6. Christian Pulisic breaks through at Borussia Dortmund
The word started filtering out in January: Christian Pulisic, the 17-year-old American winger, was doing so well at Borussia Dortmund that the German club had included him in its senior squad ahead of the second half of the Bundesliga season. Then we started seeing for ourselves on TV: Pulisic, starting regularly for one of the world’s top club teams, was the best young U.S. men’s soccer prospect since Landon Donovan.
The superlatives piled up quickly: Youngest non-German to score in the Bundesliga; youngest player to appear in a U.S. men’s World Cup qualifier; youngest player to score for the U.S. men’s national team. Here was the real thing, a young American developed on U.S. soil (in Hershey, Pa.) with vision, speed and a soccer IQ that was off the charts. During the summer transfer window, Dortmund turned down a transfer offer from Liverpool that would have made Pulisic one of the most expensive 17-year-olds of all time.
He still had ups and downs, as any teenager would. But Pulisic continued to impress as the new season started. He scored a late equalizer to give Dortmund a point at Ingolstadt. He provided the pass on the equalizer at home against Real Madrid in Champions League. He started a game in the Bernabéu. He may be just 18, but Pulisic is already one of the best players on the U.S. roster. And with the Americans off to a rough start in the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal, he’ll have to help the U.S. come up big to reach Russia 2018.