It will be intriguing to see how much of a background role Christian Pulisic will playy in the two WCQs. (Amanda Rossmann-USA TODAY NETWORK)
By Michael Lewis
CINCINNATI – Christian Pulisic will play for the United States in its next two World Cup qualifying matches, but don’t expect the Chelsea standout to start.
After all, he had but four training sessions with his English Premier League club and played a total of 21 minutes as a substitute before traveling to the states for the next two Concacaf Octagonal games.
Pulisic had been sidelined for almost two months with an ankle injury he suffered during the September qualifying window.
“He’s not going to start tomorrow,” U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter said on Thursday afternoon. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time. We’ll put him on the field, and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want.”
Berhalter said Pulisic has looked good in training.
“It was about assessing him, giving him a couple of good days of training building up to this point where we can make them available,” he said about Friday night’s vital qualifier against Mexico at TQL Stadium. “That was the whole idea. He’s the guy you want. You want him to be able to help your team no matter where he is. It was assessing him again, working with our medical staff and getting him ready to play. He will be ready to play.”
The USA boss admitted he was perplexed from statements from Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel emanating out of London Monday that Pulisic would be overused by the USMNT against Mexico and then vs. Jamaica next Tuesday.
“I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough,” Tuchel said. “Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful.”
To which Berhalter replied: “It’s kind of strange to hear [about] texts come out from Tuchel because we use common sense.”
He added that Pulisic trained three days prior to last Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League match against Malmo and had probably one practice season before Saturday’s Burnley clash.
“So he’s been training for four days,” Berhalter said. “Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days. He has been out for two months. I understand Tuchel’s concern. Our idea wasn’t to play him 180 minutes in this trip anyway.”