Christian Pulisic’s role as Chelsea’s late-game replacement was not ideal preparation for the Football World Cup in Qatar. But its shape is not the only issue facing the United States. Players bounced on their toes, the ball was put in place and Christian Pulisic took what has recently become his usual position at Chelsea.
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To be fair, it was a good seat in the second row of the Chelsea dugout, with a great view of Chelsea’s match against Arsenal. But this was far from what Christian Pulisic wants. Not on Sunday, not at all, and certainly not two weeks before the start of his first Football World Cup.
Pulisic, 24, remains the brightest star on a young US team that hopes to make a splash at the Football World Cup in Qatar. But at Chelsea, he is what the British call an excess demand: something extra, something nice, of course, but not what the transfer club needs.
This is a professional problem for Pulisic, the Champions League winner, who can still change Chelsea’s attack, change the game, change the outcome in short moments of playing time. Dealing with that problem, however, appears to be out of his purview: Chelsea are reportedly considering sending him to Italy in the January transfer window, and manager Graham Potter, who replaced the sacked Thomas Tuchel in September, is currently suffering much more serious crises.
“I’m focused on Chelsea, Potter said last month when asked about players like Pulisic and others who might be campaigning for higher roles and more consistent playing time ahead of the Qatar Football World Cup. I understand that all players have ambitions and they want to play for different reasons: for the sake of family, career or the Football World Cup. Everything is fine. But my job is to pick the right team for any game.”
Potter praised Pulisic’s work in training. The player, who is outraged by Tuchel’s treatment of him in a book published this fall, said he was itching to start a new life under Potter. The manager said he just needed to be ready. Yet little has changed in his diminished role.
However, the current state of affairs is not only Pulisic’s problem. It’s unclear what his infrequent appearances later this month could mean for his national team, which play their first Football World Cup match two weeks after Monday. Pulisic has only made three Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season and only two in the past nine weeks. He only scored one goal.
It’s not what anyone would call an ideal situation for a player who sees himself as a difference maker, and it’s not the perfect recipe for spice before the biggest tournament of his life. But his indeterminate status is also not unusual for a United States team battling more than a few unknowns.
For example, at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Pulisic’s seat was about 20 feet from the seat held by goaltender Matt Turner, a prospective US starter in Qatar. Turner has played even less than Pulisic since his move to England in the summer, and with Aaron Ramsdale firmly established in the starting line-up and Arsenal leading the Premier League, Turner cannot reasonably be expected to re-enter the field. in the league before he arrives at the Football World Cup.
“It was risky to go from a rookie to a place where I wasn’t guaranteed to be a regular starter, but it felt like a necessary risk I had to take, Turner said after a recent (rare) Europa League start.”
The list of worries does not end there. Midfielder Weston McKenney is out for at least two weeks with a hip injury. Left-back Anthony Robinson has missed most of September with an ankle injury and recently hinted that while he is back in Fulham’s starting XI, he is still not 100 per cent. Defender Serginho Dest has largely remained in the reserves since joining Milan, while Gio Reina and Timothy Weah have shown weakness throughout their careers. But they are at least playing meaningful minutes these days.
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Similar fears are emerging on the American side of the Atlantic. Walker Zimmerman, a near-confident starter at the center of US defense, will have more than a month between his last competitive match and his first Football World Cup match. Defenseman DeAndre Yedlin sees a similar gap after his Inter Miami were eliminated at the start of the Major League Soccer playoffs.
To keep his inactive (and healthy) MLS players busy, US coach Gregg Berhalter recently held a training camp in Texas, trying to maintain something resembling an edge ahead of the announcement of his final roster on Wednesday. While the camp may have been rewarding, its atmosphere could hardly compete with the pressure of the Football World Cup, which, it must be remembered, would be the first experience for almost every member of his young United States team.
Then Pulisic might have more luck than the rest. He is not injured. He was already playing high stakes games. He goes through high-level training every week at Chelsea. And Potter has not completely forgotten him: two weeks ago he gave him a start in the Champions League game, and a few days later he rewarded him with another defeat in Brighton.
However, in Chelsea’s next game, Pulisic found himself back on the bench again. Sunday brought another day spent watching and waiting. Pulisic spent the first hour of the game squatting with his coat buttoned up at the chin. By the 60th minute, he was on the touchline, leisurely doing a light warm-up, occasionally glancing at the game and at Potter.
The bell rang in the 78th minute when Potter spoke quickly in his ear and gave him a sharp slap on the shoulder as Pulisic ran on to replace Mason Mount. The game, unfortunately, is actually over. Arsenal, clearly superior all day, scored the only goal from a corner 15 minutes earlier, and Chelsea, who had never looked like a threat to win, dutifully walked out. When the final whistle blew, Pulisic stood like a statue with his hands on his hips, all alone near midfield.
He remained motionless for about 30 seconds before coming over to shake the referee’s hand. Then he deliberately turned and strode straight down the tunnel, stone-faced, without slowing down. Another 90 minutes of frustration. Another wasted day. Another day closer to the Qatar World Cup.
Gareth Bale tells Wales fans exactly what shape he’s in for Football World Cup as embarrassing tweet deleted
Gareth Bale says he’s still not “100% ready” despite his injury time heroism that helped LAFC to MLS Cup glory on Saturday night. The Wales captain came off the bench in the 97th minute to equalize with Philadelphia Union before heading home in the 128th minute to send the game to a penalty shoot-out. The goal caused wild scenes on the pitch, on the touchlines and in the stands, and was all the more remarkable given that Bale had not played a minute of football in over a month.
The Los Angeles team then thrashed their opponents 3–0 in a penalty shootout, which saw them win the MLS Cup. Minutes before Bale’s stunning leveling, Union tweeted “JACK ELLIOTT >>>> GARET BALE”, referring to their quarterback Elliott, who had just scored his second goal of the match, to set them on a path that seemed to be winning.
But they had balls in their faces just four minutes later when Bale climbed the highest to nod at Los Angeles level after a cross from Diego Palacios. The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before fans shared it online. Attention will obviously quickly turn to the Football World Cup, with Wales’ first game – ironically against the US – kicking off in just over two weeks.
After the match, Bale spoke about his fitness, which will be of particular interest to Red Wall and manager Rob Page. As time goes on, I feel better and better, Bale told the assembled reporters. I had a few setbacks and a few weeks ago I had a light hit that kept me out of the field for 10 days. This is just one of those things. For more know about Football World Cup Tickets.
“Now it was difficult for me psychologically to go to the Qatar World Cup. You see, now there are so many players who are dropping out and now missing the Football World Cup. It was difficult psychologically and I’m sure it was for many players. I’m sure deep down I’ve been thinking about making sure I’m 100% ready. Today I felt good enough to take the field and help the team and I’m happy to see them lift this trophy.”
Bale said he spoke with Los Angeles coach Steve Cherundolo ahead of the final and agreed he would be willing to play “20-30 minutes” if required. At the moment I’m not 100%. I’ll still be back, Bale said. I have a few small problems, like most players. But I was able to get on the pitch in the last 20-30 minutes and give my all and I made it my goal to help the team and that’s what I’m here for I think.
“Bale’s record in major finals is impressive, having scored twice in Champions League finals for former club Real Madrid, a habit he cherishes. It’s always a pleasure to score in finals and I seem to have the ability to do that, Bale said, adding that the move to the MLS was difficult for him as he only started two games since signing in Los Angeles.”
Obviously, coming in without a preseason and trying to catch up was difficult, Bale said. Moving with family. I tried to keep myself as fit as possible, tried to help the team as much as I could on and off the field. And it’s all worth it when you have moments like today. The most important goal was to win the MLS Cup final, and we succeeded.
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