Christian Pulisic talks to ESPN: U.S. Soccer, Berhalter/Reyna, World Cup, more

LONDON — Christian Pulisic is just as dedicated and passionate about the US men’s team, which was immediately focused on winning the 2026 World Cup co-hosted by Mexico and Canada, just as he was determined to spearhead a rebuild after Bruce Arena’s team failed to qualify. qualification for the Russian Championship 2018. .

It was a promise that Pulisic also kept by playing his part in every goal scored by the USMNT in Qatar in 2022, including a 1-0 win against Iran that sent Gregg Berhalter’s team to the round of 16. The 24-year-old Chelsea star has been candid about his concerns about his former national team coach’s treatment – and the drama surrounding his departure – and has made clear his impatience with US Soccer’s slow start in 2023 when it comes down to it. who responds for fear of losing any momentum that this brigade has formed in Doha.

– Broadcasts on Sportzshala+: La Liga, Bundesliga and more (USA)

In an extensive interview with Sportzshala, Pulisic showed his football and personal maturity, his desire to be an inspirational figure for his national team – with or without the captain’s armband – and for the first time details why and how Berhalter shaped and impressed him. He describes that goal against Iran as the happiest moment of his football life, vigorously defends Berhalter’s “tell it like it is” coaching technique that seemed to upset the Reina family, and constructively looks back at the defining moment against the Netherlands when, at 0,: 0 he missed his one-on-one chance to send USMNT to the quarter-finals.

Relaxed and free from a recent knee injury, with his club gearing up for the Champions League quarter-finals and Pulisic personally keen to demonstrate his thirst for further international success, this is Pulisic at his most assertive – he is determined to speak clearly on matters and has promised that he we will demonstrate leadership both in words and deeds until USMNT takes the field at the next world championship.

– Pulisic: Berhalter-Rhein’s drama was “children’s”

(Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Message for American Football

Graham Hunter: USMNT doesn’t have a director of football and a full-time coach. The World Cup (which is co-hosted by the US) may seem far away, but we’ve barely blinked and we’ve been in Qatar for almost four months now. Does US Soccer have as much time as it thinks when it comes to consolidating and building on what you have achieved in Qatar?

Pulisic: I’m not here to appoint the next manager. This is not my job. Whoever it is, I will play and give 100 percent. But, in my opinion, everything that happened with Gregg is framed in an extremely childish way. I think we all saw what was happening. I think it’s childish. His [something you’d see in] youth football: people complain about playing time. I don’t want to go into details, but I think Gregg is very unlucky to be in the position he is in right now.

Should we just wait and wait [for a new manager]? We are not in a phase where we need a complete overhaul, as was the case after we failed to qualify for the last World Cup four years ago. We don’t need a bunch of newbies. We have a strong core: many people have seen this. We need to continue. That’s why it’s difficult, because I think we want to continue as soon as we can and benefit from this World Cup, which has brought a lot of positivity.

A recent independent report released by US Soccer on Monday seems to fully reveal Berhalter, and it looks like he’s still a candidate for his old job. If Gregg were put back in charge immediately, would you be happy with that?

Yes, no doubt, no doubt. I think that the successes we have achieved in recent years under his leadership are obvious. I think it’s perfectly clear.

Under Berhalter, the USMNT won two trophies: the CONCACAF Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Describe him and what it’s like when he’s in charge.

Berhalter is a person who has grown a lot in me over the years. I learned a lot from him and grew a lot as a player. What he did to create that atmosphere that was so special in this team is underestimated. [in Qatar]. He has helped many players become better in many ways.

He is also very passionate about sports. I think he did some incredible things in a short amount of time. There were moments when he put me on the bench and I wanted to kill this guy – I hated him. I was so angry, but then the next game comes and then I’m in a better position. He handled many situations and I have to give him credit. I think he built a team that was probably the best fraternity or division I was a part of.

Improving players and building a team at international level is much more difficult than at club level.

One hundred percent. That’s what makes national team tournaments so special because everyone is in the same boat. At the club, you can work on things daily, month after month, game after game, throughout the season. When you come to the national team, everything is not so simple. He did a good job of showing the team and helping everyone understand, “Look, this is how we’ll be playing in a short amount of time.”

Will it be perfect? Of course not. There is no national team. Argentina lost their first match [at the World Cup].

You know there will be difficult moments and we have had some of them. Of course we wanted to go further. I’m not here to say that we are completely satisfied with our position in the tournament. We overcame a big milestone, we got out of the group stage, but we wanted to go to the end. There is no doubt about this.

Please tell us more about Berhalter’s HR management.

The best example I can give you is my first camp with him. I will never forget it.

We played against Chile. I scored in the first half – a great goal. Then I got a minor injury and went to the hospital to get scanned. I came back late at night, and he calls me to his office and – this was after I had a string of minor injuries – he said: “Look, maybe the reason is that you need to train more. train more as you play.”

It’s after I just scored a goal and I’m like, “Who’s the guy to tell me that?”

I will remember this moment for a long time. It has changed the way I look at training, even today, and I want to train the way I play. It wasn’t easy, and it took me a while, but I said, “Let me take this on board.”

You can tell from the way he treats the players that he is passionate about and cares about his players. He won’t tell you it’s easy or tell you what you want to hear. He will tell you what he thinks will make you better.

Does he tell his players harsh truths and say it directly, but always for a reason and in order to improve them?

Yes, sure. You don’t always want to hear it. And as a player, you want to be right! You know [how it is] “Who are these guys to tell you, professional playerhow to behave!!

But I have always been with this mentality that I am here to learn. That’s who I want to be and that’s what brings the best players to the top.

Playing with different coaches

Pulisic has trained under some of the world’s best coaches – Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel, Maurizio Sarri and Graham Potter at Chelsea, and Jurgen Klinsmann at USMNT – for his 265 club caps. That’s an impressive result for a 24-year-old, and Berhalter’s analysis needs to be weighed against the experience of other successful men.

Both Pulisic’s acceptance of Berhalter’s tendency to “talk straight” and his high score for team-building success speak well of a man waiting in the wings to see if he returns to his job. But the same can be said about the work of the USMNT in Qatar.

Hunter: Despite wanting to go further at the World Championships, you are proud of what Team USA did to make it out of a tough group. When you returned to Chelsea, did your teammates say anything to you about your competition?

Pulisic: I got a lot of compliments to be honest. They said, “Wow, we had no idea!” Even before the tournament, I knew that we had a strong enough team to compete with England. On the Chelsea team bus before the tournament, some Englishmen were saying, “You know, we’ll pass and, and yes, maybe you guys, maybe Wales,” and I said, “Okay, cool… …we’ll see, how the game goes and we’ll see how it ends.”

But I was confident and we certainly received compliments for how well we did.

The brutal truth is that things could have been different if not for Andris Noppert’s save in the third minute in the round of 16 match when you went one-on-one with the Netherlands goalkeeper. I heard you say that such things “should be”. Can you explain?

I look back and see what I could do so that if I find myself in a similar situation, the next time I bury this chance. At the same time, there comes a point where if you just keep looking at it negatively and can’t forget it, you’ll never be able to move on.

I have always firmly believed that everything happens for a reason. I believe that God has a plan. I believe that the defeat against the Netherlands made us a stronger team, made me a stronger player and that it will help us when we are in the next big game or the next World Cup.

It may be a painful experience, but can it be argued that fans, members of the public, media – we really don’t appreciate the degree of mental toughness that all of you need to deal with disappointment, setbacks and setbacks?

Look at any of the great people of all time: they all had big career disappointments. It’s about how well you do with them and how much you can learn from those moments. If you just take them as failures and can’t learn anything from them, then you won’t have as much of a turnaround.

The reason everyone is so happy


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