Longtime US national team goal keeper and one-time captain Tim Howard recently called young US starlet Christian Pulisic a "prodigy." And while that may not be much of a stretch, it brings up the notion that Pulisic could be the best player to ever come out of the United States.
"I think Christian is what you call a prodigy. I think every now and again, every 10 or 15 years or so, you get one of those. It's hard to explain how he's so talented, why he's so talented, why he's so fearless at such a young age. It's not normal."
Landon Donovan is widely regarded as the best American ever, and he has the numbers to prove it. After all, he is the all-time leading goal scorer for the national team. However Donovan never performed on the highest stage, and certainly not at 18-years-old. Sure, he went to Everton for a short loan spell and did well enough that the British club wanted to bring him on full time, but he never sustained that level of play at that level.
While Pulisic may not be his club's best player (yet), no one can deny his talent. He was brought on to Borussia Dortmund's first team last year at 17, and became their youngest player ever to appear in a Champions League match last month, a 6-0 win over Legia Warsaw. And for good measure, Pulisic notched an assist - as if his talent and effort in that game needed validation.
For country, US men's national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann recognizes the talent, and showed so by making him the youngest US player to play in a FIFA World Cup qualifier last month. Sure enough, Pulisic rewarded Klinsmann by notching a goal in the match, making him also the youngest US player to ever score in a World Cup qualifier.
What makes it even more impressive is the fact that Pulisic is doing all this in German. It takes a special adolescent to uproot himself as a teen, plop himself in a completely foreign land and culture and have to perform and learn in a language that is as tough as the German language.
Nevertheless, expectations need to be tempered at the moment and patience preached. The worst thing would be to rush the youngster and have him crash and burn, a la Freddy Adu. But doesn't mean we US soccer fans can't dream big, and the US program may have found the center piece to fit between all the other young pieces they are nurturing - coincidentally most are plying their trade in Germany as well. There must be something that the Germans know about us that we don't.
Photo: Flickr/Dan Farrimond