Christian Pulisic is the heart and soul of the current USA National Team and the foundation upon which its future may be built. He will be 28 years old come the summer of 2026 when his country will host the World Cup. Qatar should be the launching pad of his and his country’s effort to have a real impact on the global scene. And despite looking to peak in 2026, performing well at the 2022 World Cup is a must-do right of passage for him and his teammates.
All eyes will be on the USA’s preeminent 24-year-old striker/playmaker this coming quadrennial tournament, as well as they should. Pulisic’s entire senior-level career, six years, has been in two of Europe’s top leagues. He has been at the Premier League’s Chelsea since 2019 and has played a total of 304 senior-level games at his previous club, Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga, and Chelsea, and the USMNT combined, scoring 76 goals and assisting on 34 others. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
He is constantly improving and has scored many of the goals that matter for the USMNT, such as the winning penalty against Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Final against Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa. He is the captain of the team (nicknamed Captain America) and in many ways, together with Weston McKinnie, the engine of the team—when he revs up the USA gets going.
Fortunately for Pulisic, he is surrounded by some of the finest players the USA has ever produced, most playing in Europe’s five top leagues, and when they are all playing at their top level the team is fun to watch. Playing in Group B at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, pair up against England, Wales, and Iran, the USA has a decent shot at progressing—but only if their top eleven is actually chosen to line up and play, the team is placed in its best strategic set up on the pitch, and then they play to their capabilities. Those have not always been co-existing circumstances.
Facing their toughest opponent at the cup, England, will pit Pulisic against many of the players he faces each week in his club job and that familiarity will help him and USMNT teammates Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson, both with Leeds United, to guide their teammates on how to compete against the favored Three Lions. But it will be up to coach Gregg Berhalter to have them ready for Qatar and so far, his decisions on players, tactics, in-game substitutions, and the like have led the team to have an up-and-down record since their World Cup qualification. The USA had optimistic outings against Uruguay 0-0 and Morocco 3-0, but subpar showings against El Salvador 1-1, Japan 0-2, and Saudi Arabia 0-0.
Sometimes, as is the current case with Portugal, and some may argue with Belgium, the players must succeed despite their coach, and this may be Pulisic’s fate. He must rise to the occasion regardless of his coach’s choices and foibles and lead the other ten men on his side of the pitch to their hoped-for destinies.
Photo: Christian Pulisic Shutterstock Photo ID: 1276171765, by MDI