Christian Pulisic is ready to roll for the USMNT as they kick off their Gold Cup campaign against Guyana on June 18 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
But where should Gregg Berhalter play him?
[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]
Pulisic, 20, is the leading star of this team and after two disappointing defeats and plenty of criticism over the past week, the U.S. need him now more than ever. He has yet to play a part in the two friendlies and that is likely because he needed a bit of a rest after a busy end to the Bundesliga season, and because he wants to be as fresh as possible before heading to his new club Chelsea in July.
For much of the last few years Pulisic has been handed the no. 10 shirt and has played in that role or just off a central striker for the U.S.. He has spent time on the wing too, and that is his natural position and it is where the USMNT should keep him.
Pulisic’s ability to beat defenders one-v-one is his main strength and Berhalter must focus on getting him in those position as much as possible and not worrying about having to track back and defend if an inexperienced full back is playing behind him.
When it gets the latter stages of the Gold Cup, which the USMNT hope to be playing a part of, Pulisic could be man-marked in the central attacking role and therefore the U.S. would lose its main attacking weapon. But if he starts out wide, it is a lot tougher for him to be shut down.
His dribbling ability often sees him cut inside so even if he does start out on the left, naturally he drifts 10-15 yards inside to create space for himself and wreck havoc for opposition defenders.
With intelligent central midfielders such as Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie around him, they will slide over and plug any gaps out wide to balance the defensive side of the team and that will allow Pulisic more freedom to roam.
Simply put, Berhalter needs to play Pulisic out wide and not in the central attacking role.
He can cause more damage in that role and he will give the USMNT a better balance in attack as he feeds off Jozy Altidore and links up midfield and attack. Instead of floating behind Altidore, or whoever starts up top, Pulisic is better as an out-and-out winger with a clear mission to destroy the full back he’s up against.
Because of his incredible skill on the ball and eye for a pass it is tempting to get Pulisic on the ball as much as possible. But that slows things down too much for him. He’s at his best with a drop of the shoulder, a surging run inside and a killer pass or shot from the edge of the box.
Everyone connected with the USMNT will be hoping they see plenty of that this summer.