Christian Pulisic is ‘doing everything in my power’ to play for U.S. vs. Netherlands

Christian Pulisic of the United States smiles during a news conference
Christian Pulisic was unusually upbeat and engaged during a 14-minute media conference Thursday at the U.S. training complex in Doha, Qatar, two days after suffering a pelvic bruise in a World Cup game against Iran.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Christian Pulisic learned the U.S. had advanced to the World Cup’s round of 16 by staring at a cellphone in a hospital examination room. Which is odd because it was Pulisic’s goal that had sent the Americans there.

But the scoring play ended with Pulisic sliding into Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, whose knee slammed into Pulisic’s ... well, we’ll get to that in a minute. The important thing is the ball wound up in the net, the U.S. hung on for a 1-0 victory and will meet the Netherlands on Saturday in the first round of elimination games.

Pulisic, meanwhile, wound up in the hospital where he was diagnosed with a pelvic bruise, a condition that is a lot more painful than it sounds. But not, apparently, as painful as it could have been.

“I mean, it’s a pelvic contusion,” he said. “At the same time, I didn’t get hit in the [testicles]. It was very painful and, you know, that bone is there for a reason, to protect you. I hit it well. It was sore. But it’s getting better.”


Whether it protected Pulisic well enough that he’ll be able to play Saturday night will not be known until game time. But his absence would be a major blow to the U.S. since the Americans have only two goals in this World Cup and Pulisic set up one and scored the other.

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“I’m taking it day by day right now, but doing everything in my power to be able to be out there on the field on Saturday,” said Pulisic, who was unusually upbeat and engaged during a 14-minute media conference Thursday at the U.S. training complex.

Although the players chose Tyler Adams as their captain, Pulisic has long been the public face of the team, and it’s clear the players feed off his grit and determination. That will be a difficult intangible to replace if he can’t go against the Netherlands, which is ranked eighth in the world and is unbeaten in 18 consecutive matches.

“Huge player for us, obviously,” Adams said of his teammate. “I know he’ll do anything to play in the next game. So we’ll be counting on him.”

“Just shows his bravery,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said of the goal, which Pulisic finished knowing a collision was coming. “He’s wanted it so bad. I’m glad that he was finally rewarded with a goal. He’s super hungry.”

This World Cup was supposed to be Pulisic’s coming-out party after he and the U.S. missed out on the tournament four years ago. Since then, he played two seasons in the German Bundesliga for Dortmund and four in the English Premier League with Chelsea. He also has appeared in 47 Champions League games, most ever by an American. It’s already a Hall of Fame resume and Pulisic is just three months past his 24th birthday.

What was missing from that CV, though, was a turn under the red-hot glare of the global spotlight, which this tournament has provided.


“By no means do I want that to be the only thing I look back on from this tournament. There’s still a lot a lot ahead for this team and myself.”

— Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic of the United States is helped by team doctors after he scoring his team's opening goal.
Christian Pulisic is helped off the field after scoring during a World Cup group-play match against Iran on Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.
(Luca Bruno / Associated Press)

“It’s the biggest sport. We’re on the stage,” teammate Tim Weah said. “It’s up to us to take it as far as we can go and make sure that we make a statement.”

But when given the opportunity to make a statement about his own performance in Qatar, Pulisic put the focus back on his team.

“To score a goal and help the team in any way I can is what I’m here to do,” he said. “I want to make big plays and I want to do what I can help this team.”

“It feels great to score in a World Cup,” he added.

Well, it maybe didn’t feel so great at the time.

“I paid the price for it a bit,” he said. “Took a knee. It was not nice; obviously very painful.”

Pulisic said he knew he had scored but wasn’t sure the goal counted because his teammates weren’t celebrating.

“I was a bit confused,” he said. “I think they were trying to keep their distance and make sure I was OK. I was worried it was offside. You never know nowadays.”

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Given the importance of the goal in sending the U.S. through to the round of 16 — without it, Iran would have advanced and the U.S. would have gone home — Pulisic’s score has drawn comparisons to Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time score against Algeria in the group-play finale in South Africa in 2010. Without that goal, the U.S. would have been eliminated; with it the Americans won the group.

Donovan celebrated his goal by drinking beer in the locker room with Bill Clinton. Pulisic celebrated his at the hospital.

“It was the hardest thing,” he said. “They were checking my blood sugar and everything; it was flying through the roof. It was just stress-watching the game. Once the final whistle blew, I was obviously very happy.”

Pulisic pushed back on any similarities between his goal and the one in 2010. For one thing, Donovan never won another World Cup game. Pulisic, meanwhile, plans on having many more memorable wins.

“I’m hoping I haven’t had that moment yet, to be honest,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s in front of me.”

“By no means do I want that to be the only thing I look back on from this tournament,” he added. “There’s still a lot a lot ahead for this team and myself.”