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Christian Pulisic exorcises US demons against Trinidad & Tobago

Two assists, a goal, and a nutmeg. What more could you want?

United States v Trinidad & Tobago: Group D - 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The last time the United States Men’s National Team played Trinidad & Tobago it was in 2017, Trinidad & Tobago won 2-1, a (hilarious) result that shut the Americans out of the 2018 World Cup. Tonight, in something called the Gold Cup, the U.S. men had an opportunity to exact a bit of revenge. For our purposes, that’s not important. What is important is that Chelsea’s new boy Christian Pulisic started the match and thus did things we need to discuss.

The U.S. teams’ new coach Gregg Berhalter is a bit of an idealist when it comes to tactics, so Pulisic was either deployed as LCM in a 4141 or LM in a 433. Either way, he put in a lot of work on the flank and in space a bit farther inside.

His first contribution came from some work around the left side of the penalty area. After a free kick ricocheted off the wall, the ball was worked to Pulisic who was drifting wide. Upon receiving the ball he began to dribble his way to the top of the box, dropping his shoulder and cutting inside to lift a floated cross into a dangerous area. Center-back Aaron Long fought to get around his man and head the ball into the bottom right corner.

The Americans went into the break 1-0 (halftime of the match in 2017 was 0-2 to Trinidad, so this was seen as improvement — albeit comically).

The USMNT came out flying in the second half, and Pulisic was a big part of the reason why. He was energetic, always seeking the ball and then moving it forward and into areas where teammates could create danger. In the 69th minute Pulisic collected his second assist of the match.

Receiving the ball on the left flank and a few yards into the opponent’s half, Pulisic went on a dribble that saw him slice through two defenders and dart toward the penalty spot. With the defense panicked and focused on him, U.S. striker Gyasi Zardes drifted into space at the top of the box and received a slip pass from Chelsea’s newest signing. A well struck (Zardes, I know!) shot grazed the keeper’s fingertips on its way into the back of the net. 3-0. The exorcism was going swimmingly.

The only* thing left was for Pulisic to put the ball in the back of the net himself — a thing he seemed to sense, too. So in the 73rd minute he did just that. A turnover by Trinidad & Tobago in their own half sent Jordan Morris dribbling into the box. As he was about to be surrounded by four red shirts, Pulisic was keeping himself onside and doing that open palms thing that tells teammates to pass or prepare to be scoffed at. Morris passed, Pulisic used one touch to control, the other to dispatch the ball into the goal.

*I lied, there was one more thing.

Ask any footballer worth their weight in sauce and they’ll tell you that no dominant performance is complete without a nutmeg. So, to honor the football gods, it was done.

And yes, yes, we know — it’s Trinidad & Tobago. But I’d rather Chelsea’s newest signing be capable of dominating a match against such an opponent than not. Also keep in mind that despite the propensity for America and Americans to make things extremely annoying in fairly short order, Pulisic is still just 20-years-old.

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