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SSFC Spotlight: John Pulskamp looks to cement spot with Kansas City

The start of the next season of Major League Soccer is fast approaching, and will start at the end of the week. Each year it brings out new talent, while established prospects take on more responsibility. John Pulskamp looks set to take on the number one role with Sporting Kansas City, having claimed the majority of minutes to close out 2022. The 21-year-old goalkeeper is a player to watch, gaining first-team experience to a youngster age than most in his position.

A native of Bakersfield, California, Pulskamp competed with the Central California Aztecs and Real So Cal, known for his maturity at a young age and prioritizing communication. In 2017, he joined the LA Galaxy Academy. The goalkeeper received a few call-ups to the match-day squad for the reserve team but remained on the bench, leaving the youth set-up “in an interesting way” with some “interesting conversations having had”. English side Bournemouth called him in for a trial, spending six months training, but contract negotiations stalled over alleged problems with obtaining a work visa without a European passport.

In 2019, Pulskamp joined the reserve team at Sporting Kansas City on a professional deal, turning down a commitment to the University of Portland. In his first pro season, Pulskamp made 14 USL Championship appearances, posting a 4-8-2 record and three shutouts. The club rewarded him with a three-year homegrown deal with a squad option for 2023.

“We are very excited to sign a young goalkeeper of John’s quality,” said manager Peter Vermes. “More importantly, I am proud of the way he has bet on himself, he has worked his way up from Sporting KC II and earned himself an MLS deal. Now it’s about taking the next step as a professional and we believe John will continue to improve as he gains more experience.”

The following year, the club used him in two matches for the reserves, with moving from one level to another made more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has become a defender of the senior team, appearing on the bench for the last 11 games. In 2021, Pulskamp opened the schedule as number one, starting the first five games, becoming the “third-youngest MLS goaltender to win a regular season game.” However, Kansas City relegated him to a support role in place of veteran Tim Melia, making just two first-team appearances for the remainder of the season.

Last year started out similarly, with Pulskamp playing sporadically with the reserves and in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. However, halfway through the schedule, he started making a first team start again following an injury to Melia, earning Team of the Week honors in August. The goalkeeper finished the season appearing in 12 of his last 14 games and is likely to continue in the role. Kansas City re-signed him to a three-season contract extension, including an additional one-year option through 2026.

“Coming from last year, it’s kind of my position to lose,” Pulskamp recently told The Bakersfield Californian. “I think it’s crucial for me to really continue on the trajectory that I’ve been on. Just don’t dip in form, show that where I was last year is just the beginning, and that it’s only [going to] improve, which he has done gradually over the years.”

Internationally, Pulskamp has received occasional call-ups from the USA program, starting with the U-14 squad. Lui attended camps for both the under-18 and under-20 teams, playing for the latter group in a friendly against Mexico, but the under-20 World Cup for his age group was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19. His first senior call-up was in December 2021 for a friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The goalkeeper is also eligible to play for Palestine and has had limited contact with the country’s football federation, expressing a willingness to consider any proposition.

Standing at 6’4”, Pulskamp possesses great composure and is able to cover the entire goal with ease, which are assets on penalty attempts. Everybody Soccer named him one of America’s best goalkeepers under the age of 24, lauding his “balance and quick footwork,” while describing himself as “aggressive” and “quick off his path.” Chasing a Cup notes that shot stopping is “a problem area,” pointing to negative trends in advanced analytics. With the ball at his feet, his general instinct is to clear as fast and as far as possible, even if quick throws are a regular restart of the build.

His constant drive has already paid off throughout his young career. “If you’re in this profession and you want to be successful, you have to be responsible for yourself,” Pulskamp told The Blue Testament. “You have to, in a way, be your own harshest critic — not in an unhealthy way where you’re hurting your self-esteem, but you have to be able to look at yourself and analyze yourself to improve because there’s a lot of guys on the roster and there are a lot of guys in the league.If you don’t constantly look in the mirror, you won’t improve at the pace of the guys that are.

As with most young players, there will be occasional snags, with mistakes in goalkeeper position often ending in catastrophe. Ideally, Sporting Kansas City will weather the bad days, but results, not development, are the priority at the senior level. If Pulskamp can maintain his number one position and perform strongly, he could make his way back to the USMNT configuration. The 21-year-old will be eligible for the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games, which could be his opportunity to shine on the international stage.

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