There is no player on the United States Men's National Team more in the spotlight than Christian Pulisic. From appearing in every U.S. Soccer highlight package, to Volkswagen commercials and beyond, Pulisic is the face of the USMNT. And that's despite wearing the armband in Qatar. In many regards he is the USA's biggest sporting export, leading the way for a generation of young American superstars to play in the biggest leagues in Europe, as he did first in Germany's Bundesliga at Broussia Dortmund, to his current club Chelsea, part of England's Premier League.
But as the 2022 FIFA World Cup gets under way in Qatar, its worth examining what has kept Puli from becoming a soccer superstar on par with the Mbappe's, Neymar's, or even the Ronaldo's of the world. Because every single time the Hershey, PA born winger starts to find a groove, something seems to set him back, and more often than not, those set backs are sadly injuries.
Pulisic's Injury History
A quick glance at Christian Pulisic's injury history will show that most of his injury issues are a more recent development. Sure he sustained the odd knock or muscle injury while playing in Germany, but never did anything cause him to miss more than 3 consecutive matches while playing for head coach Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.
Following his move to London in 2019, things seemed to be looking unbelievably bright for the young American. Chelsea had shelled out roughly 79 million dollars to secure his transfer in January of that year, though he wouldn't join the Blues at Stamford Bridge until the summer due to a transfer embargo. It would take Pulisic a little time to settle in, not scoring until his 10th appearance for head coach Frank Lampard in late October, but when he did, it was a hat trick against Burnley in the Premier League, something no other USA born player had done other than Clint Dempsey.
Three days before that he had notched an assist in a Champions League match, and a month later he scored his first Champions League goal. But then, in early January, it was reported that Christian had suffered a tear in his abductor muscle during training with his fellow Chelsea players and would miss some considerable time.
A Longer Absence than Originally Assumed
That absence was not because of the injury itself, but because of the coronavirus pandemic and the halt to the Premier League season. When play resumed in the summer, Pulisic had made a recovery, only missing 12 games. For much of the rest of the 19/20 Chelsea campaign, Pulisic showed why the West London club had spent the amount they did on him.
However, another setback would occur in August during the FA Cup final against Arsenal. After scoring the opening goal following some beautiful give and go midfield play with Mason Mount, Pulisic would injure his hamstring on a shot in the second half. This hamstring injury would take almost 2 whole months to properly heal and cause Christian to miss 7 more games.
He would then have to quarantine early in the next season after some questionable isolation during the offseason. Another muscle injury would set him back another month and 4 games late in 2020, on top of contract covid and the other knock here and there. Every time it would seem he was finding a rhythm and had worked his way back onto Thomas Tuchel's team sheet, some other little injury would pop up.
On top of that, players from other teams would take notice and start to play him much more physically, especially during international breaks. It was in one such international break in 2021 that saw Puli suffer a nasty ankle injury during a CONCACAF qualifier against Honduras. With that came another 2 months and another 12 games missed. All together to date, Pulisic has missed significant gametime totaling 44 matches for Chelsea.
As the USMNT are in Qatar for the World Cup, Pulisic's injury history will be something watch. After the first match against Gareth Bale and Wales it's very clear teams are targeting Pulisic to prevent him from getting comfortable. And while he was still able to play a gorgeous ball to Tim Weah on the USMNT goal, he also spent a lot of time on the ground in a heap.
With key players like Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie nursing injuries coming into the World Cup, Gregg Berhalter will have to be careful navigating Group B in an effort to not only advance to the knockout stages, but to keep his star man available for the reminder of the tournament. How can they handle England and Iran? When on the pitch, Pulisic has the talent to cause any team headaches. Hopefully, we have turned a page and can keep Captain America in action.
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