One of the three major finals set to take place today (Sunday; 9pm EDT) will be the at Chicago’s Soldier Field, between Mexico and the US Men’s National Team. It will be the sixth Gold Cup final contested by the two heavyweights of CONCACAF, with Mexico holding a 4 wins to 1 edge. The one exceptions? Chicago, 2007.
If the US are to repeat those heroics from twelve years ago, a certain Chelsea player will have to rise to occasion just as he did in with a semifinal brace against Jamaica. Christian Pulisic may just be 20 years old, but he’s the great hope of a men’s team looking for some soccer salvation after the ignominy of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. (There are no such concerns for the US Women’s Team, who are looking to win the World Cup, again, earlier in the day.)
Pulisic will be making his 31st international appearance already, and looking to add to his 13 goals and 10 assists. That record looks even more impressive when considering that he scored 10 of those goals and collected all 10 of those assists in the 21 non-friendlies he’s played so far.
US head coach Greg Berhalter isn’t surprised by Pulisic’s habit of rising to the big occasion and predicts a similarly bright future for him at Stamford Bridge.
“What we see with Christian is just how dynamic he is with the ball. He just accelerates past opponents and forces defenders into mistakes. He then opens up the game for the team. What I particularly like about Christian is his ability to take on information and act on it.
“He has the ability to influence the game from different positions and can unlock defences whether as a No 10 or going wide. With the coaching he’ll get in England, he has an incredibly bright future.”
-Gregg Berhalter; source: Mail
In more specific comments ahead of the final, Berhalter praised Pulisic’s quick adaptability and growing leadership.
“When I think about this month for him it’s been a lot of personal development in terms of him blossoming with his personality within the group, his importance to the team on the field. The skills haven’t changed from a month ago, but in terms of his role, what he’s comfortable with, how he’s embracing his role within the team, and his role on and off the field, I think it’s been really nice to see.
“The most important thing we’ve focused on is giving Christian flexibility, putting him in position where he could affect the game in a number of different ways. We wanted to play him central, but also get him wide. When you think about him being central, arriving in the penalty box, the two goals (against Jamaica) were a result of him being in good positions to be able to finish off plays that end up in front of goal. When you think about some of the assists he’s had they’ve come in wide areas, notably against Curacao.
“With Christian we know he’s a top talent and we want to get him into position to affect the game. We know he can affect the game on an individual level, and he’s shown that so far in the tournament.”
-Gregg Berhalter; source: Goal
Berhalter has made no qualms about building his team around the kid from Hershey, PA, and Pulisic has responded very well. He’s done so well in fact that Mexico boss Tata Martino, recently of Barcelona, Argentina, and 2018 MLS Champions, Atlanta United, is tailoring his gameplan specifically towards stopping the Chelsea new boy.
“I think that Pulisic is one of the big emerging players in world football in this latest era without a doubt. He’s one of the most unsettling players I have seen in recent times. I think if we don’t pay special attention to him, especially when we’re in attack, we’re going to have a bad time. He’s a player you have to pay special attention to precisely because he can single-handedly win a game.”
-Tata Martino; source: Goal
Pulisic may not be Eden Hazard, but he’s having an excellent tournament this summer after a stop-start season to finish out his time at Borussia Dortmund. With Chelsea getting younger, leaner, and meaner, Pulisic will be needed to show what he can do at Stamford Bridge as well. He should be joining up with Lampard and the rest of the gang soon after today’s final.