Christian Pulisic made his return to the United States men’s national team set-up, playing for 45 minutes in a performance designed to help elevate his readiness for Chelsea duty.
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said Pulisic’s halftime exit for Brenden Aaronson was the plan all along after the winger went deep into Chelsea’s Sunday FA Cup win over Sheffield United.
No injuries, nothing to worry about here, and he’s going to play even more on Sunday.
“It was a planned substitution,” Berhalter said. “When I think about his minutes, we want to progress him in a safe way but also help get him 90 minutes fit. He played 82, 86 minutes for Chelsea on Sunday. The natural progression is a half and let him play a lot more against Northern Ireland. That will set him up to gain fitness here and go back to Chelsea in a good way. He grew into the game and became very aggressive coming inside. He was certainly a major factor in that first half.”
Pulisic was joined on the left side by Sergino Dest, who said on the post-game television broadcast that he’s comfortable on both sides of the pitch.
Having a Barcelona man and Chelsea contributor on the same side of the pitch is quite a moment for a CONCACAF side, especially a U.S. team that hasn’t had a lot of answers at left back over the years apart from DaMarcus Beasley.
“The relationship is growing,” Berhalter said of the second match together for Dest and Pulisic. “It’s definitely improved from the last time they played together. If we can get those guys passing and moving and having the intention to get behind that backline, I imagine it would be really difficult for people to handle.”
ProSoccerTalk asked Berhalter about the challenges of all of these players, specifically young ones, playing as often as they are for club and country. I highlighted Giovanni Reyna’s incredible two years that began with a move to Borussia Dortmund, the 2019 U-17 World Cup, and a rapid rise from BVB U-19 starter to weekly player for the Champions League side.
How much attention do they pay to the taxes on the legs and brains of their players?
“We get all their data from the previous four weeks with their clubs,” Berhalter said. “With young players, there’s a certain amount of tolerance for form because we know it’s difficult to keep that consistency. It’s amazing the amount of minutes he’s playing in Germany while in a lockdown living alone. I have a ton of respect for the relentless way that he’s pursuing his profession.”