A first appearance for German giants Borussia Dortmund, a transfer to Chelsea FC, a record MLS Homegrown contract and a U.S. Men’s National Team debut.
All are things that have happened for four different U.S. Soccer Development Academy alumni in the past few weeks. They are players who began to be recognized as top youth performers with their clubs during the 2012-13 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign.
We start with 17-year-old U.S. youth international Christian Pulisic, who made his first team debut for Borussia Dortmund in their 2-0 Bundesliga win against Ingolstadt last Saturday. A product of DA side PA Classics and Hershey, Pennsylvania, Pulisic captained the U.S. side at last October’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile before returning to Die Borussen.
After impressing with the club’s U-19 side during the fall, Pulisic was invited to join the first team for training during the Bundesliga’s winter break and continued to make waves. Promoted for the second half of the season, Pulisic made Dortmund’s game-day 18 for their 3-1 league win at Borussia Monchengladbach on Jan. 23, and one day later scored an impressive goal in a friendly against Union Berlin (WATCH).
Last Saturday, Pulisic entered Dortmund’s home match with Ingolstadt in the 68th minute, showing plenty of activity on the left flank as the side got two goals after he came on to earn a 2-0 victory at the Westfalenstadion.
Pulisic, who at 14-years-old was the youngest player to earn All-Conference honors during the Academy’s 2012-13 season, earned high praise from Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel for his debut league performance for the Bundesliga side.
And as expected, the youngster was over the moon after helping the club to a win in his first Bundesliga match.
“It was just an amazing experience to actually live that moment. It was incredible,” he told Bundesliga TV post-game. “I dreamed about these moments when I was younger, and yeah of course I was a little bit nervous, but when the ball comes to your foot, then it all goes away. You’re just focused on the match and trying to win the game. It was incredible.”
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann also took notice of Pulisic’s weekend accomplishment and what it might mean for his future National Team involvement.
“This is big, no doubt about it,” Klinsmann said over the weekend. “If you are proving a point at the age of 17 in such a big environment then it shows that you have courage, you have confidence. If you don’t have confidence you don’t survive in training there. So this is really nice to see, and it makes us think on how can we fill the right slot for Christian over the next couple months as well - with the Olympic team going to Colombia; he was supposed to go to Tab’s group with the Under-20s, or is he maybe already down the road for getting a taste with us, with the older guys. But it’s definitely nice to see.”
With Dortmund holding firm to second place in the Bundesliga table, Pulisic will hope to build on the performance as the club travels to face U.S. international John Brooks and third place Hertha Berlin on Saturday, Feb. 6. The match can be seen live on Fox Sports 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Just a day before Pulisic’s debut, New York Red Bulls Academy product Matt Miazga made a splash, leaving U.S. Men’s National Team camp in Carson, California, to sign with English Premier League giants Chelsea FC.
Having won the U-17/18 DA East Conference Player of the Year award in 2012-13, Miazga signed a Homegrown contract with the Red Bulls later that year. He had quite the rise for both club and country in 2015, appearing in 25 matches as the Red Bulls won the MLS Supporters Shield, while appearing in official matches for three different U.S. Men’s National Teams, including appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship and his senior team debut in the MNT’s 6-1 defeat of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in FIFA World Cup Qualifying on Nov. 13 in St. Louis.
Like Pulisic’s debut, Klinsmann was excited for Miazga’s move to Chelsea but also stressed patience for the player as he finds his way in a much bigger environment.
“Obviously it’s a huge move for Matt, being 20 years of age and now getting that opportunity going overseas and proving himself. It’s big. It’s big for our program. It’s big for us when a player moves to a Champions League team, a big team, a big club. We’re happy for him, we’re pleased but we know also that he’s just developing.”
“He’s showed already a lot of potential over the last two years with our program but also obviously with the Red Bulls. And now this is a big, big step. But we have to be patient there. It will take time. He will go there to learn and it will take time until he gets his chances there.”
The U-17/18 DA West Conference and National Player of the Year in 2012-13, Jordan Morris also made professional waves in recent weeks. Having won the 2015 NCAA College Cup with Stanford and the MAC Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best collegiate player, Morris elected to forego his final year of collegiate eligibility, earning a high-profile training stint with German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen.
Already capped multiple times by the MNT, Morris received a contract offer from the club but instead chose to sign a Homegrown contract with Seattle Sounders FC on Jan. 21. The next day, Morris traveled to join the National Team, where he earned his eighth appearance when he entered as a substitute in Sunday’s 3-2 friendly win against Iceland.
Kellyn Acosta controls ball in his first MNT match against Iceland on Jan. 31, 2016.
Joining Morris in the U.S. win against Iceland was fellow Development Academy alum Kellyn Acosta, who went 90 minutes, acquitting himself well at left back in his own senior MNT debut and becoming the 17th former DA player to earn a cap at the highest international level. A product of FC Dallas, Acosta was the U-17/18 Central Conference Player of the Year in 2012-13 and has continued to rise for through the U.S. system, playing for the U-17s at the 2011 World Cup and the U-20s at the 2013 and 2015 tournaments.
“I’m just really excited. I’m glad I got the opportunity from Jurgen,” Acosta said after the match. “It was a great feeling being out there representing my country at the highest level. I was really excited, ecstatic.”
All in all, the seeds planted in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy are reaping far-reaching results for clubs near and far as well as the full U.S. Men’s National Team early on in 2016.