PHILADELPHIA — Everybody knows about Christian Pulisic’s ability with the ball at his feet. Just ask Borussia Dortmund or the U.S. Men’s National Team.
One thing though that Pulisic has raised in his game is the ability to excel on both sides of the field. The 20-year-old did record the game-winning assist in the USMNT’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Curacao on Sunday night, but he also starred defensively. Pulisic was the lone bright spot in what was overall a sluggish performance by Gregg Berhalter’s side.
“For Christian you know we talk about the diversity of our leadership,” Berhalter said. “Christian is a guy who is a top performer. He can lead you to a good performance. You see his work on the field and even when things got late in the game and he got fatigued he never stopped working. He has the quality to get that cross to Weston, he had some other chances in the match including the one early that was saved. His defensive performance was good too so you see what he brings to the field every game.”
Pulisic came close to kicking the scoring off early at Lincoln Financial Field, but saw his effort denied by Eloi Room. He didn’t let that frustrate him though as he sent a beautiful cross to the back post allowing Weston McKennie to head in his second-career international goal.
As the match went on, Pulisic continued to try to create opportunities and win possession for his team. He had a few additional looks at goal, while also fighting for possession and also putting his body on the line defensively. After a three-point night on Matchday 2 against Trinidad & Tobago, Pulisic followed that up with a complete performance against Curacao.
“Great night for Christian,” Gyasi Zardes said. “A lot of people will talk about his offensive effort but you have to look at him defensively as well. He was running all over the field all game and put in a lot of work. He did an amazing job today.”
Although the USMNT did not dominate against their Caribbean counterparts, they did book a spot in the semifinals against Jamaica. It will be a rematch of the two sides who played not only in a June friendly (won 1-0 by Jamaica), but also in the 2017 Gold Cup Final.
The team will need to show a lot more against Reggae Boyz if they want to get back to the final. Curacao dominated possession after halftime and even forced Zack Steffen into a top-notch save in the dying moments. Pulisic may have been the star of the show on Sunday night, but even he knows improvement is needed.
“In the end Curacao did a really good job and we just have to try and fix mistakes from tonight going into Jamaica,” Pulisic said. “The game opened up and we need to try and control the game more ourselves. They defended well after we scored the goal and they made things difficult for us.”
“The knockout stage is not easy, that is one thing we will take away. Jamaica will make things difficult for us and we will have to grind it out to get a result. We need to be better in front of goal and try to score more, but we know it won’t be easy. There are definitely things to improve on.”
Pulisic has two more matches with the USMNT before he embarks on the next chapter of his domestic career with Chelsea. He has not yet donned the blue and white of the London club just yet on the field, but his performance on Sunday even had Curacao’s Leandro Bacuna confident he will have a bright future with the club.
“He [Christian] is a very good player,” Bacuna told SBI. You see the abilities he has and what he can bring to the field. He was very active tonight and he was influential in their goal and some other chances as well. He’s going to be a very good player for Chelsea.”