Christian Pulisic has been called up for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s upcoming friendlies, but whether he plays in them will be determined by how his injury recovery evolves over the next few days.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter delivered that message during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after naming a 24-man squad for a European-based camp later this month. Pulisic was included in that roster despite suffering a hamstring injury with Chelsea over the weekend, but whether he suits up for the Americans’ upcoming international friendlies vs. Wales and Panama remains unclear.
“I think this week will determine that,” said Berhalter. “They have a (UEFA) Champions League game and they have a league game and I think his participation with Chelsea will largely determine (his availability).”
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has already ruled Pulisic out for the Champions League showdown with Rennes on Wednesday, but left the possibility open for the 22-year-old attacker to return on Saturday when the Blues play host to Sheffield United in a Premier League match.
Regardless if Pulisic makes it back in time to play for his club this week, questions have already been raised as to his ability to stay healthy. Berhalter touched on Pulisic’s recurring injury issues on Tuesday, stating he believes that the talented youngster will eventually get past them.
“I’ve been there myself,” said Berhalter. “I’ve been in a spot where you have an injury and you try to shake it and in trying to come back there is a period where you are a little bit vulnerable. I know Chelsea is doing every single thing they can, I know he is doing every single thing he can, and I know he is really focused and dedicated on staying fit.
“I believe that he will get to this level of resistance where he stays fit, but building it up sometimes is challenging and I think that could be in a phase that he’s in right now. I know that they could use him, I know he’s a fantastic player and it is great to see what he’s been doing, but he’s in good hands. He’s in good hands with the club, and they’re doing everything they can to get him on the field.”
If Chelsea can do that in time for the weekend bout, then there stands a good chance that Pulisic will be able to play in his first games with the USMNT in almost a year. That is no insignificant thing either, given his growing role and standing with the Americans.
“He is one of the leaders on our team and we will rely on him to help guide this team,” said Berhalter. “At such a young age he’s already played a ton of Champions League games, World Cup qualifiers. You name it, he’s done it. He certainly is a leader on this team.”