Who is Christian Pulisic and how did he make the Dortmund first team at 17?

Editor's Note

Christian Pulisic scored his first Bundesliga goal on Sunday, opening the scoring in Borussia Dortmund's 3-0 win over Hamburg. For those seeking deeper perspective on the rising US national team phenom, MLSsoccer.com's Greg Seltzer analyzed Pulisic's background, traits and abilities earlier this year.

Original Text – Jan. 31, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—Many stateside fans may be wondering who Christian Pulisic is after the American made his Bundesliga debut at the tender age of 17 in Saturday's victory over Ingolstadt. Per usual, we're here to help.

To get you well-acquainted with the hot prospect, let's hit the rewind button: We'll start from the beginning and walk you down the path he traveled to this encouraging Dortmund bow. 


The Pennsylvania native typically plays in the No. 10 role or as a left-wing attacker. He has excellent pace, and maintains a high technical level of play at top speed. He's not just fast and comfortable on the ball; the teenager also boasts impressive quickness and change-of-direction. Because of all this, Pulisic manages to avoid being pushed around despite being just 5-foot-8. 

He's also a heads-up dribbler, has an eye for the killer pass and finishes well. What's more, he has all the requisite intangible attributes to succeed: ambition, confidence and diligence in training. This full package earned him a place on The Guardian's annual  Top 50 Young Talents list back in October. 

"His strengths are his mentality, his speed and his skills," BvB Under-19s manager Hannes Wolf told Soccer America last month. "He is a team player and strong in every part of the game … Christian learned German very fast and is deeply respected by his teammates because of his personality and quality."


After playing junior club side Michigan Rush, Pulisic went onto star for  the close-to-home Pennsylvania Classics, a US Soccer Development Academy that has produced the likes of Houston defender David Horst and Portland wingback Zarek Valentin. While there, he enjoyed training stints at Barcelona, Chelsea, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Villarreal.

Pulisic eventually was called up by the US Under-14 national team and, three years ago, joined the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida. At the 2013 Nike Friendlies final, he was first seen by Dortmund, notching a goal and a helper in a big 4-1 win over Brazil. The club's interest only grew and Pulisic moved to Germany the following summer, signing a contract once his Croatian passport arrived in July. 

Pulisic started quickly with Dortmund's U-17 side, chalking up six goals and five assists in just eight matches. He was then promoted to the club's U-19 team at the start of the current season. There, he posted four goals and three assists in his first seven league games, with a brief international interruption in the middle. He joined the US team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in October, with a goal and an assist to his credit from three starts.

By winter, Pulisic was invited to train with Thomas Tuchel's senior BvB group and he officially was promoted to that roster in January. One of his first orders of business as a full-time Borussia Dortmund squad member was to net the capper in a friendly rout of South Korea's Jeonbuk Motors on January 15. He then added another friendly strike against Bobby Wood's Union Berlin nine days later. 


Pulisic entered Saturday's contest against Alfredo Morales and pesky guests Ingolstadt with the game still scoreless in the 68th minute. He was not directly involved in either goal play, but put in an encouraging shift. The youngster looked as if he belonged, beating two defenders on the dribble and completing three of six passes. All three of those incompletions were troublesome crosses from the left flank, including one that won a corner kick.

As to be expected, Pulisic was on cloud neun after this long-awaited debut, a victory that tentatively pulled second-place Dortmund within five points of league-leading holders Bayern Munich: "It was just great," Pulisic told the club website. "A special moment. I thought I was nervous. The coach said 'Enjoy it. You can do it. Have fun.'"

And so he did.