year has been unbelievable for the teenager. He was hailed as one of the best young American players for years and signed with Borussia Dortmund last January, at the age of 16. That made fans take notice and wonder if he would be able to make good on his considerable talent, but nobody could have envisioned him being this good, this quickly.
After a year dominating the youth tanks, Dortmund added Pulisic to the first team in January. By the end of the month, he had made his Bundesliga debut and three weeks later, he got his first start. All of this came at 17 years old for the second place team in one of the world’s best leagues.
Now Pulisic is going to play with the U.S. national team. He would have been with the team last week in Guatemala, but a slight injury kept him from making the trip. Now healthy, he will get his first look at what the senior team is like.
Odds are that Pulisic will not play on Tuesday. He may not even make the bench. This could be entirely about getting him comfortable with the senior team by having him train with them, something Jurgen Klinsmann has done with other young players. But the fact that Klinsmann is already looking to get the 17-year-old involved is notable.
Pulisic is the type of skillful and creative player that the U.S. has struggled to produce. He’s not just a talented kid either, having made Dortmund’s first team and played in the Bundesliga. It’s way too early to be convinced that he’s a star in the making, but with actual first team experience about adults, the excitement surrounding him is more legitimate than most every other young American. And most talented 17-year-olds from any country too.
While Pulisic is the future, the U.S. has a big problem in the present that is most important. They need to beat Guatemala in Columbus, OH on Tuesday or will be in great danger of missing the World Cup. That job will be made harder by the absence of Johnson, who came into U.S. camp with a groin injury and never figured to be fit enough to play. That has proven to be true and while Zusi is coming in to take his place, he’s not half the player that the spectacular Johnson is. The Americans are not near full-strength, but neither are Guatemala, and the U.S. are much more talented than Los Chapines, so they should still be fine.