United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann preached the need for patience with Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic after the 17-year-old midfielder made his first Bundesliga start on Sunday.
U.S. under-20 playmaker Pulisic continued his dramatic ascent after the winter break by prying his way into Thomas Tuchel’s starting XI for the 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Pulisic featured for the first half before making way for Marco Reus at the interval.
Pulisic’s breakthrough amplifies questions about his place in the U.S. national team setup with the Olympic playoff against Colombia and the World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala quickly approaching next month.
Both assignments — plus the possibility of a call-up for the Copa América Centenario — are presumably in play if Pulisic receives regular minutes at Dortmund over the next few weeks, but Klinsmann is more focused on protecting the promising schemer and providing him with the necessary perspective as he adjusts to first-team football.
"I think it’s giving him compliments, giving him encouragement, but keeping things on the ground is very important right now," Klinsmann said after the Copa América Centenario draw on Sunday night. "I talk to his coach, I will talk to him and keep things balanced. That’s a lot for not even an 18-year-old. We’ll keep things grounded, but we are excited that we have a talent like him coming through the ranks."
Whether the excitement prompts Klinsmann to provide an extra push at some point this spring remains uncertain. Klinsmann included John Brooks and Julian Green in his squad for the World Cup in 2014, but he hedged on whether that sort of progression made sense for Pulisic at this stage of his development.
At this point, Klinsmann said he plans to focus on monitoring Pulisic’s development and weighing how to figure out and where to use him within the national team setup.
"Every kind of moment is different," Klinsmann said. "Every player situation is different. But it’s just to monitor him right now and see him getting minutes with Dortmund. It’s just exciting for us, there’s no doubt about it. What consequence that has towards the summer, we’ll see. We’ll take it one day at a time."