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Tuchel: Christian Pulisic “has had some setbacks” in return from ankle injury

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Christian Pulisic’s recovery from the ankle injury he suffered in September has endured some setbacks, which is why the U.S. men’s national team star has yet to return to action for Chelsea some six weeks after first being sidelined.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel confirmed on Tuesday that Pulisic still isn’t ready to return to action, and noted that Pulisic was the only Chelsea player unavailable for the upcoming Champions League clash with Malmo.

“I cannot give you all of the details because I am not a doctor, but at the moment (Pulisic) has had some setbacks from pain,” Tuchel told reporters on Tuesday. “Not from a major injury or complications. It is simply the pain in the ankle that disturbs him.

“Once these players with quick movements like Christian, once they feel this pain and they are not free in the movement the recovery is not happening,” Tuchel said. “You start all over again, and you start all over again, and you reach a certain point and the pain comes back. And you have to do a little pause and start all over again.”

Pulisic was injured in the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying win over Honduras on September 10, enduring a painful challenge from Honduran defender Maynor Figueroa that left him limping around the field until he was finally forced off in the eventual 4-1 USA win.

Six weeks later, Pulisic has yet to return to action for Chelsea, and the injury forced him to miss the USMNT’s October World Cup qualifiers. The current uncertainty surrounding Pulisic’s recovery has now put into question whether he will be available for the November qualifiers, including the showdown with Mexico on November 12.

Pulisic’s absence, along with the continued absence of Gio Reyna, who suffered his own injury during the September World Cup qualifiers, has opened the door for some other wing options to step up for the USMNT, led by Brenden Aaronson, who has established himself as the top option on the wing in case Pulisic and Reyna aren’t available in November. Tim Weah and Paul Arriola have also staked claims for playing time, while Konrad De La Fuente and Matthew Hoppe are other possibilities in the wide positions in Gregg Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 system.

It remains unclear just how much longer Pulisic will need to recover, and Tuchel preached patience as both Chelsea and the USMNT await the return of the American star.

“Right now we are very, very close,” Tuchel said of Pulisic’s recovery. “He was so close to come to team training last week and had a little setback and reaction, by pain. Nothing serious. From there on we go.

“He is very impatient, of course, and he does everything and we can see him suffer in every meeting and every time we meet him here he is really suffering and he wants to be on the pitch and help us,” Tuchel added. “Everybody is doing his very best. Unfortunately the injury takes its time.”

Comments

  1. He’s had major hamstring and hip issues and now has an ankle injury, and he’s only what 22? If that doesn’t count as injury prone, I don’t know what does. It only gets worse with age, especially for players that rely on a burst of speed like he does. Good thing we have so much depth at wing, which now looks like it includes Dest. Take out CP and Reyna and we still have better wings than we ever did. All that said, I really hope he defies the odds and gets better and puts this behind him.

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  2. an ankle is a 4 week injury and what i saw didn’t look extraordinary. my experience you would usually tweak it once or twice as you built back muscle and load bearing. if you tweaked your ankle coming off a sprain you didn’t go down another few weeks. you took the rest of practice off. otherwise you’d never get back “healthy.” it’s like you have to rebuild past a fitness point to be safe after pulling a muscle. i’d be concerned they were taking advantage. but pulisic would have to play along….

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    • Without knowing the severity of the injury, it’s hard to say. I sprained mine in Plano Labor Day tourney as a teen. It swelled up like a balloon. I sat out 2-3 weeks until it seemed like it was better. First game back I took a shot 5 minutes in and reinjured it. I was out for just over another month.

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  3. Since when has Arriola “staked claim for playing time”. The guy is sub par at best and taking up a roster spot for a younger more talented player.

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    • in the circular sense of having previously played ergo should play again. personally i thought what some saw as his big role in jamaica was actually holding back what should have been another 4 goal tailkicking. we created more chaos and could do little with it because he was then one of the implements to finish the ball off.

      to be fair, hoppe looked worse. hoppe’s gold cup swashbuckling turning into dribble turnovers was exposed worse against stronger opposition. i wanted the one who would hit sharp crosses back.

      personally i’d like to see musah or dest get tried wide also. i’d like to see reyna playing interior. i think we need some finesse. it’s all a bit too crude. and i say this as a former hard tackling back and wide player. i always believed in a division of labor where i did my thing and the attackers theirs and i wasn’t passing to the functional equivalent of myself, a forward picked to chase.

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  4. Already posted online that Reyna is very doubtful for November WCQ. An obvious severe hamstrung injury. We may be short both wingers this upcoming cycle.

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    • this is why you build up layers of players at every position and don’t fanboy the starters with all the minutes. personally i’d say we need to take a step back and take an honest look at what worked and what didn’t the past 2 months. relatively speaking. i thought aaronson and weah looked good. i think konrad was the “least poor” of the meh options remaining, generated some offense. i thought musah made some runs and crosses that looked like wing plays. that plus dest. dest or moore could easily play high. arriola isn’t up to the offensive end, he can roster him as a 28th player “closer” to chase on a lead, but we need 2 layers of actual starting attacking wings for when games are 0-0. hoppe didn’t look ready to be wide in this level game. the calm crossing disappeared and he tried to turn it into a frenetic dribbling video game. anyhow, this is what reality is, don’t panic, just sort through what practically we can do about it.

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  5. He is a step quicker than everyone else, especially in concacaf. Sometimes he is fouled intentionally, sometimes because he has already touched around the defender coming in late and then takes the hit. I see it in youth matches all the time, and half the time youth refs don’t even make the call. This is a bit of a tangent, but I think this is part of what prevents the US from having lots of skilled players to choose from at the highest levels, because so many are hacked out of the game as kids. Even at big time club youth tournaments, it seems like refs let the game get too physical, which favors better athletes, but not necessarily the best soccer players. As far as Pulisic, at this point he has to adjust his game. More quick passing, less taking on multiple defenders, etc. I always thought Donovan was great at this, avoiding major injuries for someone who played a lot of matches. There were times when he “backed off” 50-50 challenges when coming late, and some people blasted him for it, but I think that’s part of what allowed him to play so long.

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    • landon had by one calculation 57 international goals and 58 assists in 100+ caps. to me a flawed player is judged by the overall +/- net. landon nets out way positive. he did cost us some games on defense over the years, but he won us more. i want the same calculus applied to other soft players, dest, brooks. calculate out whether the goals allowed net out right with the goals they contribute. or move them someplace where the goals allowed disappear.

      landon was also like superfit, incredibly endurance and speed, probably NCAA D1 track level running if he’d wanted that. landon also burnt out earlier than i expected from someone of his fitness and dedication to that point, fwiw.

      personally i think in recent years puli tries to dribble the whole other team, waits a beat too late to start wing attacks, dancing a la dempsey. i think if he played the ball quicker and tried less to be one man dribbling champion there is less chance to do the harsh tackles you dislike. plain english, hold the ball, get crunched.

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      • ” i want the same calculus applied to other soft players, dest, brooks. calculate out whether the goals allowed net out right with the goals they contribute. or move them someplace where the goals allowed disappear.”

        To what end? Are you not going to play a guy because your calculus shows he might be more injury prone than the next guy?

        Is there such a reliably predictive calculus? Our big Euro stars such as Gio, Adams and Pulisic are more “injury prone” most likely because they are important players asked to play regularly in a very intense atmosphere. Also they get targeted a lot.

        Pulisic has a style that invites that kind of attention more than others, but your analysis of why he gets hurt a lot is mostly hindsight. His style will evolve but it got him to where he is.

        And actually he stays a lot less on the ball with Chelsea than he does with the USMNT for very obvious reasons. That’s what happens when guys like Roldan, Lletget, Ariolla, Acosta and Yueill are the ones providing him with the service, or lack thereof.

        There’s no mystery there. Gio and Pulisic were bought up to value the ball. It’s very obvious that they, in general, would rather die than give the ball to Lletget. They don’t trust him.

        Eden Hazard, who was more solidly built, had a very similar style to Pulisic and went for years with it. And now he’s falling apart a bit early. Hazard is a better comparison than Landon because Landon tended to stay out of the middle and away from contact. LD used MLS to keep fit for his USMNT duty. It was perfect for that because he didn’t necessarily face a ton of competitive pressure in every single fricking game in MLS.

        Not like Hazard did and Pulisic does.

  6. I think he is hte definition of “Injury Prone”. I hate to say it but we better not get our hopes up for Pulisic being a leader for the USMNT.

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    • Really?

      Then don’t get your hopes up for Tyler as “a leader for the USMNT”. If Pulisic is injury prone then so is Tyler Adams who at one point missed 16 straight USMNT games through injury. And his injury to this adductor muscles, can come back any time.

      You’d better get used to this for all of our top 5 club regulars like Pulisic, Gio, Tyler, Weston, Dest, etc.

      They are all important players for their club and country and are being asked to play a lot high intensity, high pressure, big games. Those games are wearing. And they get targeted when they play in CONCACAF.

      We all love Brendan’s high motor style. But he plays for Salzburg in a league where most of his games are at the same competitive level of MLS.

      Wait until he moves from Austria to some top 5 league team and they start kicking him to pieces on a regular basis. How long do you think it will be before you start calling him “injury prone”?

      You write about Pulisic as if he’s doing something wrong.

      He’s not. not really. He’s in a tough profession and has has a style that draws physical attention. Unfortunately that style is also why he’s been successful. So it’s not as simple backing off of more challenges.

      That’s why it’s not enough for the USMNT to have some skilled players.

      They need lots of them to make up for the inevitable attrition.

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      • Brendan Aaronson and RB Salzburg have played at the level of Sevilla and Liverpool in champions league play. They are far above any MLS club. The best MLS clubs cant even compete with Liga MX. I was with your argument up until you tried to downplay RB Salzburg.

      • Israel B. Salguero

        “Brendan Aaronson and RB Salzburg have played at the level of Sevilla and Liverpool in champions league play.”

        True, but not on a regular basis. For Salzburg, their Champions League season is the equivalent of a Cup season and the amount of time they spend there obviously, depends on how far they go.

        For example, in the 2019-20 season, Salzburg played 6 Champions League games, 2 Europa League games, 6 Austrian Cup games and 32 Austrian BL games.

        Salzburg played about 21% of their competitive games at the CL/Europa League level

        The rest of the time it is Austrian BL, which is a far lower level of intensity.

        And Salzburg are a different class to the rest of the Austrian BL, which is to say it is no contest:

        Austrian Bundesliga
        • Champions (15): 1993–94*, 1994–95*, 1996–97*, 2006–07, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21
        • Runners-up: 2005–06, 2007–08, 2010–11, 2012–13
        Austrian Cup
        • Winners (8): 2011–12, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21
        • Runners-up (5): 1973–74*, 1979–80*, 1980–81*, 1999–2000*, 2017–18

        Salzburg really are a cut or two above the rest of their league.

        For Aaronson to go back to regular domestic league play is in no way comparable in intensity to what Pulisic or Adams have to face when they go back to their regular league play.

        They get no break from the intensity.

    • my 2 cents he’s not an o’brien who is literally broken and a shell of his former self. he plays a lot and picks up minor dings without lasting impact. that’s more like beasley. i would suggest given how often he’s out that we develop his spot deeper than the others. just like if you know steffen has a knee problem maybe keep a few other keepers in mind, and give them minutes to make their case, so you have options.

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  7. I hate to see Pulisic missing more matches, but I don’t think this falls under the umbrella of “injury prone” or anything. Our skill players take a beating in CONCACAF play and unfortunately they don’t seem to get the same protection from the referees that players get in other confederations. Hopefully, he’ll be back this or next weekend and ready to take advantage of a favorable run of fixtures with Chelsea.

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    • CP’s problem is and has been that he tries to do too much when he doesn’t have to, which contributes to injuries. He stays entirely too long on the ball too often, going 1 v 3 at times, when there are other capable attackers and set up players on the field with him. When he limits his “superman” mentality only then when we begin to see the injuries go down imho

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      • If you played for this USMNT during his tenure you might feel the same way Pulisic seems to.

        Who is going to score besides him? Josh? Zardes? He didn’t have Pefok, Hoppe, KDLF or Pepi for most of his time.

        Who is going to be creative and get him the ball? Lletget? Roldan? Ariolla? Acosta? Yueill? Michael Bradley?

        They used to say about Tierry Henry that if he knew you sucked he wouldn’t give you the ball. It’s a tough world at that level.

        If I’m Pulisic I’m not big on giving those guys the ball either.

        Pulisic isn’t the problem.

        The team, who have no coherent offensive strategy beyond give the ball to either Gio or Pulisic and hope for the best, is the problem.

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