Player of the Week

Player of the week: Christian Pulisic

At 34, Carli Lloyd has more than likely passed the apex of her career. The Delran, N.J. native has achieved pretty much every individual and team accomplishment she could: multiple Olympic gold medals, a World Cup trophy, and two FIFA Player of the Year awards. She’s done it with class and grace, as well.

I remember driving home one afternoon shortly after the USWNT victory over Japan in 2015. There was a light rain shower, but a massive line of people wrapped around the local soccer fields in Marlton, N.J. It lead to a small blue building where Carli Lloyd, the local star who reached the summit of professional soccer, gave young boys and girls the opportunity to meet their idol.

Lloyd is still the face of the U.S. Women’s National Team. And, now, a teenager from Hershey, PA is the face of the men’s.

Christian Pulisic is being asked to carry a heavy weight on his shoulders. The country is hungry for a transcendent star to lift the national team to greater heights. It’s asking him to be our Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Most 18-year-olds are just worried about finding a prom date.

Looking at Pulisic play, however, you would never know what is being asked of him. There is a Peter Pan-ish nature to his game. His youthful smile and impish play mirror the Lost Boy dueling with Captain Hook. Against Trinidad & Tobago, Pulisic dribbled into the box before coming to a full stop. He stood still for a moment as the game froze around him. With a jolt, a cheeky shot went just off the goal post. Pulisic turned and grinned.

It was a moment that spoke more to his nature than the two goals he scored. It exuded confidence and cleverness.

His brace was more important. It secured the U.S. three much needed points, but it spoke more to his technical skill than his character. The first goal broke a second-half stalemate with a savvy run and a controlled sliding finish. His second displayed the clinical finishing needed to excel at a European club like Borussia Dortmund.

Against Mexico, Pulisic played with mettle. On short rest and 7,200 feet above sea level, he battled fatigue and defended well to help the Stars and Stripes earn just their third ever point during qualification at the Estadio Azteca.

His play this week earned him a place in this feature. For this area, though, Christian Pulisic is more than PSP’s player of the week.

The city of Philadelphia can claim Lloyd and Pulisic as its own.  It’s a sense of pride for a community hungry for success at the club level. For kids kicking around a ball on a crabgrass covered patch of grass, it’s something more. Knowing your hero grew up playing on the same fields as you offers a tangible connection to the wild childhood fantasies of scoring the World Cup winning goal. From that dream springs the unadulterated love of the game which can last a lifetime.

Pulisic has a long way to go to be close to Lloyd’s equal. The journey, however, is just beginning. He is a special talent and a joy to watch.  The highs and lows will come. His temperament seems capable of handling both.

There is one thing of which I’m pretty sure: Sometime soon in Hershey, there will be a line of boys and girls waiting to meet their idol.

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