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Pulisic’s two-way ability continues to blossom for USMNT

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.”


  1. Every positive expression, one can have, to describe CPs game, would be right! (Awesome!, Aggressive!, Technical., Dynamic!, etc). I would really like to see ‘em @ LW. My point- If you notice from all the matches, he seems (instinctively, or planned) to find his way on the defense right hand side. I don’t know his stats on left foot shots vs right foot, but I do know he’s a deadly passer with his left foot, or left side of the box. (The assist to McKennie, is 1 of many, examples) He also has a counter move he showed, a few times, last night, which was get the ball inside, ( when on the touch line), steering with his right. He set up the defense nicely, on 1 occasion, but I think, a poor decision, not to pass the ball to Boyd, when he chose to shoot. I would like to see Altidore & Morris with him on the front lines because we have a better chance of scoring when all 3 are on the pitch, especially up front. Continuity offensively is noticeable! …Unlike last nights match.

    • People have busy lives and don’t have a lot of time but if you were wondering, “CP22, Altidore, & Morris?, who’s the playmaker @ no. 10?”. Michael Bradley. ~Silence~. “Every1 boo this, man!” “Boo!”
      ‘You made some great points until now!’ ‘ Captain Backwards Pass?!’ For any person, who just started watching USMNT, MB is second all time in assists for the USMNT. If he’s the captain of passing backwards, who else, besides CP, is passing it forward, into scoring position? Meanwhile, Tim Ream has been passing back to the other team, (literally) since 2011. To finish my thought…
      McKennie @ the 8, and Long @ the 6, to cover MB and Altidore lack of defensive speed, and/or prowess. CP & Morris energy will go a long way in masking MB & JA, space will be available. Zimmerman & Miazga CB combo. Boyd comes in @ the ‘60 @ LW, (I know, I know, he been playing on the right. His confidence with his left, doesn’t seem as strong to me, because he’s right footed), replaces Long. CP moves in the middle, MB, back to the 6. If Altidore gets tired, sub in Zardes. If Morris gets tired, sub in Arriola, (IMO, is a RB). Again, this is wishful thinking, a lot of people described what I was feeling after last nights match in a win, though, We did advance!. #KeepHopeAlive

  2. Because of both his ability and maturity, it is easy to forget that CP22 is still only 20 years old. A couple of games ago the match announcer said 20 year old Christian Pulisic and I found myself going, Who, he’s still only 20. Now, I knew that, of course, but you just don’t think of it because it seems like he has been around so long already and when you do think of it, it comes as quite a shock to me just how young he still is. He certainly doesn’t act his age, and that’s a good thing.

  3. Blossom? His two way play has always been there, he is a complete player.
    We are just seeing more of him in the red white and blue this summer.

  4. Thank god we have Pulisic on our team, or we would have been eliminated no doubt. We’re slow and uninspiring, and when the opposition actually has players that can actually play, as Curacao did (and Venezuela, too), we look pretty awful.

    This said I wasn’t surprised to see Curucao have the better of us for most of the game. Look at the rosters – they have guys starting in European 1st and 2nd divisions, while we field mediocre MLS talent, that probably couldn’t start in the leagues most the Curucao players are playing anyhow! So on paper you could argue Curucao had the edge with the better players overall!

    Hopefully, some of the U20 guys will start to stick in Europe and come bring in some better technique and soccer IQ. There’s some good potential, and it might be ready just in time for the WC. But WCQ with this current group might get a bit scary.

    Still 4 games, 4 wins, no goals, but no real world class opponent yet, if we’re being honest.

    • I’ve been noticing that too about how Caribbean nations are starting to tap into their diaspora populations a lot of which are in Euro and play there but some here in the States too. Just posted to exact sentiments on another article before reading this so I guess others are taking notice too. That Jamaica and Curacao bounced both of Honduras and El Salvador out of that group speaks to the Caribbean teams reaching new levels. Combine that with Haiti bouncing Canada in the quarters too and this is a real trend and its being fueled by the roster depth they’re getting from their diaspora players playing in lower Euro tier leagues giving them depth across their roster they didn’t have previously. I think early round qualifiers and the Hex could look very different from the past. Nations with a lot of previous success making the Hex such as Honduras, El Salvador(not last cycle but before), Panama have a narrower margin for error to make the Hex, and that same sentiment applies to the US and probably CR too right now, but Mexico still way ahead. Curacao tapping lower tier Dutch players who more than held their own against the MLS all star team GB called up really smells bad in my opinion.

      • The announcer mentioned that one of the Curacao players played for the Dutch U-20 team. I think a fair number of our MLS players would not have been good enough to make that team. . Their skill on the ball surpassed that of most US players. This just shows again how we need to have more players plying their trade in first division European sides.

    • Completely agree Gary. I was curious and went to the concacaf gold cup roster list that was sent out for all teams 40 man provisional rosters and count 7 players who are on the books at Eredivise clubs last year and about 6-7 on Eereste divisie clubs. Bacuna with Cardiff CIty and a handful of other playing in other second division leagues in Germany and Portugal and Belgium. Impress roster management for team like Curacao. Their GK is on the books for PSV too. I ask myself who among Trapp, Arriola, Zardes, Lima, Lovitz, Roldan, Cannon, or Lewis could make a Eredivise roster? Those guys aren’t just bench warmers for us six have had a start this GC and all have seen minutes. You’re right and we’ve both been saying it our guys need to be playing in better more competitive leagues than what they’re getting from MLS. Hopefully one day we won’t have to send our young players to Europe for coaching and better competition but MLS is still not their by a long way still. These Caribbean teams like Haiti and Curacao are showing just how competitive they can be using second division Euro players as their roster depth and have caught and sunk Honduras, El Salvador, and Canada already and the US and CR are next if we don’t watch out.

      • I would say most of them – except Lovitz (no idea what Gregg sees in him) could make a roster of and Eredivisie team. Maybe too soon for Lima. But Zardes, Roldan, Trapp – there is talk of them wanted by Championship teams and that’s higher level than Eredivisie. People give Holland too much credit. Confusing it with top 3 teams in Holland, which of course are strong. I don’t think any rational person would say that Curaçao would be favorites over US if they were to play again tomorrow. Odds would still be hugely in our favor, albeit not as much as yesterday morning. And that sheds a bit of light on MLS vs. Eredivisie quality.

        My sons coach is Dutch and he says as of today MLS=Eredivisie. Top to bottom that is

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