Christian Pulisic’s hamstring injury wasn’t as bad as originally feared. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea)
By Michael Lewis
With an injured Christian Pulisic getting called into the U.S. men’s national team for a pair of friendlies later this month, the big question for the impact-making midfielder is whether he will be able to play.
Pulisic tweaked a hamstring during warm-ups prior to Chelsea’s English Premier League match at Burnley Saturday and pulled himself out of the lineup.
His hamstring wasn’t as bad as originally feared, although the 22-year-old midfielder won’t be in the Blues’ 18-man roster for their UEFA Champions League match against Rennes (France) Wednesday.
“Christian had a scan yesterday which showed a very minor injury to his hamstring,” Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said in a pre-match media conference Tuesday. “He won’t be fit for tomorrow, but we will see after that.
“It’s obviously a relief for it to be on the small side. Christian made the right decision not to play in a game that could have made it worse. He’s an important player for us. Some players who play on the edge and have speed could be more susceptible. We are looking at ways to manage Christian.
“We are all working in the same direction to try get him to be match fit as regularly as possible. We know the talent.”
So does USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, who said in a press conference of his own that Pulisic’s availability for his team’s games against Wales (Nov. 12) and Panama (Nov. 16 in Austria) will depend on how the talented midfielder fares for his club side.
“This week will determine that,” he said. “They have a Champions League game. They have a league game and his participation this week with Chelsea will largely determine what he will be able to do with us.”
Pulisic, who scored in Chelsea’s 4-0 UCL win over Krasnodar Oct. 28, has been bothered by injuries. He did not make a league appearance until October due to a hamstring problem incurred in August.
Berhalter is willing to be patient.
After all, these games are only friendlies, not World Cup qualifiers, Concacaf Nations Cup semifinals or final or the Concacaf Gold Cup.
“I’ve been there myself,” Berhalter said. “I’ve been in the spot where you have an injury and you’re trying to shake it and then you come back. It appears when you’re coming back you are a little bit vulnerable. I know that Chelsea is doing everything they can, I know that he’s everything he can. I know he’s really focused and dedicated on staying fit. I believe that he will get to the level of resistance where he stays fit.
“But building it up sometimes is challenging. That could be a phase that he is in right now. I know that they can use him. I know he is a fantastic player. It’s been great to see what he’s been doing. But he’s in good hands, in good hands with the club. They’re doing everything they can to get him on the field.”
And when Pulisic is on the field for the USA, Berhalter has put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.
“He is one of the leaders on our team,” he said. “We’ll rely on him to help guide this team. At such a young age, he’s already played a ton of Champions League games. He’s played World Cup qualifiers. You name it, he’s done it. so, he’s certainly a leader on this team.”