Christian Pulisic was not a happy man when he was subbed off in the second half of the USMNT’s damaging defeat to Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League.
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He didn’t look injured and after walking off the pitch he was visibly upset as Gregg Berhalter spoke to him on the bench.
But there’s a perfectly simple explanation for this: Pulisic was sick.
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USMNT head coach Berhalter revealed why he subbed out Pulisic in the 60th minute of their 2-0 defeat to Canada in Toronto on Tuesday, as Pulisic was suffering from “cold and flu-like” symptoms.
“He wanted to continue. You could see the disappointment in his face, and we had to make that decision,” Berhalter said. “We made the decision based on being not sure how much he had left. We wanted to inject some energy into the team.”
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Now, Berhalter is obviously telling the truth here, but perhaps it was a convenient excuse as Pulisic wasn’t playing his best.
Pulisic, 21, struggled against Canada and missed the USMNT’s best opportunity, as he was played in by Jordan Morris and hit his shot from 10 yards out straight at Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
In truth, it was a tough chance with the way the ball was played to him, but Pulisic knew he should have done better and moments later he was on the bench and then the USMNT were 1-0 down.
Things aren’t going Pulisic’s way right now and Tuesday night summed that up.
There is a ridiculous amount of pressure on his shoulders to single-handedly lift the USMNT out of a two-year long slump, and given the fact he has only played a handful of minutes for Chelsea over the past two months, getting a cold as he heads back to England is far from ideal.
Berhalter’s reasoning for taking off Pulisic makes sense, as he is the one U.S. player who is talented enough to make something out of nothing. But right now we aren’t seeing the best of Pulisic, and that’s probably down to his lack of playing time at Chelsea.
It’s too early to say whether or not that will impact his form for the USMNT in the months ahead, but there’s no doubting the Stars and Stripes need their best player to stand tall for the game against Canada in Orlando next month.