Christian Pulisic admits he sometimes “overthinks” and puts “too much pressure” on himself to try to “save” the USMNT in an attempt to live up to the “high standards that people set for [him].”
There is presently plenty of uncertainty over his future at Chelsea, plus the fact the 2022 World Cup is now just over nine months away, making the rest of the calendar year a potentially career-shaping (if not -defining) period for the 23-year-old widely dubbed “Captain America” from the time he was 17 years old.
There is undoubtedly pressure for any player at the top of the footballing world, but for players like Pulisic — who come from places where true superstars are more singular than, say, Brazil, Germany or France — there is undeniably another layer on top of the typical. To his credit, Pulisic clearly understands this and knows he must rise, within his means, to the occasion — quotes from ESPN.com:
“Sometimes it is tough. I still haven’t completely learned. Especially going back to the U.S., sometimes I put too much pressure on myself that I need to do something special where I just need to play the best I can, do what I can do and hopefully people recognize that.
“It is just about playing my game, doing it to the best of my ability and not worrying about what any outside sources say, because that’s not what really matters.
“For example, in the last national team games, the first couple I’m going into it thinking, ‘I need to over-perform and do something to save the team,’ but there’s no need for that, because we have a very strong team.
“I think at times I was overthinking it and trying to be too good in a way that’s not necessary. I don’t need to, whatever, overcomplicate things.”
“It has been a lot [to live up to]. Especially in the U.S., I think I do have pretty high standards that people set for me, and it can be tough at times.”
USMNT in good hands with Pulisic, Adams, McKennie
Looking back on the most recent round of World Cup qualifiers, it’s not hard to envision Pulisic “trying to be too good” or “over-perform … to save the team,” especially given 1) the heightened stakes of those three games, most notably the away qualifier in Canada, but also — and this part shouldn’t be left out — 2) Pulisic was on the team and on the field when the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. As the 2022 qualifying cycle winds down, it’s not at all surprising that Pulisic, of all people, is feeling the added pressure to perform and right those wrongs of four and a half years ago.
The fact that Pulisic accepts that burden and recognizes the added pressure that puts on him, is a clear-as-day indicator that he cares a great deal and takes his role as captain and a leader very seriously. Pulisic might not be the USMNT’s most in-form player at the moment (or at any time during World Cup qualifying), but it takes all of two seconds to see that his teammates — many of whom have been in fine form for the USMNT, like Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie — still look to him and take their cues from the chosen leader.
Because they’re so talented — something which Pulisic rightly points out in the interview — it’s very easy to remember that the entire team is young and inexperienced in moments like this, and that when they fall short of expectations, they tend to come right back with the requisite renewed focus and performances to match.