Promising midfielder Christian Pulisic had been a member of the US Soccer set-up for a short while, training with the youth teams and attempting to move up the age groups. One training camp was organised and, as usual, a roster was sent around. Skimming the list to check which of his friends would be joining him this time, Christian double-takes. Another Pulisic had made the list – his cousin Will.
Excited messages were exchanged. A proud moment for the Pulisic clan.
“Our parents were amazed,” Christian said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “I had no idea he was that good a goalkeeper. I was so proud of him and he just started doing better and better. Now he’s here, we’re playing together and it’s unbelievable.”
‘Here’ is Chile, at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. And sat next to Christian is Will. The pair are inseparable. They are not only cousins and team-mates, but room-mates to boot.
“We don’t get sick of each other! We’re just having fun,” Will said. “After seeing him for a while, it’s good to get away from him! For the most part, it’s all good.”
The goalkeeper’s digs are in jest, of course, but there is a competitive streak running through them. The pair have football, soccer, in the blood. Their fathers (who are brothers) were also keen footballers. With Christian growing up in Pennsylvania and Will in Virginia, the two often faced each other in the regional league.
“He’s scored against me a few times,” Will said ruefully, with Christian grinning.
Christian may value those goals against his cousin, but his most important to date is surely his effort against Croatia in USA’s second group game. The side led 2-0 going into the second half, with Christian also setting up Brandon Vazquez for USA’s second, but a reinvigorated Croatian performance after the interval saw the European side take a point. But for Will, who was outstanding in the USA goal, it would have been more.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Croatia, they played a great second half,” Christian said of the nation where the pair’s shared grandfather was born. “They seemed like a different team.”
That European ancestry has helped Christian in his endeavours at club level, with a Croatian passport making his move to Borussia Dortmund less complex. The youngster, labelled Figo by his father after Portuguese legend Luis, has a desire to impress in Europe.
“I’m just doing as much as I can to play for the professional team one day,” Christian said. “That’s my goal. When I first went there everyone was really nice to me, they gave me a lot of opportunities to train with the professionals and show me around the club. It’s a beautiful club, I love it there. All the players at Dortmund are really good players. I’ve trained with them, and I want to be like them one day.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, Will – who recently spent a week staying with Christian and training with Dortmund – is a member of US Soccer’s residency programme in Florida, along with several members of the squad in Chile. The hosts await the Stars and Stripes in their final group match, a potentially daunting prospect in front of a bumper crowd at the Estadio Sausalito. The goalkeeper put it simply.
“Win and we’re in,” Will said, noting a victory for the USA would see them into the Round of 16.
“Of course the crowd is going to be different but we’ve just got to use it as a positive energy for us,” Christian added.
And what would it mean, to have a family member share a journey to a World Cup final with you?
“To progress would mean everything for us,” Christian concluded. “Being cousins, staying at each other’s house for Christmas from when we were six years old to now being on the same national team and moving on in the World Cup together... It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to play in a World Cup. We want to go as far as we can.”