Christian Pulisic was barely 19 years old when he took the field on Oct. 10, 2017. What was supposed to be a celebration of an eighth straight World Cup appearance turned into one of the darkest days in the history of the United States men’s national team.
Pulisic scored the team’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss in Trinidad and Tobago that kept the U.S. out of the 2018 World Cup. Already recognized as the face of the men’s national team moving forward, Pulisic, as a result of that stunning defeat, had to wait another four years to play on the sport’s biggest stage. That wait is finally over.
Plenty has changed for the 24-year-old winger since that night in Couva. He moved from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea and became a Champions League winner, scoring in one leg of the 2020-21 semifinals and picking up an assist in the other. He netted a hat trick in the Premier League. He’s also battled injuries and has yet to establish himself as a regular starter for Chelsea.
All of that will take a back seat for the next month as the soccer world turns its eyes to Qatar and the U.S. men play a World Cup game for the first time since July 1, 2014. Pulisic — who led the team with five goals during qualifying — isn’t shying away from what an impressive showing at the tournament could mean for the future of the sport in the U.S.
“Maybe it hasn’t been the top sport back in the States and we want to change the way that the world sees American soccer — it’s one of our goals,” he said Wednesday. “We haven’t been at the level of some of these world powerhouses in recent decades, but we’ve had good teams with a lot of heart. We can take it to the next step — a successful World Cup would change a lot.”
This season, Pulisic has a goal and two assists in 18 appearances — only five of which were starts — across all competitions for Chelsea. The limited playing time has been a consistent source of frustration for Pulisic, but has helped bring him closer to God.
“Something that I’ve grown a lot closer with this past year is my belief in God, especially being alone over here,” Pulisic said in a January 2021 GQ feature. “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.”
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After his outstanding performances against Real Madrid in the 2021 Champions League semifinals, he said he draws strength from God when he feels like he’s not getting as many minutes as he’d like.
“I’ve had to continue to prove myself over and over again,” Pulisic said at the end of a postgame interview, via CBS. “But, as always, I reach out to God and He gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me, really.”
Pulisic also mentioned his faith when describing the 10 things he can’t live without to GQ. One of the items he chose was a necklace with a cross.
“This is the most special one to me because my mom gave me this, and I pretty much have it on all the time,” he said. “And I love it a lot. It makes me feel like I have God with me all the time, and my mom is with me as well.”
The U.S. faces Wales in its first group-stage game at 2 p.m. ET on Monday. That will be followed by a clash with England on Nov. 25 and a meeting with Iran on Nov. 29. Two teams advance to the round of 16 out of each four-team group.
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