Christian Pulisic is learning the harsh realities of CONCACAF. Matches within the region certainly don’t live up to the technique on display in the Champions League atmospheres he’s grown accustomed to, but CONCACAF matches present an entirely different challenge altogether, especially for budding superstars.
Pulisic is becoming familiar with the CONCACAF version of star treatment. He’s fouled repeatedly. He’s pushed and kicked. He’s repeatedly double-teamed by defenders, giving him little room to maneuver and little time to think.
“I’m going to continue to play the same attacking style that I always have. I’m not going to change anything because of how other teams treat me or something like that.”
His teammate, Jozy Altidore, has seen it all in CONCACAF. He’s been a part of those physical battles, espeically against Panama. The Toronto FC forward says Panama defender Roman Torres is always a fun matchup because of the physicality involved.
That said, Altidore also knows Torres is far from the only Panamanian defender that will be looking to get into the head of American attackers, but he expects Pulisic to handle Friday’s battle just fine.
“Christian plays at Borussia Dortmund in front of 80,000 people,” Altidore said. “He plays in Champions League against the biggest players and against the biggest teams in the world. He’s very relaxed. He’s fine.”
BOB BRADLEY COMES TO CAMP
There’s almost always a Bradley in USMNT camp, but, in the build up to Friday’s match, a second familiar face joined camp to help aid the U.S. cause.
Former USMNT coach and current LAFC boss Bob Bradley joined the team in Orlando this week ahead of Friday’s match. He won’t be traveling with the team to Trinidad following the Panama clash, but Bruce Arena says his successor/predecessor has been a valuable voice in camp.
“Bob came in yesterday. I haven’t given him a role,” Arena said on Thursday. “Bob’s being Bob. I can’t think of a greater resource to have available for us to take any comments that he may add and not to have a better friend or more supportive person in U.S. Soccer than that. I think we’re real pleased to have Bob with for a couple of days to help us prepare for this game.
Fabian Johnson’s exclusion was one of the big shocks stemming from Bruce Arena’s roster decision, but the USMNT boss says we certainly haven’t seen the last of the Borussia Monchengladbach winger.
Johnson was left off the initial 26-man squad ahead of the final two qualifiers after recently featuring on the club level. His absence doesn’t appear to be injury-related, but Arena says he expects Johnson to return to the team when the time comes.
“I don’t think any one particular player benefits from (Johnson’s absence),” Arena said. “We just put together a roster we thought could be successful in these two games. I think Fabian is a very good player. We continue to move forward with the national team I would suspect he’s going to be in camps down the road.”
ALTIDORE LOOKING FORWARD TO PLAYING IN HOME STATE
Jozy Altidore loves playing in Florida. He grew up there, after all, and there’s something special about having your loves ones in the house to watch you play.
Generally, he’s found success playing in the state. In June 2014, he fired a brace against Nigeria in Jacksonville in the run up to the World Cup. A few months later, there was a goal against Honduras in Boca Raton. Then there was another brace last September against Trinidad & Tobago in a 4-0 win that helped boost the U.S. into the Hex.
Altidore was quick to say that he didn’t want to jinx whatever magic he’s found in his home state. However, he’s looking forward to playing in Orlando in a venue he sees as one of the more lively in the country.
“I’ve played (in Orlando) now every year since I’ve been back in MLS and to see their growth is spectacular,” Altidore said. “They did well in the Citrus Bowl before and they get a lot of good supporter here, so hopefully those people come out here tomorrow night.
“I grew up here. I always have a lot of friends and family here, so it’s a special place for me,” he added. “I enjoy playing here, so hopefully that continues tomorrow.”