Fall 2021 SS Magazine

USMNT star Christian Pulisic says he's grown closer to God during past year

It’s not always easy being Christian Pulisic, the U.S. men’s national team star who is also a key contributor for Chelsea, one of the biggest clubs in the world. At the age of 22, he’s had the eyes of soccer fans in the U.S. on him since making his debut for German power Borussia Dortmund when he was 17, hoping he’d be the one to carry the national team to new heights.

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The attention only grew when the Hershey, Pennsylvania, native became the youngest foreign player ever to score in the Bundesliga — Germany’s top division — and the youngest player in the modern era to score for the U.S. national team. An American producing four goals and nine assists between the Bundesliga and Champions League in their age 17 season is unheard of. Yet here was Pulisic, proving he belonged in one of the best leagues in the world as a teenager.

His success at Dortmund resulted in a $73.1 million move to Chelsea, smashing the transfer fee record for an American and presenting him with a new challenge in the form of the English Premier League. His Chelsea debut — against Manchester United of all teams — on Aug. 11, 2019, got record-setting ratings for a Premier League game on NBCSN.

That’s the part of Pulisic’s rise to stardom that’s easy for everyone to see. What isn’t so easy to see are the sacrifices he’s made to get to this point. When a 16-year-old Pulisic arrived in Germany, he had no prior relationships to help make the transition easier and he didn’t know the language.

“That was the toughest year of my life by far,” Pulisic said of his first year at Dortmund in a recent interview with GQ. “I just remember every day I thought, What am I doing here?”

Now, he’s a 22-year-old living by himself in London during a global pandemic. After a stellar 11-game stretch once the Premier League resumed play last summer, during which Pulisic contributed five goals and two assists, he’s battled injuries. His team currently sits eighth in the Premier League, well below where it was expected to be.

Being isolated and away from his family has led Pulisic to deepen his faith. He was wearing a gold crucifix during the GQ interview, prompting the interviewer to ask him if God played a large role in his life.

“Oh, absolutely,” Pulisic said. “Something that I’ve grown a lot closer with this past year is my belief in God, especially being alone over here. I feel like I always have someone who’s with me. I don’t know how I would do any of this without that feeling that He’s watching over me and there’s a reason why I’m here.”

Pulisic and Chelsea are back in action on Sunday when they face Luton Town in the FA Cup. They resume play in the Champions League on Feb. 23.

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