COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Christian Pulisic, a rising star of American soccer at age 18, came through for the U.S. Thursday night when it counted.
His two second-half goals gave the U.S. men’s national team a much needed 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago in a World Cup qualifying game.
The U.S. had been sitting fourth in the six-team CONCACAF hexagonal after four games, a point behind Panama and a spot out of automatically qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Panama was playing Costa Rica late last night.
The U.S. will play group leader Mexico on Sunday. The next group of qualifying games begin in September.
Pulisic has been given plenty of responsibility as a teenager on U.S. team under pressure to qualify.
Bring up his age, though, and the central midfielder turns a little defensive.
“Everyone asks me questions about my age,” Pulisic said before last night’s game. “It doesn’t matter anymore. We’re all at the same level.”
Sometimes, his coaches and teammates forget that he is indeed only 18. He doesn’t play like a typical teenager. The talented Borussia Dortmund phenom already is the youngest American to win a medal with a European club.
“He kind of sees things a bit different than your average 18-year-old,” said forward Jozy Altidore, who assisted on his second goal.
Pulisic broke into the team as an outside midfielder under Jurgen Klinsmann. Since taking over in November, coach Bruce Arena thrust him into central midfield, a role Pulisic filled at Dortmund after Marco Reus got hurt.
Even when the game turns chippy, like it did in a 1-1 draw with Panama in March, Pulisic has been up to the task. He assisted on Clint Dempsey’s goal. It was a valuable point for the Americans.
“He was called to man up, and he manned up,” said Arena. “From what I could tell so far in his career, everything that’s been put in front of him, he’s been able to conquer.”
Former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, a Fox analyst, agrees.
“What you have is a young, but incredibly confident player who, when he gets the ball, everybody sits up and holds their breath because even in the short time we’ve seen him, he’s proven that there is the potential for something magical to happen,” Lalas said. “That, to me, is the definition of a star.”