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Pulisic's comfort in Dortmund means Premier League will have to wait

Pulisic's comfort in Dortmund means Premier League will have to wait
From ESPN - January 12, 2018

MARBELLA, Spain -- As he breaks away from a gaggle of Borussia Dortmund players flooding out of a post-dinner team meeting, Christian Pulisic looks almost a little embarrassed by the prospect of being put under the spotlight. Listening to the the 19-year-old contrast the incredible amount of attention and hope heaped upon him in the States with being "just a good team player, a piece of the puzzle" in one of the Bundesliga's leading clubs, it's clear where his preference lies.

"I have come into a bigger role with the national team but the environment here [with Dortmund] definitely helps," he admits. "I am still trying to figure it all out."

In north-west Germany, Pulisic is still just a kid, a foreign teenage recruit with a slightly exotic background working hard on turning regular game-time -- he's played 16 out of 17 league games and started four of out of six Champions League matches -- into consistent end-product in the shape of goals and assists.

Away from the hype that rages back home, he can concentrate on growing, safe in the knowledge that coach Peter Stoger and the club will evaluate his progress on its own terms. There's no team to be carried all by himself, no hero status to live up to, no premature comparisons with the game's superstars to be met. As a relatively small name, he's still allowed to worry about the small things at Signal Iduna Park. Wisely, that's exactly what he does.

- WATCH: How good is Christian Pulisic's German?

"I set [myself] the huge goal of being a professional soccer player," he says. "Now that I have kind of got there, I try to set smaller, short-term goals for myself. I look at certain things within in the game, certain points where could have I done better. I try to work on them throughout the week. I think about them and I think what I want to do, how I can play my best game."

Pulisic adds that he always watches game footage of himself to learn from his mistakes and after some gentle prodding, he also reveals that he's benefitted from watching how teammate Marco Reus makes his runs beyond the defence.

"I was running but I did not get the timing right. So I looked at players, looked at Marco, at how he would time his runs. I showed it in the last game [before the winter break] against Hoffenheim with a perfectly timed run and Shinji played the ball through perfectly." Pulisic scored his third goal of the season to complete the move and secure Dortmund's second consecutive win under new coach Stoger, who was brought in to relieve Peter Bosz.

Pulisic jokes that Stoger's Austrian dialect is hard to understand -- "I have to concentrate really hard" -- but there's little doubt that the 51-year-old's more pragmatic defensive set-up have yielded some instant stability. Third-place Dortmund start the second half of the Bundesliga campaign at home to Wolfsburg on Sunday, confident that they will make the Champions League again next season and provide a serious challenge in the Europa League.

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