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Captain America comes back to Carolina



By Steve Goldberg


The last time Christian Pulisic was in Charlotte for a game, he was wearing the black and yellow of

Borussia Dortmund where the then 19-year-old Hershey, Pennsylvania native had established himself as

a force to be reckoned with.


That was four summers back in 2018 and the German Bundesliga side would be facing legendary

Liverpool, the English Premier League club whose fans would vastly outnumber the Dortmund colors in

the stands. Still, many, even those in red, were eager to see the 19-year-old American wunderkind who

that everyone was talking about.


The one who scored 20 goals in 34 games for the USA U-15 and U-17 teams. The youngest ever to play

in a World Cup qualifier when Jurgen Klinsmann put him in as a late sub in a 4-0 win over Guatemala in

2016.


He became the youngest player to score for the men’s senior national team in the modern era later that

year, notching a goal against Bolivia in the Copa América Centenario, which was hosted by the United

States. And the goals kept coming and the reputation kept growing. What would he do for the USA in

the World Cup? That question still awaits an answer as the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA

World Cup, the first time after seven straight appearances since 1990.


A week after that World Cup finished in mid-July, Pulisic was in Charlotte with Dortmund amidst rumors

that the rising star would be moving to a bigger club, quite possibly to Liverpool where former

Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp had taken the reigns. Other names bandied about included Bayern

Munich, Real Madrid, and Chelsea.


He didn’t disappoint, coming on as a second half substitute and scoring two goals and essentially

creating the third in a 3-1 win over the EPL side.


It would be the Blues of London where Pulisic would land, on a £58 million transfer fee, though he

would stay in Germany on loan to finish the season. And similar to the last time he was here, there are

still rumors, given his inconsistent playing time under manager Thomas Tuchel, that he might be on the

move again.


When asked by ADSN if the transfer rumors were on his mind in 2018, Pulisic, now 23, says, “At that

time, I don’t really think I had that in my head to be honest. I was focusing on pre-season. I had another

full season there in Dortmund and then I was able to come to this club which is incredible.”


And that will be the case here in Charlotte on Wednesday night when Chelsea plays Charlotte FC who

are currently 8 th in the MLS Eastern Conference, one point out of the last playoff position.

It’s an odd scheduling time for Charlotte, falling between two critical road matches, last Saturday’s

wrenching 3-2 loss in Miami and a visit to Toronto this coming Saturday.


Manager Christian Lattanzio says that it might just be what his team needs to erase lingering

disappointment from the loss and getting back on track. He added that it will be an exciting opportunity

for his players to go up against one of the top teams in the world.


For Chelsea, priorities are vastly different. The third-place finishers from last year’s campaign are just

getting into their pre-season and the competition is less against Charlotte than it is internally as veterans

and new additions to the squad all vie to show Tuchel why they deserve to be in the first eleven.


It is quite likely that fans will get to see every player in uniform take the field at some point during the

match. While that won’t promise 90 minutes of cohesive play, it might make for an exciting evening

from end to end.


“I’m excited to be back in Charlotte,” said Pulisic. “It’s cool to see how far along the sport has come

there and the MLS team. Playing against them will be a great experience.”


Chelsea’s American star isn’t going to be the only Pulisic in the Carolinas. His cousin Will Pulisic is a

goalkeeper playing for USL One side North Carolina FC in Cary. The former Duke player is on loan from

MLS side Austin FC.


Christian said he’s been, “speaking to him all week. He has a very busy schedule. He has like three away

games in a row so I’m not sure if he’s going to make it. He’s texted me and been supporting me and I’ve

been following him as well.”

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