Christian Pulisic entered the World Cup with only a few minutes on his record, hoping to be the American of the time.
He is the first American to play in and win the Champions League final and was selected as the United States Soccer Federation’s Soccer Player of the Year three times before his 24th birthday in September. However, Pulisic would arrive in Qatar after a difficult and unsatisfactory season. He has started barely five of Chelsea’s 22 games, playing the whole game on only one occasion.
“Whenever I go to the national team they ask me: ‘How are things with Chelsea? How was it, how was that?’ Pulisic said in the United States last winter. “And yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough. It definitely affects me a lot, and mentally it’s been tough at times.”
Pulisic has 21 goals in 52 games for the United States, and is already seventh on the nation’s leading scorer list, led by Landon Donovan and Clint Dempset with 57 goals each.
However, he still needs to gain World Cup experience. The enduring image of the 2017 loss to Trinidad and Tobago was of Pulisic crouching, one hand covering his face.
Donovan said a few months earlier, “It’s crazy to think he’s barely 23 years old.” “Most 23-year-olds trying to figure out their lives and he’s going to carry the hopes and pressures of an entire country on his shoulders.”
The agency representing Pulisic has limited face-to-face interviews for most of his career. He spoke of feeling clearly anguished in a book published by Rizzoli on October 11: “Pulisik: My Journey So Far,” a series of conversations with Daniel Melmud. An important period in his life was the winter of 2020–21, when Frank Lampard was sacked as Chelsea manager and replaced by Thomas Tuchel.
“I was dealing with depression, and it was a very difficult period where I hit rock bottom in February 2021 and had to seek professional help,” Pulisic wrote. “Going to therapy is not something anyone should be ashamed of. Being able to talk to someone is important.”
Pulisic struggled to get playing time under Tuchel, which saw him make his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund in January 2016 at the age of 17 years and 133 days. Pulisic criticized Tuchel for not starting him in the second leg of the 2021 Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, especially after scoring a goal in the first leg.
“I was honestly shocked and very disappointed,” Pulisic wrote. “I thought I had won the title and, above all, he had already assured me that he was going to start the match.”
Weeks later, Pulisic came on after 66 minutes in the Champions League final and celebrated Chelsea’s 1–0 win over Manchester City at the Estádio do Dragão in Portugal, wearing a United States Football Federation sweatshirt United, which his father had bought for the match. Worn for
Pulisic’s outfit also attracted attention last November, when he scored five minutes after coming on against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier. Pulisic ran to the baseline and took off his jersey to reveal another that read “Man in the Mirror” in black ink. In the days before the game, El Tri goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was quoted as saying, “Mexico is the mirror in which the United States wants to see itself.”
Pulisic did the work of convincing his comrades.
“Mexico was talking a lot. To shut them down, we have to keep winning games, keep beating them,” said Tim Weah.
Used both on the flank and in midfield at Chelsea, and even as a full-back, Pulisic has mostly been on the left side of United States’ attack.
USA coach Greg Berhalter said, “I bet on Christian just because I’ve seen him before.” “He doesn’t think the way I would like, and he goes out on the field and shows everybody they’re wrong and ends games. That’s what he’s doing. So I think that’s going to happen. And I think his mind is in the right place and he’s going to fight for it because that’s the kind of guy he is.”