U.S. Men's National Team

The SBI View: USMNT should welcome Pulisic's bold leadership

Christian Pulisic is a brilliant talent with confidence flowing out of every ounce of his body.

The 18-year-old has also never stepped foot into the cauldron that is the Estadio Azteca.

Fresh off his two-goal performance in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday, Pulisic made a bold declaration in his postgame interview with Fox Sports 1.

“It’s going to be a tough one down there in Mexico especially,” Pulisic said, “but we really want some revenge on them for when they got us earlier so we’re really confident going into that game. We’re going to come out with a win there too.”

Pulisic went full Joe Namath and said on national television and claimed the USMNT would come out of Azteca with three points. Not a hard-fought draw that would be celebrated like a win in the United States, an actual victory.

You do have to take these comments into context because Pulisic was still high on adrenaline after his terrific performance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and with the win over T&T, the Americans have the ability to show no fear in Mexico City and possible back up Pulisic’s boldness.

However, the harsh reality is that Pulisic already had a target on his back before these comments. Once the Mexican players get word of it, and trust me it will happen fast, the target will grow on the back of the fearless teenager. Pulisic was already going to be the victim of a few harsh tackles on behalf of the top team in CONCACAF, so a few more with some extra bite won’t hurt, right?

There’s no doubt Pulisic gave Mexico, a team that needs no extra motivation to get up for a game with the United States, bulletin board material for Sunday, and there’s a decent chance the 18-year-old phenom could be shut out during his time on the field.

But Pulisic’s comments could also be a rallying cry for a team that has the luxury of showing no fear and earning revenge since it now sits in a comfortable position in the Hex. Clint Dempsey only played 60 minutes on Thursday in a poor performance, one he’ll absolutely try to make up for on Sunday, and if he and Pulisic combine well early on in the match, you never know what may happen.

Pulisic also hit on what we assume would be one of Bruce Arena’s rallying cries anyway. The US was beaten by Mexico in its home fortress of Columbus on November 11 to open the Hex. None of the current American players have gone into Mexico City after losing at home to El Tri. There’s no question the veterans like Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard will get the squad prepared to earn revenge, but not many people expected Pulisic to take leadership of the conquest of Azteca.

Even if the USMNT fails to pull a result out of Mexico City on Sunday night, Pulisic’s comments from Thursday night taught us something about him. No matter how young he may be, he’s not afraid to get up and motivate the team. If he continues to convey messages like that throughout his career, Pulisic may not only go down as one of the best players in American history, but one of the best leaders and motivators as well.

  • Lyle Roberts

    Going into Azteca quietly and respectfully has never worked. Might as well try walking in like a boss and see what happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gmonsoon43

      The only other moment of pre-Azteca swagger I can think of is when Charlie Davies asked on social media if he should do the dougie or the carlton when he scored at Azteca


  • Milkshake of Despair

    Maybe he can teach our defenders how to defend in the next couple days. We were very lucky not to have been scored on a few times during the game. And it was TNT on home soil! Our defense has me very worried.


    • Ronniet

      focusing on what could’ve happened in the grand scheme of things is silly, we also could have scored 2 more goals had we been sharper from the get go, focusing on things that did happen seems more productive to me. This WCQ, if people think chances will not be created whether a team is hoem or away is just crazy talk, this is the highest level of the game and T&T is no pushover.


  • Joe Dirt

    What did Klinsmann used to call it,…, belief. Didn’t Klinsmann also criticize his players at time for showing the opposition too much respect. I love it.

    Big difference with Pulisic is he’s already played in the Bernebeu, he has played at the Allianz arena, and every home game at Westfalensadion. Azteca is scary but its not like he’s hasn’t seen the bright lights and rowdy crowds before. Shit and piss bags aside of course.

    Feed this kid the rock. Surround him with a player or two who can do quick one two combination passing in the final third and he will crush Concacaf. What was missing in the first half was the passing and ball movement was painfully slow, the rhythm was sped up in the second half and viola.

    Pulisic aside. We really need a midfield destroyer type on the field against Mexico who can boss the midfield and pressure Mexico’s possession. We can’t let them just lazily possess the ball and pass it around and around to unending Ole’s. Who is that destroyer on this squad though?


      • Joe Dirt

        Was thinking the same thing more or less. Maybe a 4-2-3-1 with Bradley and Cameron in front of CB pairing of Brooks and OG. Would almost be like playing a 5-1-3-1 at times though. We will be looking to score on the counter for the most part. Will be nice to see Pulisic running at defenders in space and dropping it off to players making runs. We need our forwards to make those runs though and not be lazy off counters though.


    • Jonathan Gilbert

      I am hoping that destroyer is Acosta, he looked good and he has the energy we will need. Bradley has given up trying to close people down in the middle of the pitch, and it gives the other team attacks they should not have.


  • jb

    Makes me nervous thinking about Pulisic taking all the cheap fouls that are certainly headed his way. If he wasn’t already so important in our attack I would think about sitting him for this one.

    I am wondering if there isn’t an opportunity here though, considering Mexico’s schedule. Curious if they even start their A team given all the games they have coming up and that this match isn’t crucial for them since they are so far on top of the standings.


  • dr.K

    yeah, but he destroys our own attack with his poor passing so it might be a wash. You can’t destroy or out-tough or beat them up and win. That is the ultimate loser approach. You must not worry about their slow buildup and possession . This can be used to our advantage.be smart. Absorb the pressure and counter, especially at high altitude it is a way to conserve energy. Please , tying to out-tough Mexico at home does not seem like a winning strategy. Outsmarting them can be.


  • Gary Page

    I’m not saying Pulisic is or will be as good as Ronaldo, but he could end up being as impactful for the US as Ronaldo is for Portugal.


    • Jonathan Gilbert

      For now I will take him having more impact for us than Landon did, which was a lot. From there we can look to Ronaldo level impact, but I agree the sky is the limit right now.


  • Jonathan Gilbert

    Not sure it was Namath-esque, but it was bold. It actully reminded me of how Landon used to talk about going to Azteca when he was a young pup. Full of confidence and bravado, but no cocky and out of control. Quiet confidence is a huge part of this kids make up, and it is great!


  • Adam in Cali

    Check your facts. He actually HAS already played at Azteca, but just not with the full national team. He talked about it briefly during an interview earlier in the week. To say he’s, “never step foot in” Azteca is just plain lazy on the writer’s part. I love this site, but I just wish the quality was what it used to be. It’s frustrating how many errors are present in just about every article these days.


  • KenC

    Somebody has to lead the team, and with Landon done, Clint almost done, Howard almost done, Bradley seeming out of gas, who exactly has been stepping up to fill the void?


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