After scoring in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid and not featuring in Chelsea’s Premier League game the following weekend, Christian Pulisic was optimistic he’d be starting the second leg last week.
But when the lineups came out, Pulisic found himself on the bench. He did not hide his disappointment after the game and pointed to his relationship with God as his source of strength.
“Very frustrated,” Pulisic said at the end of a postgame interview, via CBS. “Umm, yeah, there’s not much else to say. I wanted to play from the beginning, as I always do. I’ve had to continue to prove myself over and over again. But, as always, I reach out to God and He gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me, really.”
The 22-year-old made the most of the time he got on the field after coming on as a substitute in the 67th minute. With Chelsea leading 2-1 on aggregate, Pulisic drew Real Madrid goalie Thibaut Courtois out of position and found Mason Mount in front of an open net to secure a place in the Champions League final.
— Fulltime Videos (@FtVid_) May 6, 2021
Pulisic and Mount have known each other since childhood, making the moment even more special.
“So happy for Mason,” Pulisic said. “It’s always fun to play with him and it’s crazy we go that far back, so it is special to be on this stage and doing this together.”
It's crazy that we go that far back so it is special to be on this stage and doing this together."
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) May 5, 2021
A managerial change in late January provided a spark for Chelsea, who find themselves playing for two trophies as they also attempt to secure a place in next season’s Champions League in the final three weeks of the season.
They host Arsenal on Wednesday before facing Leicester City in Saturday’s FA Cup final. Manchester City, who Chelsea have beaten twice in the last month, await in the Champions League final on May 29.
Already the first U.S. male to score in the Champions League semifinals, Pulisic will likely become the first to appear in the Champions League final as well.
With the final five games of the season coming in an 18-day stretch, Pulisic will undoubtedly play a significant role in determining how Chelsea’s campaign ends. His season has been an up-and-down one, much like his team’s.
Though injuries have limited his availability, Pulisic has produced six goals and three assists in 38 appearances across all competitions. In a January story for GQ, he discussed the challenges of living alone in a foreign country during the pandemic and how his faith has grown during his time in London.
“Something that I’ve grown a lot closer with this past year is my belief in God, especially being alone over here,” Pulisic said. “I feel like I always have Someone who’s with me. I don’t know how I would do any of this without that feeling that He’s watching over me and there’s a reason why I’m here.”
Saturday’s FA Cup final will kick off at 12:15 p.m. ET. The Champions League final is scheduled to get underway at 3 p.m. ET on May 29.
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