KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Etching your name into the U.S. national team history books at the age of 17 might be enough to boost any kid's ego to lofty levels, but for Christian Pulisic, simply being on the field on Saturday as the U.S. faced Bolivia in its final Copa America tuneup match was exciting enough.
Of course, the goal he scored ratcheted things up a notch, even if making history didn't seem to be a big deal for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder after what was just his third match with the national team.
"It was amazing, I can’t explain it," Pulisic said after the match, which saw him surpass Juan Agudelo as the youngest-ever U.S. goal scorer. "It’s always amazing just to get on the field, and to score was just incredible. To be able to celebrate with my teammates, and hear the fans, is amazing."
It is easy to forget that Pulisic wasn't even a full professional as recently as five months ago, before a whirlwind series of events saw him break into the Borussia Dortmund first team and earn regular appearances for one of the top teams in Europe. His rapid rise has come so quickly that you still get the sense he is very much a kid along for the ride, one who doesn't appear to have developed any sense of entitlement or arrogance that may have plagued past young prospects who have previously worn the crown of "next big thing in American soccer".
"He’s a good kid. You can see that right away," U.S. captain Michael Bradley told Goal USA. "One thing you notice straightaway is that he’s most comfortable on the field. He loves to play, which I can relate to.
"In certain moments, you have guys who, in some ways, enjoy all the other stuff just as much, if not more, than just the pure playing," Bradley said. "With Christian I think, he’s come into the group, he listens, he pays attention, but ultimately when he gets on the field you can see that’s what he loves most."
Bradley has always been a player who has been wary of feeding the hype surrounding young players, but the smile on his face as he started thinking about how much Pulisic loves to play made it clear he sees a player who, much like him, doesn't seem to care as much about the extra-curricular as much as he cares about playing the game and improving as a player.
Pulisic played well coming off the bench for a second straight match, going at defenders and displaying supreme confidence on the ball. He combined with Darlington Nagbe for the fourth U.S. goal with an impeccable and the cool finish of a veteran.
"A goal always brings confidence up so I’m feeling great right now, but I’ve always tried to be confident no matter what happened," Pulisic said. "I think these two games brought us a lot of confidence so we’ll be ready 100 percent against Colombia.
Pulisic's young age, the club he plays for, and the skill he has shown, has led to growing hype. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed his confidence in the support systems at Borussia Dortmund and the U.S. national team being able to keep him on the right path.
"He's a wonderful kid. He's grounded and he knows that he has a long way to go, but he has no fear," Klinsmann said of Pulisic. "This is very important: not having fear, especially when you play in our region, where it becomes really physical.
"What you're going to see next Friday will be very, very physical. We have an eye on him, we help. I'm not worried about this process and we'll take it one day at a time."
As much as there may be growing sentiment to throw him into the fire as a starter at Copa America, Klinsmann appears intent on bringing Pulisic along at a measured pace, giving him minutes as a substitute and helping him develop a comfort level with his national team teammates.
To Pulisic, any minutes he receives with the national team are special, and even making history on Saturday wasn't enough to take his focus off what is now his ultimate goal, which is helping the U.S. win Copa America.
"Honestly, no. I’m just living life. I’m just kind of living in the moment," Pulisic said when asked if he understood the gravity of making history on Saturday. "Stats and stuff are cool, but I want to win this tournament coming up with this team, and that’s the overall goal."