On Saturday, the US Men’s National Team took on Venezuela in a friendly in Utah ahead of their two World Cup qualifying matches this week. Overall, the tune-up match was disappointing at best and alarming at worst. In the 29th minute, Venezuela took a 1-0 lead when Jose Velazquez snuck a shot past Tim Howard after a botched clear attempt by John Brooks.
Throughout the entirety of the first half and a good portion of the second half, the USMNT looked sluggish and uninterested and had it not been for two spectacular saves by Tim Howard around the 33rd minute, the team could have very well been down 3-0. However, the USMNT was able to salvage a 1-1 draw, despite only tallying two shots on goal, after a beautiful strike in the 61st minute by the young phenom, Christian Pulisic
This goal by Pulisic, his fifth since joining the USMNT, demonstrates just what has made him so successful while playing for the Stars and Stripes. Pulisic sees the game incredibly well for his age and then he turns that vision into an impressive knack for finding the open space in front of him.
Watch how intentional he is again: he starts this play by cutting to the open space at the top of the box, making himself available as an outlet for Fabian Johnson. He then perfectly controls the ball with his first touch, something more experienced vets like Bobby Wood still struggle with when afforded a scoring position. After Pulisic’s first touch, he beats his defender one-on-one with a cutback that was set up by a simple hesitation feint. Lastly, Pulisic aims a shot between a defender’s legs and past the keeper with his weak foot from just inside the 18 and finishes with a beauty.
Since joining the team in March of 2016, the 18-year old Hershey, PA product has continuously impressed while playing on the international stage. In just over 14 months, Pulisic has become the youngest player in USMNT history to: play in a World Cup qualifier, score for the USMNT, score in a World Cup qualifier, start in a World Cup qualifier, and score a brace. And even better, he only seems to be getting more comfortable as he continues to play on the international level.
In his three appearances in 2017, Pulisic has netted two goals and continues to be one of the central pieces to the USMNT’s attack. His excellent play of late is forcing head coach Bruce Arena to grapple with the idea of benching one of the USMNT’s star forwards Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, or Bobby Wood in order to allow Pulisic to have a larger role in the offense.
To this point, Pulisic has been the young star that everyone thought Freddy Adu was going to be back when he was drafted by D.C. United back in 2004. Already drawing favorable comparisons to the USMNT’s most accomplished and decorated player, Landon Donovan, Christian Pulisic’s star is quickly rising throughout the soccer world.
As the USMNT gets ready to take on Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday and Mexico on Sunday in World-Cup qualifiers, look for Pulisic to be a central piece of the US’s offensive attack. The odds are overwhelming that he’ll be a key reason the USMNT pulls out some necessary victories over the next week.
But beyond that, look for Pulisic to be the centerpiece of the future of the US men’s national team, with guys like Jordan Morris and Kellyn Acosta helping to flesh out the next wave of talent.
This post was written by our blog contributor: Jalen Russell, University of Virginia class of 2017 graduate and all-around sports guru, his focus typically lies with all things basketball, but he’s finding excitement in the current pulse of the soccer world.