Commentary / English Premier League / US Soccer / USMNT

Christian Pulisic just kicked the door down

Photo: Paul Rudderow

What a difference a year makes, huh?

It was a mere 294 days ago that I wrote this column on Hershey, Penn. native Christian Pulisic and his move to Chelsea. Less than a year ago that I all but condemned the switch and closed the door on him myself. We’re now nearly at the end of 2019/2020 English Premier League season and I thought he’d be loaned out somewhere. Or, at best, leaving a permanent indent on one of the bench seats at Stamford Bridge.

Yeah, not so much.

Before I could even lock the door, Pulisic darted by one of the best clubs in the world and kicked it down in my face. Could professional defenders really be that slow? Not just professional defenders, but title-winning and big-money defenders? I think Pulisic is just that fast. I think he’s even more special than people have made him out to be and I think my door was made of styrofoam.

The blistering goal against Manchester City was the eye-opener, but there have been plenty more to go with it. In seven matches since the Premier League restart, Pulisic has accounted for six goals total (three goals, three assists). More than that, he’s been visually impressive. Speed dribbling, nutmegging defenders, delivering inch-perfect crosses from distance and banging in goals with his left foot. Keep watching that video and you’ll see a hat trick on both feet with a header against Burnley. He’s doing it all for a Chelsea side that is pretty much locked into third place and a Champions League spot. It’s the stark opposite to the start of the season when they were in the bottom half and Pulisic was struggling to find the pitch.

What’s behind the turnaround? You’ve got to start with manager Frank Lampard, because it’s now abundantly clear that he’s believed in him all along. We may never know exactly what kept Pulisic on the bench for all that time, but it says a lot that he’s now a regular in the lineup during his team’s top run of form. Lampard knew what kind of talent he had and didn’t give up on him. Now it almost feels like he doesn’t have a choice but to start him.

It’s also possible that the COVID-19 pandemic subtly worked in Pulisic’s favor. What if he used all that time off productively and rounded the corner? What if he needed that extra private training time to prove himself and surpass some teammates? The Premier League can be a major adjustment for even high-level European players and it could have simply come down to needing time to adjust. Man, has he ever.

Let’s also not forgot about the transfer ban. Chelsea simply hasn’t signed anyone in a long time and, at first, that made the Pulisic transfer look so much worse: He can’t even earn a start with academy players? Now it looks to be absolutely ideal. Why would Chelsea go out and spend a ton of money on a winger now? He’s all but filled the position in a matter of weeks and now his name not on the lineup sheet would be a headline.

Ultimately the details of his rise don’t matter as much. He’s here and he earned it. He’s now got casual soccer fans on Twitter in a frenzy. “I can’t wait until our best young athletes start playing soccer. We’ll catch up to these other countries so fast.” Whether you agree with that or not, Pulisic sparked it. He’s the reason a lot of people here are watching English soccer and he’s the reason those tweets even exist right now. He’s the lone face of American soccer.

I will now shamelessly admit that his ceiling is astronomical. He’s got crazy pace and dynamite dribbling skills. He’s basically two-footed and contributes a ton without scoring. The tools are staggering and we’re past the Premier League and Chelsea at this point: What club is too big for him? I’m really not sure at this point. If he keeps this trajectory up, we could see an American soccer player in uncharted territory. Places not even Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan could g0.

The scary part is Pulisic is still just 21 years old. He can barely order a pint at the pub and he’s already on the Mt. Rushmore of American soccer. Most players get better at 21 and it’s alarming to think about what his “better” could actually be. He’s proved his worth and proved his talent at the highest level. He also proved me wrong. I was skeptical of his career choice and skeptical of the fit at Chelsea but he’s absolutely thriving and I’ve got nothing but praise.

I think next time I’ll build a stronger door.


  1. At the time I also certainly thought he’d be going out on loan. I thought his game needed maturing and it would be hard for him to find the playing time. Well he’s found the playing time and he’s certainly earned it. I also think his game has matured. He’s already scored twice as many goals in a season for Chelsea than he did for Dortmund. Couldn’t be happier for the guy.

  2. Add in all of the penalties that he has earned for Willian to bang in.

  3. Gruncle Bob says:

    He’s a one man highlight reel. I’m not sure anyone even thought, much less wrote, that he’d be this good this fast.

  4. I told you back then “ Chelsea will have plenty of games in which Pulisic can show what he can do. The main thing for him is not to get frustrated, to work hard and to make things happen while he is on the field. This is an excellent test for him that should make him ultimately a better player than if he had made a lateral move.”
    Next time you give your opinion you better check with me before putting your pen to paper!

  5. Mike James says:

    It’s amazing how you couldn’t see the talent and desire in this young mans will to be the top player with the best of the world.

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