In recent decades, the United States has spawned several footballers who have become stars on their own.
The country has seen several top players play in some of the world’s best leagues, and has regularly contributed to clubs that are among the most recognizable in the sport.
But the next step has always been discussed. While there have been many American stars, there has never really been an American star, and yes there is a difference.
MORE: Lampard says Pulisic has talent to score like the best in the Premier League
Each country has its own heroes, but to truly transcend a player and gain recognition for the best the sport has to offer, they have to go a step further.
That next step seems to be happening right before our eyes.
From the moment Christian Pulisic broke through at Borussia Dortmund, there was hope that he would eventually become the world-class player the US and clubs around the world begged for.
There was hope, albeit cautiously optimistic, that Pulisic could be the first American men’s team to truly appear on the world stage and be known to be a little more than just an American.
Pulisic has done just that in recent months. He has become Chelsea’s main offensive player, and since the Premier League’s resumption in June, there may be only one or two players who can say they have taken better action than the 21-year-old.
Pulisic has come out of lockdown and looks like a bona fide star, someone good enough to dominate in the Premier League and young enough to believe the thought that this might just be the beginning.
“In the first few days, it’s normal for a new man to be hard, not everyone will be your best friend right away,” Pulisic recently told Sirius XM. “That’s okay. But I really felt once I was able to show myself on the field that I could play, and then guys really started saying,” This guy is good. He can stay with us. We’re going to treat him with a little bit more respect. ”
Since the restart, Pulisic has started to earn that respect and recognition. He is no longer the boy from Hershey or the hot prospect in Dortmund. He’s no longer a player with potential who might one day thrive like a superstar on a top team.
Today, Pulisic is Chelsea’s main attraction and a global star in the making.
Signed by the Blues for a whopping £ 57 million ($ 72 million), Pulisic was a big name before ever arriving at Stamford Bridge, so is the appetite for the sport in America and the desire to see a USMNT star thrive at the top level of the game.
Much is being made about American football culture, or, for some, its lack, but there is a reason that big clubs often invest time and resources in developing their brands in the United States. That is why there is unparalleled potential in the US, a country that is increasingly falling in love with the game, and the Premier League in particular.
But despite early concerns that the push to sign Pulisic was based only on marketing and shirt sales, those perceptions have changed. The indecision in the last third is now gone. The doubts arising from a difficult start to the season have been emphatically dispelled. And given its shape since the reboot, it looks like Chelsea might have a bargain.
After returning from the Premier League, Pulisic scored four goals and two assists, winning two penalties. After appearing shy and confident during his early months in West London, Pulisic returned from the pause imposed by the corona virus, playing as someone who belonged to it.
The world has noticed. Since the restart, Pulisic has made regular comparisons with the man he replaced, Eden Hazard.
In any case, the Belgian winger is one of the most dynamic widems in Premier League history, a real world-class talent who, despite his poor start in Real Madrid, has long been regarded as one of the world’s best players.
Pulisic is now arriving. It takes time to build the player’s resume and reel like Hazard, but there are also small pieces of evidence that you can find along the way.
It is the shoulders against Benjamin Mendy that have left the Manchester City defender in the dust. It’s Tammy Abraham’s flawless assist at Anfield that few players in the world can pick from. And there is the patience and balance of Pulisic’s goal against Liverpool, which only promoted the conversations around him.
“I had no exact expectations of him,” Lampard said recently. “When he came at the start of the season he needed a break and had to acclimatize to the league, it’s physical and it’s hard for some of the best players we’ve seen in this league from the start.
“He got the hang of it quickly and he plays very well. He got injured in early January, but now he looks sharp and hungry. The quality is there for everyone at the moment.
“He passes players, he moves at a pace and he always works very hard for the team in every way, so I am very happy for him. I think, given his age, what could become of him, I really I’m happy We have a very good player and he can get even better. “
Those comparisons and those words are great compliments. Never have we seen an American player in the middle of these kinds of discussions, and that is not to say that the impact players such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard have had on the game in recent years is not undermined.
Donovan was arguably the most talented American player ever before Pulisic came along, but the question of how he would fare for a longer period in Europe will always remain.
Clint Dempsey is the most stubborn player the US has produced and earned everything he got in the Premier League, but while he was great for Fulham, he never carried a Chelsea-level team.
And while Howard became a starter at Manchester United, an icon for Everton and a record-breaking World Cup star, he was never quite seen as a player at this level.
However, those three names have done things that Pulisic has not done. All three shone at a World Cup, with that image of a tearful Pulisic on that field in Couva still be remembered by many after the defeat to Trinidad and Tobago.
Until the day Pulisic steps onto the field during the World Cup, that moment will haunt him, as the failures of the 2018 qualifying cycle have likely deprived him of the opportunity to become an even bigger star by taking the field in Russia while the world is watching.
Those three have also shown incredible consistency, shining for nearly a decade for both club and country. But even if this is the final form of Pulisic, even if he never gets better from this point on, the winger has all the ability to do those things and more.
For years, America was cautiously optimistic that one day there would be a good player who would lead the way in the next step in the country’s football evolution. Pulisic is that player.
Since his breakthrough, there has been a fear of anointing him too quickly. There was a fear that something might go wrong somehow, that he would never really turn his potential and talent into something tangible. American fans have been on this route before, declaring a player to be their first real star before witnessing them burst out in spectacular fashion.
But this time, this is not the point of the American fans to make. The rest of the world says it to them: Pulisic is something special.