Due to a combination of COVID, injuries, and the impressive depth at Chelsea, Christian Pulisic has only made eight starts for his club team this season, playing a total of 756 minutes. He's been effective on the pitch, scoring three goals, but he's far off the pace of his 18 starts during the 2020-21 season.
Not only that, but Pulisic has had to play multiple positions under Thomas Tuchel, including wing back, false nine, and both attacking wings. Pulisic is back with the United States Men's National Team for World Cup qualifying this week, and Gregg Berhalter discussed his star player's up-and-down club season.
"You know. I just love the fact that Christian is fighting, he's fighting to be on the field and whether he plays forward his natural position as a winger withdrawn attacking midfielder, or if he plays wingback, he's he'll do whatever it takes to be on the field," the USMNT coach said. "And I think that's the mark of character."
Pulisic will be in his favored wing position for the USMNT, who face El Salvador on Thursday night in their first of three qualifiers in a seven-day span. Pulisic offered a different lens on the situation.
"You're coming into U.S. camps here and to do whatever I can to help this team. So I'm not thinking about that. Obviously, it's been up-and-down this year, for sure." Pulisic said, "Not exactly where I want to be and how I want things to be right now. But yeah, just gonna keep going. And like I said, it doesn't affect me when I come here. So I'm excited to be here."
While he acknowledges that things have been stressful, Pulisic showed growth in discussing his season at Chelsea. Romelu Lukaku showed firsthand how to not handle talking about playing time and tactical disputes last month.
Pulisic said time with the national team can feel like a breath of fresh air, but admitted the season has "been difficult at times."
"I would say there's yeah there's two sides of me, you know, especially when people ask you how you are sometimes there's the soccer side and then there's the personal side," he said. "So the personal side is even more important for me and I'm doing all right in that sense. But yeah it's a lot sometimes. It's always when I come to the national team, it's how are things at Chelsea? How, what's this? What's that? And yeah things are tough, it's tough. It's been difficult at times, but I'm always very excited to come back with a national team and sort of step away and get to enjoy."
While Pulisic has been in the global eye since he was 16, it's important to remember that he's still only 22 and playing at the highest level in the world. Progress is rarely linear for a young player and it's about how they respond to adversity that will determine their longevity. The positional rotation at Chelsea is a testament to Pulisic's strengths more than anything as not many players are just as comfortable in attack while also putting in a defensive shift.
The coming week should serve as a good reset as Pulisic, as he tries to qualify for his first-ever World Cup.