- Christian Pulisic, 19, becomes the youngest player to be named U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year, winning in a landslide vote.
A year of defeat and discontent in American men’s soccer will be remembered for one good thing—the performance of the preternaturally gifted Christian Pulisic. The 19-year-old helped Borussia Dortmund win the German Cup, and he carried the U.S. national team at times during its doomed World Cup qualifying campaign. As a result, he was the easy choice—and really the only choice—for the U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year award announced Thursday afternoon.
Pulisic won in an avalanche, earning a whopping 94% of the vote conducted by U.S. players, federation and pro coaches, and “select former players, administrators and media members.” He’s the youngest player in the award’s 34-year-history to win, eclipsing four-time honoree Landon Donovan, who won it for the first time at 21.
"It's definitely a big honor for me. I just could never imagine being here so soon," Pulisic told Fox as his win was announced.
Pulisic’s resume was unimpeachable. He tallied six goals and four assists in nine national team appearances (eight of which were qualifiers). The USA scored 17 goals across those nine games and Pulisic was involved in 13 of them, highlighting his indispensability. His strike in a moribund Hexagonal finale in Trinidad, which eliminated the USA from next summer’s World Cup, was symbolic of his ability to rise to an occasion while so many around him struggled.
Asked how he felt following that defeat, Pulisic said Thursday he was "destroyed," adding, "It was my biggest dream. Everything I wanted to do was go to the World Cup, and obviously for me it was just a huge disappointment we couldn't do it."
Regarding his status as a teenager who is already a national team linchpin, Pulisic told Fox, "It's something that I've had to deal with at a young age. I'm kind of coming to terms with it, where I stand with the team and in the U.S. It's something I'm definitely still learning through. I have the best people to help me through it."
He wasn’t as vital at Dortmund, but he certainly was effective. Among his three goals in the spring was the go-ahead tally against Benfica in the UEFA Champions League round-of-16, and he earned the penalty kick that lifted BVB to win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal final. Pulisic kicked off the 2017-18 club campaign with a goal against Bayern Munich in the DFL Supercup, and he’s added two more in Bundesliga play.
The other finalists were last year’s winner, Jozy Altidore, along with Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, whose late game-winning goal against Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final was overshadowed by the ensuing World Cup disaster.
Pulisic, who won the Young Male Player of the Year award in 2016, becomes the 24th man to win American soccer’s highest annual individual honor. The rest:
1985—Perry Van der Beck