By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

After a year in which he was hampered by hamstring injuries and a new coach who turned him into super sub, Christian Pulisic could not only finally smile, but laugh as well Saturday.

The U.S. men’s national team standout was basking in the glory of winning the UEFA Champions League crown and becoming the first USMNT player to capture Europe’s biggest club trophy.

“I’m just so proud. I’m so proud to be here,” he said on Paramount Plus after Chelsea defeated Manchester City, 2-1, in the final in Porto, Portugal. “It’s been a difficult road for me, and I couldn’t imagine winning the Champions League ever in my life and then now I’m here. So, it’s just crazy.”

When Tom Tuchel took over for the fired Frank Lampard, many observers of the English Premier League team thought Pulisic would continue to get decent playing time. He performed for Tuchel when the two were at Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

But that wasn’t the case.

Pulisic was benched regularly and wound up starring in the unwanted role as a super sub.

When he first was asked his reaction to winning the UCL title, the 22-year-old Pulisic replied, “It’s just incredible. I can’t even, I have no words. So proud.”

While wearing a U.S. Soccer swear during postgame celebrations, Pulisic lofted the UCL trophy with his parents standing alongside him.

Pulisic said he spent the last 20 minutes “just hugging people. With my family there, and all our friends. I’m just so proud of this team really.

“I’m just so thankful for all the support, to have people here today. It’s just amazing.”

The Hershey, Pa. native replaced Timo Werner in the 66th minute with the Blues clinging to a one-goal advantage. He realized he was going to have to play more defensive than attack.

“I felt great,” he said about coming on. “I knew I was going have to put in the hard work defensively. I wish I put away the chance I had I didn’t quite get under like I wanted, but this team were always going win this game and I’m just so proud of that man.”

He came close to scoring several minutes later.

“I mean I tried to just get under it,” Pulisic said. “The keeper did well to block the angle, and I just wasn’t slick enough. I couldn’t get under it so I kind of just pulled it but hey listen, we won. I’m not thinking about it.”

When asked if Chelsea can win it again, Pulisic replied, “That’s right, yeah. Obviously got to some duty with national team, take a little rest, my head away, and then we’re going come back and try to do the same thing next year.”

Pulisic will join the USMNT for the Concacaf Nations League Final Four. The Americans take on Honduras in the semifinals in Denver, Colo. Thursday. The third-place match and final are set for Sunday, June 6.