There have been roughly 100 million males born in America in the past 50 years. Among that total, there appears to finally be one who can safely be called a legitimate international soccer star.Eighteen-year-old Christian Pulisic of the U.S. men’s national team scored twice on Thursday night in Colorado, lifting the USMNT to a critical World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago. With the game tied 0-0 in the 52nd minute, Pulisic’s smart run and cool finish put the U.S. up a goal, and 10 minutes later the teenager slipped in behind the defense to double the lead. This has become typical for the Americans. Against Panama, Pulisic held off two defenders in the box to get free and feed Clint Dempsey for the USMNT’s lone goal. He scored one and assisted two in the 6-0 romp over Honduras. All told, over its crucial last three competitive matches, the U.S. has scored nine goals and Pulisic has scored or assisted six of them.1Sebastian Lletget’s goal against Honduras came from a rebound off a saved Pulisic attempt, and Dempsey scored a free kick after Pulisic won a foul, so you could count eight. Pulisic has been one of the best teenagers in Europe since 2010-11 Pulisic was one of the most dangerous players in Germany 11Salomon KalouHertha BSC0.210.190.40 82015-16Kingsley ComanBayern Munich0.51 5Emil ForsbergRB Leipzig0.180.430.61 15Thiago AlcantaraBayern Munich0.210.160.37 12016-17Ousmane DembeleBorussia Dortmund0.72 13Nicolai MullerHamburg0.260.130.39 122013-14Leon GoretzkaSchalke0.41 14Raphael GuerreiroBorussia Dortmund0.240.150.39 132012-13Raheem SterlingLiverpool0.41 8Christian PulisicBorussia Dortmund0.220.300.52 10Kerem DemirbayHoffenheim0.160.250.41 152010-11Jack WilshereArsenal0.37 22013-14Raheem SterlingLiverpool0.67 PLAYERCLUBGOALSASSISTSGOALS + ASSISTS 62015-16Leroy SaneSchalke0.52 2Ousmane DembeleBorussia Dortmund0.260.470.72 Statistics for the 2016-17 season.Source: OPTA The team that has never quite had a scoring force to build around now seems to have a one-man army. As a result, the USMNT has nearly climbed out of the hole it dug under former coach Jurgen Klinsmann when it lost its first two matches in the “Hex,” as the North and Central American qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup in Russia is known. With two wins and a draw in its last three qualifiers, the U.S. has raised its chances for making the tournament from 60 percent to 83 percent percent.Evidence of Pulisic’s quality is not limited to matches against Caribbean nations and middling Central American challengers. He has proved himself for German power Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. This past season, Pulisic scored four goals and assisted eight in the Bundesliga and Champions League. And there’s good reason to believe these numbers were no fluke or merely a function of a hot finishing run. By expected goals, a statistical estimate of the quality of scoring chances, Pulisic’s shots and passes created chances with an estimated value of roughly five expected goals (xG) and seven expected assists (xA). Among nonstrikers with at least 1,500 minutes played, Pulisic was eighth in the Bundesliga in xG + xA per 90 minutes, slightly behind Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa. 6Paul-Georges NtepWolfsburg0.250.280.54 9Marco FabianEintracht Frankfurt0.310.130.43 102015-16Julian BrandtBayer Leverkusen0.47 3Shinji KagawaBorussia Dortmund0.290.410.70 92013-14Bruno FernandesUdinese0.49 4Franck RiberyBayern Munich0.260.370.63 EXPECTED PER 90 MINS 52015-16Marco AsensioEspanyol0.52 142011-12Julian DraxlerSchalke0.39 72016-17Christian PulisicBorussia Dortmund0.52 42012-13Julian DraxlerSchalke0.54 1Arjen RobbenBayern Munich0.390.360.75 112015-16Ousmane DembeleRennes0.44 7Douglas CostaBayern Munich0.190.340.53 The more advanced numbers show that the young American is not limited to shooting, either. For the Panama goal, Pulisic had to beat two defenders in close quarters. His ability to break a defense by winning one-on-ones helps his team create chances even when Pulisic doesn’t get the goal himself. With 72 successful take-ons (beating a defender in an open-field contest), Pulisic was fifth among Bundesliga players in take-ons per 90 minutes, just ahead of Bayern Munich’s world-class veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.And last night against Trinidad and Tobago, Pulisic scored twice after runs off the ball into dangerous areas. His ability to read space and slip unmarked into the penalty box is already elite. Thirty-six times in the last season Pulisic made a run to receive an entry pass into the penalty area, and 16 times he dribbled by a defender to get into the penalty area. In this statistic, Pulisic led all Bundesliga players. He outpaced even Bayern’s Thomas Muller, the 2014 World Cup hero for Germany who had made his name ghosting into scoring positions without alerting the defense.Just this level of production would be enough to make Sam’s Army salivate. But at 18, Pulisic is hardly a finished product and has room to get even better. If you compare his production to players under 20 years of age in the top leagues in Europe, he stands out all the more. 32015-16Dele AlliTottenham Hotspur0.58 YEARPLAYERCLUBEXP. GOALS AND ASSISTS PER 90 MINS 12Joshua KimmichBayern Munich0.310.090.40 Includes players age 18-19 with highest goals and assists per 90 minutesSource: Opta Pulisic’s 0.52 expected goals+assists per 90 minutes is the best mark by any 18-year-old nonstriker in the top five leagues since 2010-11. Among under-20s, Pulisic is seventh and surrounded by high-priced stars such as Leroy Sane of Manchester City and Real Madrid’s Marco Asencio. In terms of receiving or dribbling the ball into the penalty area, he ranks only behind Manchester United’s young star Marcus Rashford and Kylian Mbappe, whose market value is reportedly north of $130 million. Right now Pulisic is not considered to be on the market, but high eight-figure fees are common for players at his level and age.For the U.S. team, the emergence of a true star creates new tactical concerns. Opposing teams will key on Pulisic and look to shut him down. At home against Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago, manager Bruce Arena — who took the reins after Klinsmann was fired in November– played Pulisic at the tip of a diamond midfield to give him freedom. Pulisic paid it off not only with goals but by being a consistent outlet all over the attack third. But at Panama, Pulisic mostly stuck to the wing, as he had under Klinsmann. These two maps show where Pulisic received the ball in the final third when playing a central role behind the striker as opposed to his pass receptions as a winger. As a winger, Pulisic plays on the wing or moves from the wing into the penalty area, whereas from the 10 he can move across the width of the field in the final third. The toughest game the USMNT will play in the Hex is this Sunday in at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, where it has never won a competitive fixture and only drawn twice in nine matches. Arena is unlikely to use the same attacking tactics he used against Trinidad and Tobago with the diamond and will most likely choose a more defensive formation with Pulisic on the wing. But if he wants to maximize the Americans’ chances of stealing a rare win in front of nearly 90,000 at the Azteca, he should look into finding a way to play Pulisic in the hole behind the striker rather than leaving him on the wing where his positioning is more predictable and he can be more easily contained. To play a more defensive formation while keeping Pulisic central would probably require benching the veteran Dempsey, who typically plays as the more reserved of two strikers.A U.S. manager has never had the luxury of such a decision. But the moment to commit to Pulisic and the future of the USMNT may be Sunday.
Dan Cohen AUTHOR Service members entering the civilian world continue to face challenges obtaining licenses and certifications for skills they used during their service. Combat medics, for example, typically will not qualify for basic health care jobs despite being highly trained.At a two-day American Legion conference last week, leaders from business and government looked for ways to smooth the transition for personnel seeking to enter the civilian workforce.Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the government has overhauled DOD’s job readiness program for service members leaving the military over the past two years, but said “unnecessary licensing barriers” still exist, reported Stars and Stripes. “We need to do a better job of recognizing the core competencies that our service members bring to the table,” Perez said.The military once was reluctant to help troops gain skills and certifications that translated to civilian work for fear of losing them. But that has changed greatly, said Steve Gonzalez, the American Legion’s assistant director for veterans employment and education.One speaker underscored the critical resources that service members can provide society.“There’s a demand for skilled workers and we’ve got the supply coming out of the military,” said Lisa Lutz, president of the policy and research analysis group Solutions for Information Design. “We can’t afford to ignore that.”