Christian Pulisic became the first American man to play in a Champions League final when he came off the bench for Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday.
He also became the first American man to play in and win a European final. Chelsea triumphed 1-0 on Kai Havertz’s first-half goal.
Pulisic, a forward from Hershey, Pa., started on the bench, but entered in the 66th minute with Chelsea leading.
Just a few minutes later, he very nearly doubled Chelsea’s advantage with a deft flick in midfield, a 60-yard run on a dead sprint, and a shot that drifted just wide of the far post.
The Blues held on for a deserved victory. And Pulisic celebrated a deserved reward for perseverance throughout two trying seasons at Chelsea. He battled injuries and dips in forms and benchings.
But he helped Chelsea top Real Madrid in the semifinals, scoring the first goal by an American man at that stage of the competition. And now he’s a European champion.
The history of American Champions League winners
Pulisic is not the first American man to win the Champions League. Jovan Kirovski won a European crown with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
But Kirovski didn’t play in the knockout rounds – he was an unused sub once. Pulisic is the first to ever make his mark on men’s club soccer’s biggest stage.
Pulisic is not, however, the first American to play in and win a Champions League final. Nine American women, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, have played in finals. Three have won.
Morgan played and won with Lyon in 2017. Ali Krieger and Gina Lewandowski won with Frankfurt in 2008, when the women’s competition was called the UEFA Women’s Cup.
The men’s competition, formerly called the European Cup, has existed since 1955. It took 66 years for an American to be involved in a final.
Given the amount of young talent currently at European clubs – Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Juventus, Sergiño Dest at Barcelona – it surely won’t take another 66 years to see a second.
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