NOS Sport Editor
NOS Sports Editor
Can star Pulisic play against the Netherlands? “I take it day by day”
If you say LeBron James, you say basketball. And when you think of Tom Brady, you think of American football. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic is on his way to achieving the same status as his compatriots in American football. And yes, he did once play Cody Jackbo.
More on his relationship with Jakpo later Let’s first see who Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind will face off on Saturday afternoon at 4pm as the ‘right-back’ when the Netherlands battle the United States for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals. The 24-year-old Pulisic is an invaluable winger for Team USA as a winger.
Just think of his winning goal against Iran (1-0), which helped the United States reach the next round. And Pulisic paid for his goal with a bruise in the pelvis after colliding with the Iranian goalkeeper.
He was in great pain after that, but after visiting the hospital it became clear that a confrontation with Orange is possible for him.
But who is this Chelsea player who, with his looks, could appear in a boy band or an American teen movie?
Pulisic, born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, combines technique with tenacity and occasionally scores his own goal. Agile type is hard to play. So Orange’s defense has been warned.
An introverted Pulisic is someone you don’t often see doing crazy things, both on and off the field. “Lead by example,” as the footballer himself says: let your feet do the talking.
Pulisic is 24 years old, but he already has 55 caps to his name. Add to that his 127 duels with Borussia Dortmund and 133 matches with Chelsea and it will come as no surprise that he is already a gentleman in his own country.
Since his transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in 2019, he has also been the most expensive footballer in North America (€64m).
Pulisic: We have an active, hungry and young squad
Pulisic left for Germany in 2015 as a fifteen-year-old footballer, but was close to joining PSV’s youth academy. Pulisic went on trial twice with PSV Eindhoven, in 2013 and 2014.
‘He can keep up the level effortlessly’
Rene de Groot, who was then PSV’s chief youth scout, was promptly sold out when Pulisic was allowed to train with the under-13s for a week.
“We had a very nice class with Cody Gakpo, Armando Obispo and Jordan Teese, among others. Christian could easily keep up the level,” said De Groot. “He was a great guy. He was an introvert, but he could have played football well.”
In May 2013, Pulisic will also join the PSV youth team at the prestigious and international Marfield Youth Championship in Groenlo, Gelderland, where youth teams from Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, for example, also participate. There, Pulisic immediately impressed with a number of goals.
De Groot remembers liking Jacapo more. “Cody was often decisive as a youngster, but he had growing pains at the time, so it was difficult for him to show his best during that time.”
But they were once on the field together: current World Cup stars Pulisic and Jakopo, together on a field in Groenlo, Gelderland.
PSV were enthusiastic and Pulisic was allowed to return six months later for a second training session. De Groot had seen enough and then did his best to bring Pulisic up. “He was eligible for a Croatian passport (his grandfather is Croatian, ed.), which allowed him to play with us at the age of 16.”
PSV prepared everything to bring in 14-year-old Pulisic. A host family has been found and tailored education has been considered. “Only his passport application took longer and longer, and then Borussia Dortmund came into the picture,” says De Groot.
A story without a reason
It is possible that the German top club put Pulisic on the radar with a lobby from the player’s agent or committed German scouts, who may have been present in Groenlo.
“It actually became a hopeless story when Borussia Dortmund came into the picture,” says John de Jong, who was serving as PSV’s chief scout at the time and later became the club’s technical director.
“This club is very strong financially and also has a good reputation for training young players. You can’t compete with that. It was a pity for us, but a logical choice from their point of view.”
Dad gets a position at the club.
According to De Groot, another factor was working against PSV. “Dortmund promised Christian’s father a job as a youth coach. PSV couldn’t offer that, because that’s something that goes against our principles: not having fathers for players in the coaching staff. Then it gets too close.”
Pulisic eventually left for Dortmund and made his debut for the Bundesliga club in January 2016, two years after his second coaching at PSV, at the age of 17.
Then de Groot kept in touch with Pulisic and his father for a long time. “No hard feelings.” But he still nibbles when the Scout goes through the whole story again. “It hurt more and more over the years, when I saw that Christian was doing better and better, I say it honestly.”
Pulisic digs into memory: “Awesome”
Finally, what does Pulisic actually remember about those two weeks of training in PSV? Not much, it turns out. Nor does he shine when he is reminded of Groenlo’s one-week stint at the press conference in Doha on Thursday, where he played in the same team as Gakpo. “Oh, wow, I didn’t look at it that way.”
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