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Americans Abroad Breakdown: Christian Pulisic’s confident outing vs. Watford

As if there was not already reason enough for Americans to celebrate this July 4, Christian Pulisic came through with another confident showing in a Chelsea win.

Not that he was perfect, though.

Pulisic continued his recent run of good form on Saturday by helping Chelsea post a convincing 3-0 victory vs. an overmatched Watford side. Pulisic’s most notable contribution in the lopsided affair was the nifty cutback he pulled off to change direction and draw a penalty in the 42nd minute.

The U.S. Men’s National Team attacker did not take the ensuing spot kick — that responsibility fell to Willian, who converted to make it 2-0 — but it punctuated a solid first half for Pulisic in which he was probably Chelsea’s most dangerous player.

The 21-year-old American was aggressive during the opening 45 minutes, looking to play forward almost every time he touched the ball, be it with a penetrating dribbling run or incisive pass. Early in the stanza, Pulisic set up Olivier Giroud for a great scoring opportunity that was superbly saved by Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster’s outstretched leg.

Yet as good as Pulisic was in the first half, he was absent for much of it. Teammates looked him off repeatedly, and he also did not help his cause by cheaply losing the ball on the dribble on a couple of occasions in which he could have attempted to play a more collective game.

The newfound confidence Pulisic has discovered in recent weeks may have been the primary reason for his willingness to try and go at defenders vs. Watford, but there is a fine line between believing in one’s own abilities and being selfish.

Pulisic was the latter at times on Saturday, a tad too individualistic in moments that called for a more collaborative effort. He finished the first half with the second fewest touches (24) of any Chelsea field player, a curious development given how dangerous he was when saw the ball but a likely byproduct of teammates not feeding him after seeing him go it alone one too many times.

There was notable improvement in Pulisic’s ability to play within the collective group after the break. He played safer at times and combined a little more — finishing the match with 61 touches — all while still looking as confident and aggressive as he did prior to the intermission.

On one play towards the end of the match, the talented youngster tried to dribble through a pair of Watford defenders in the 18-yard box. The move did not come off despite his protests for another penalty, but it illustrated that Pulisic had not lost his desire to try and resolve things by himself when the situation called for it.

That said, the ability to look for and find teammates marked his last major contribution on Saturday. He played a part in the build-up to Ross Barkley’s late insurance goal, slipping a ball to the left to an overlapping Cesar Azpilicueta before a low cross found Barkley for the authoritative finish. Pulisic could have opted to fake the pass and dribbled inward to attempt to have a go himself, but he made the more intelligent decision and it paid dividends.

If Pulisic can find a better balance between that type of collective play and the lethal individualism that he has demonstrated in recent weeks, he will transform into that much more of a dangerous weapon for Chelsea. Finding that equilibrium is tricky, of course, and it will only come with more experience.

Still, the sooner Pulisic can manage that the better he will be. Yes, he is playing some of the best soccer of his young career right now, but there remains room for him to grow into an even deadlier player.

One that teammates will not be able to ignore, and one that gives Americans even more reasons to celebrate


  1. Franco must not want to be considered a fan. He fails to understand the role the CP22 plays for this team. DIBO is spot on with his assessment of Pulisic. Notice how very little happens for Chelsea when CP isn’t around making runs, driving at the defense, and drawing defenders. Giroud is so much better with CP playing this style. Shoot even Ross Barkley has been effective, when he doesn’t play 47 touch soccer. Sorry Franco but this is a HUGE swing-and-miss of an article, in my opinion.

    That being said, it js so nice to have something to read about a recent game. I am very grateful to have the games back.

  2. Pulisic’s role in the Chelsea offense is to be the “dagger.” The team intentionally does not play him often in the slow buildup because that would attract more defenders. What he does best is finish plays, so you’ll see him feature off switches of play, and of course on the counter. What he does off the ball is very dangerous for other teams, because he can be in a wide area and then suddenly join the center forward with a quick run, or he can get to the flag at pace. Then if defenders choose to drop off and defend his runs, he can turn and use his dribbling powers. Very hard to stop. On the flip side, maybe he’s pushing the pace too much at times, but I’m sure Frank isn’t complaining much about that.

    • This analysis seems to fit the situation well and I hope its correct. Otherwise if his teammates are ignoring him there will be a short future for CP at Chelsea which we dont want to see.

  3. This is his game and skill set, listen to the commentary and post match reaction from Frank. He has been their best player since the restart. He should be given 2 assists for his penalty draws. Nit picking at its best, kid is playing great

  4. I have watched only the first half, but this analysis of Pulisic’s play in the first half is, simply put, wrong. In the first 20 minutes, Pulisic made 2 great feeds to Giroud and one to Willian, at about 25 minutes he laid the ball off to the left to free a teammate up for a great opportunity to dribble or cross. When he had possession, he did not repeatedly dribble until he lost the ball, but instead played the ball to a teammate, either back or square as no option forward was available.
    If I had to fault his play in the first half it was that too many of his runs without the ball were into the space already occupied by Giroud, thus clogging the area in front of the goal for both of them.

  5. I think some of this criticism is nit picking. For one, several times when he ran at the defense, he was ahead of the other Chelsea attackers and really had no outlet. His choice other than taking it in alone in those instances was to turn and bring the ball back out and set up after more Chelsea teammates got into the box. Also, he has played a lot of minutes in the last two weeks. Compare his minutes with those of players like giroud, Barkley, Abraham, Godoi, etc. Of the front 6 or so, only Willian has played as much as Pulisic to my recollection. Yet, in the last couple of minutes Pulisic was still running hard and fast. My main concern is that Lampard doesn’t play him too much and have that lead to injury. The rest will sort itself out with more experience. Remember this is his first season at Chelsea and he has missed a lot of games due to injury so he is still integrating himself with his teammates.


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