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Paragon of the Pitch—Christian Pulisic’s Budding Career

Called a “fast-rising talent” by Sports Illustrated, Christian Pulisic is making waves as a new addition to the U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT). The 18-year-old, born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is of slight frame but possesses strong dribbling skills, a talent which gained him attention as part of Borussia Dortmund, scoring four goals in his career with the organization.

Among USMNST fans, Pulisic quickly earned a reputation for modesty in the face of circumstances that would certainly inflate other egos. In the face of a recent loss to Mexico, Pulisic insists that he didn’t do enough to push for a U.S. victory.

Really, that simple admission sums up who Pulisic is as both a player and an individual: a hard worker with the determination to consistently improve his showing. Any individual forming the backbone of the USMNT offense in their first appearance has to have both the physicality and the mentality to contend with career players. Pulisic’s tactical approach to his game, exploiting holes in opposing defenses, displays a patience and expertise formed by a lifetime of soccer.

His game against Mexico may have been a disappointing loss for the USMNT, but his showing, marred only slightly by a bad touch, demonstrates that he has the mettle to play with the game’s titans. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann praised Pulisic’s performance during the game, but is keeping the teen under wraps for now, refusing to overhype his prowess.

However, this hasn’t stopped the rest of the soccer community from doing exactly that. And it’s not hard to see why. His list of accomplishments includes the honors of being the youngest American to play, score, and later start, in a World Cup Qualifier.

Pulisic may well have been inspired by his parents, both of whom played collegiate soccer at George Mason University. His father, Mark, went on to play professionally for the Harrisburg Heat.

After playing for various youth teams, Pulisic joined the U-17 Borussia Dortmund squad, distinguishing himself and earning the respect of his teammates not only for his skill, but for his personality and down-to-earth nature. With ten goals and eight assists over the course of 15 games, the team’s management knew that they had something special on their hands.

He was quickly promoted to Dortmund’s U-19 team, netting experience in the FIFA World Cup as part of the U.S U-17’s before being recruited for the USMNT.

There’s a lot riding on Pulisic’s shoulders at this point. Criticisms of Jürgen Klinsmann’s coaching have been met with calls for Pulisic to rescue the franchise from the jaws of what many view as mediocre management. Is it a lot to ask from a single 18-year-old? Maybe, but Really, it’s too early to tell whether he’ll be able to deliver on whatever high hopes his team and country have ascribed to him, but his position as a young rising star ensures that his career is far from over.

The Saints of Baton Rouge

Todd BernerThe past year has been a trying time for America. With police officers having shot and killed over 800 victims, 43 of which were unarmed, the country has seen an unnerving racial divide between African-American men and police officers. Fortunately, the New Orleans Saints and former NFL running back, Warrick Dunn, are looking to mend the still fresh wounds by uniting both sides.

On July 5th, 2016, Alton Sterling, an African-American and Baton Rouge native male was shot and killed by at least one police officer, according to The New York Times. After a video of Sterling’s murder went viral, it sent shockwaves not only through the state of Louisiana, but through the country as a whole. Then, not less than two weeks later, three police officers were killed by Gavin Long, an African-American male who openly expressed his frustration with police killings of African-Americans, in Baton Rouge, shaking the city to its core.

This hit all too close to home for Warrick Dunn, whose mother was a police officer killed while on duty. Dunn, whose NFL career spanned 11 years playing for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons, made it his mission to bring unity at a time when it was sorely needed. Being from Baton Rouge, Dunn used his connections in the NFL to partner with the New Orleans Saints in order to help ease tensions in Louisiana. And what greater way to do so than through one of Louisiana’s greatest prides?

The Saints and Dunn invited both Cameron Sterling–Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son–and Dechia Gerald–wife of fallen police officer Matthew Gerald–to attend both the Saints practice meeting as well as the team’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

In a video aired on the NFL Network documenting the hopeful meeting, Dunn shared his thoughts on the situation and his motivation, stating, “I understand the issues of being a young black man in the community, but I also know that there’s a lot of great police officers. My mom was that type of person. People can unite and put their differences aside. We do it all the time on the football field.”

After the Saints’ practice meeting, Sean Payton, the team’s head coach, brought Dunn, Sterling and Gerald onto the field and reminded them of their similarities. “There’s three things you have in common: You’re from Baton Rouge, you’re Saints fans and you lost loved ones to gun violence.”

This somber moment reflects the tight and powerful community that makes up Louisiana. Regardless of the pain and frustration that is being experienced by many, the close-knit people of New Orleans and the surrounding area can always count on the Saints to bring them together.

This isn’t the first time the Saints have eased the pain of tragedy in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina rocked “The Big Easy” in 2005, killing almost 1,500 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless, one moment managed to lift the spirits of an entire city. On September 25, 2006, while the city was still recovering, then Saints safety Steve Gleason blocked a punt from the Saints’ rival, the Atlanta Falcons. This single play gave hope and spirit back to the devastated city of New Orleans and was, in many respects, a well-deserved rebirth.   

Saints Season Preview

The beginning of all is upon us, and with it marks the beginning of the South’s favorite sport, football. There is no arguing that Louisiana is SEC country with LSU located in the state capital of Baton Rouge. Tigers fans would give a left arm to see their team win the SEC championship in Atlanta in December, let alone a national title. The football allegiance of these state’s most populous and famous city, New Orleans, however, lies with the Saints which boast some of the most passionate fans you will find across any American sports team. The last decade has been an up and down journey for the Saints.  Their journey closely aligns with the experiences of the people of New Orleans who suffered great hardship due to the destruction to their city caused by Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago. In the ensuing years, the Saints, in some ways, served not only as a beacon of hope, but as a unifying thread that tied together all members of this incredibly diverse city. The Saints, led by their talented and infallible quarterback, Drew Brees, capped off a wonderful 2009 season with a thrilling SuperBowl Victory.

That was six years ago, however. NFL Pundits have been proclaiming all offseason that the NFC South is the weakest amongst the league’s divisions. It is true that the Saints, Falcons, Panthers, or Buccaneers are not legitmate contenders for the conference championship, let alone the Super Bowl.

The Bucs with a weak defense, a talent-defficent offesnive line, and rookie quarterback will most likely finish at the bottom of the division. Most analysts are split between the Falcons, the Panthers, and the Saints as the division favorites. The Falcons, if their O-line holds up will have a powerful offensive attack, but it remains to be seen if first year coach and defensive guru, Dan Quinn, can transform their previously lackluster defense. The Carolina Panthers, who have won the division the last two years, will be lead by the always exciting Cam Newton. Their Achilles heel lies in the fact they don’t have any legitimate receiving threats as their second-year star wide out, Kelvin Benjamin is out for the season.

The Saints could very well end up as the division champions come January. A lot of it depends on how Brees, 36, performs in the twilight of his career. While he is still an elite qb, many experts believed he did experience a decline last year. The defense, while young and injured, should still be solid led by defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Jimmy Graham did depart, but Brandin Cooks should largely fill this receiving gap. To watch all these players in action, tune into Fox at 4 pm EST this Sunday to watch the Saints take on the Arizona Cardinals.