Pulisic's grandfather Mate was born in Croatia on the island of Olib
Christian Pulisic, born in 1998, is a promising American soccer player. The photo is from 2014, where he is at the age of 16. His grandfather Mate on the father's side is Croatian, born on the island of Olib.
How was the next star of American soccer, Christian Pulisic, created?
By Joe Prince-Wright, Nov 10, 2016,
Christian Pulisic has the weight of a nation on his teenage shoulders.
This was always the plan for the Hershey, Pennsylvania native, now just 18 years old and being hailed as the next great hope of American soccer by his coaches and teammates, plus pundits and fans.
Working away in the foothills of the Appalachian mountain range in central Pennsylvania, Pulisic grew up with an incessant hunger to achieve. He would often take his training and games seriously, very seriously, but he was guided by a close-knit group of soccer experts and enthusiasts who led him on the path to greatness.
His parents Mark and Kelley were both standout players at George Mason University, while Mark went on to be a star for indoor soccer team the Harrisburg Heat. Along the way he met Steve Klein and Bob Lilley, two former pros and now coaches who would help form a tight knit unit to help nurture Pulisic’s prodigious talent.
Still, his rapid ascension has stunned everyone. Even those closest to him who knew of his special ability from a young age.
At the age of 15 Pulisic was spending training stints with Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Porto, PSV Eindhoven, Villarreal and Borussia Dortmund. He plumped for the latter as the scouts started to flock to watch him play after standing out as a 15-year-old in the U.S. U17 side which beat Brazil in the prestigious Nike International Friendlies tournament in December 2013. Dortmund watched him again in a tournament in Turkey a few months later and the rest is history.
Pulisic’s story gives thousands of others hope that the USA can indeed become a breeding ground for talented, creative players capable of performing on the biggest stages on the planet, as he has done in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League with Dortmund as a starter this season. He is 18.
Ahead of the huge 2018 World Cup qualifier against Mexico on Friday, he is ready to rise as the next star of the USMNT and is expected to start for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.
As far as the U.S. soccer community is concerned: this is Christian Pulisic’s world and we are all just living in it.
What goes in to making a superstar, international caliber soccer player? It is the question which has baffled the American soccer system for decades.
In Pulisic’s case it was lots of hours of training. But not too much. Does that go against everything you’ve ever heard? Probably.
At the age of 10, 11 and 12 he was getting offers from all over the place to play in three or four travel teams but his close circle of father figures steered him in the right direction. Train more and play less was the simple mantra.
The Pennsylvanian Classics, a highly respected youth team Pulisic played for from the age of 10-15, agreed with these principles.
Steve Klein is the director of coaching with the PA Classics and a close family friend of the Pulisic’s. Klein knew Christian from the age of four and he believes one of the key things for youngsters growing up and playing the game in the U.S. is to play for less teams.
“From the age of 6-9, he was playing other sports. The family weren’t just all soccer. There was never a situation where it was just one sport and that was it. But definitely at a young age, he loved soccer the most and I know he would play on his own in the back yard with his dad. He was always playing,” Klein told ProSoccerTalk. “The one thing I would say for sure about his dad, mom and the family, he never played for multiple soccer teams. A lot of these kids, and this is something we struggled with at our soccer club a lot of times, kids just want to play so much, so many games and guest for so many teams. They never did that.
“We never had him playing for two teams in the club. He would play for an older age group and we never put him down into a younger age group just to win a State Cup. He would get opportunities to go and play at the Dallas Cup with teams from other states but he would never do that. I would say he played a ton of soccer but all the extra was on his own in his backyard. He played a lot but he was not playing on two or three teams.”
Did that lack of playing games help Pulisic develop his sublime first touch, passing and dribbling skills?
“For sure. That’s what we try to tell people in our club. You tell them you don’t need to play for multiple teams. You can play every day but it needs to be on your own terms, at home doing stuff on your own,” Klein said. “Kids get burned out when they play on multiple teams. They don’t necessarily get burned out when they’re playing every day. If the kid is going into the backyard to do something, that’s because he wants to do it. You know he is choosing to do that. Kids aren’t always choosing when their parents are driving them to places. They are just going along for the ride.”
Pulisic wasn’t along for the ride.
He would spend hours in his backyard, practicing drills and skills rather than endless running around and chasing the ball in a crowd of other players. In the same way golfers spend hours on chips and putting rather than trudging around a course, Pulisic was honing his first touch, his Cruyff turn and his dribbling. It sounds simple, but the truth is far too many kids are pushed into the “play, play, play” mantra by parents and their coaches at a young age.
Klein, he was also an assistant coach for the U.S. youth U14 side, always had the feeling there was something special about Pulisic. Even though he was always one of the smallest players on the pitch.
“We have been friends of the family since he was a little kid. I knew Christian when he first started playing when he was four, five, six years old. We kind of watched him grow up and you could definitely tell at seven, eight years old that he definitely had some ability at that age. No one at that age would have been thinking he is doing what he’s doing now,” Klein revealed. “You definitely knew at an early age that he was going to be a very good player. Without a doubt. At those ages, it was just his feet… and at such a young age he had a sense on how to play through balls. You could see he had some natural instincts.”
Those natural instincts have been nurtured expertly at PA Classics, within the U.S. youth national team setup and now at Dortmund since Pulisic moved to Germany at the age of 15. Jurgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the U.S. national team, revealed his delight about Pulisic’s development and onward potential.
“This player’s potential is limitless,” Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “I’ve always said, you need to write your own story and he’s doing it right now. I think it’s rare in America for a player to be so developed at such an early age, but in Europe if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. He’s taken things in his own hands. He’s the piece of the puzzle we were hoping for this year and he’s a great example to other young players about how to go for it – to play at the highest level and prove yourself.”
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