As a 19-year-old, Christian Pulisic will have his moments, up and down, for the U.S. national team. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Christian Pulisic is good. He can be very good. He has so much potential to be the best American soccer player to grace the field.
But please, please don’t expect him to be a miracle worker at the age of 19.
After watching the 60 Minutes piece on CBS about the Borussia Dortmund midfielder Sunday night, I get the feeling that many Americans will expect him to do great things right here, right now. I cringed when it was mentioned that Pulisic had scored more goals than the great Lionel Messi at the same age.
Don’t ever compare any player to Messi. It’s not fair.
The problem is, anyone who watched the program is equating Pulisic to the Argentine international.
Christian Pulisic will have flashes of brilliance. We have witnessed it over the last year.
He also can look like an ordinary player, as he was against Honduras in last month’s World Cup qualifier in Central America. Los Catrachos decided to focus on stopping him and they did their job, for the most part, in the heat and humidity of San Pedro Sula.
Except for a handful of truly exceptionally talented players, the most recent being Landon Donovan, the U.S. soccer fan is longing for the next Great American Hope to lead the country, game in and game out.
We have seen too many players with great potential — domestic and international — come back down to earth after being touted the next Pele, Maradona, Messi or Ronaldo.
From the U.S. perspective, I call it the Freddy Adu syndrome. Signed by Major League Soccer as a 14-year-old, Adu never met the expectations thrown at him by the league and media.
Most likely other countries have their versions of Adu, teenagers packing so much talent, so much potential, but falling short of grabbing the brass ring, whether it be attitude, lack of talent, circumstances or injury.
Like it or not, it is part of sports.
As good as Pulisic is right now, you get the feeling that he is going to improve as he absorbs the game while tackling more challenges, whether it be in the Bundesliga or the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
In fact, he should be entering his prime time soon. An attacking player’s best years usually are from 22 to 30. He’s three years from that.
Of course, those are just numbers. Players mature and grow and wilt according to their talent, bodies and injuries, not what has transpired to other players before or what is the statistical norm.
So when the U.S. takes the field against Panama in a vital World Cup qualifier in Orlando Friday night, please, please don’t expect miracles from Pulisic.
Who knows? He could play well, dominate, set up a key or the winning goal against Los Canaleros or vs. Trinidad & Tobago Tuesday night.
But to expect a 19-year-old American to bend steel in his bare feet every time he walks onto a soccer field is unfair.
He is only growing and should get better.
Saying that, Christian Pulisic is one entertaining player to watch, thanks to his skill, pace, vision and a maturity beyond his years.
Let’s just enjoy the show instead of expecting the greatest show on earth every time out.