The day American soccer fans have quietly been waiting for has finally come. Christian Pulisic, the kid from Hershey, Pennsylvania that became a promising young star at Borussia Dortmund, will join Premier League giants Chelsea in the summer.
It’s safe to say this deal has changed the landscape of soccer for Americans on multiple levels.
Pulisic not only becomes one of the most expensive signings in the history of football, the 26th to be precise. But the 20-year-old winger is now far and away the most expensive US player of all time at £57 million. Obliterating the £20 million Wolfsburg paid for Hertha Berlin defender John Anthony Brooks.
The Pulisic Ripple Effect
Although Pulisic will stay at Dortmund for the rest of the season, his move to Chelsea has already sent ripples through the American soccer scene.
The deal not only shows that American players are now prized assets — both in playing ability and marketability — in the game that can go for big bucks. But also that USMNT fans now have a new player to admire from afar, which hasn’t been the case since Clint Dempsey left Tottenham for the Seattle Sounders. But how does that translate for the national team?
The US is a country still rebuilding from the nightmare of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. But finally, with the appointment of a full-time coach in Gregg Berhalter, USMNT supporters can finally start to look to the future — a future many thinks starts with Pulisic.
The flamboyant winger is arguably the best US player currently playing in world football. Pulisic’s extremely quick rise to fame in the public eye and on the pitch, making over 100 appearances for Dortmund before he even turned 20, has made him the latest, great big hope that American soccer fans love to dream about.
And this move to Chelsea rectifies that belief so many USMNT fans have in the 20-year-old. Both fans of the US soccer program and those who have faded away since missing out on Russia will see Pulisic’s rise and new signing as a beacon of hope for the start of the next cycle.
Can and will Pulisic give his all for Chelsea, or for his country? How will avid fans of other Premier League teams view Pulisic now versus the other members of the talented young class moving up to the senior ranks?
Club or Country?
Not that long ago representing your nation in the biggest sport on Earth was seen as one of the proudest and biggest landmarks of your career. Being a hero figure to your country and being the player to send your country to glory was always the dream of dreams for footballers.
Today, things are different.
Sure there are some players whose ultimate goal is to play internationally for their country. The popularity of club football now dominates not only what most people watch, but also where the majority of the money is pumped into. This is where Pulisic comes in.
The kid from Hershey is seen by many as the player that will lead this new golden generation of American talent to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. His Chelsea moves only validates their beliefs. That he could be the leading example for a squad that may genuinely challenge internationally if development patterns follow suit.
Of course, that’s a long time from now and a lot of matches to successfully see out for the US. World Cup qualifying for 2022 hasn’t even been announced yet, and Pulisic is yet to even appear in a Chelsea shirt. But for the 20-year-old, country will take priority.
Images of the then-teenager crying on the rugged pitch in Port of Spain after the USMNT’s loss to Trinidad will still be burned into the memories of fans watching that night. There is no doubt that Pulisic will be looking for redemption come The Hex.
And his path towards being a leader for the USMNT starts at Chelsea.
New Places, New Beginnings
Pulisic might be putting his country ahead of his club, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to roll over and take his paycheck sitting on the bench in London.
Sarri will want Pulisic to fight for his place, for him to develop as a player, and for him to become one of the stars in this new Chelsea team the Italian is trying to craft in his image.
Early reports and speculation suggest that Pulisic will play the ‘Dries Mertens role’ for Chelsea next season — a winger who loves to cut in and be the attacker rather than the creator, and not only does the American posses the ability to evolve into this kind of role, it’s a role that will benefit both club and country.
This was potentially a big event in Pulisic’s career and the USMNT’s growth. We will find out later this year in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Until then Chelsea returns to Premier League action, the USMNT focuses on their January camp and the new head coach’s system, and Christian Pulisic continues to wait out his time at Dortmund. The summer of 2019 is when it could all start to change for all three parties involved.