Christian Pulisic dazzles in return and eyes crucial Sunday showdown

A goal and an assist from the 21-year-old American's 31-minute appearance off the bench for Chelsea against Liverpool is just part of the story. What Christian Pulisic  did on Wednesday was of Beautiful Game quality.

Chelsea -- in its penultimate game of the season playing for a Champions League spot -- was down 4-1 when Pulisic came off the bench in the 59th minute.

In the 61st minute, he left four Liverpool players in the dust -- one of them on the ground -- en route to assisting on Tammy Abraham's goal.

In the 73rd minute, Pulisic controlled Callum Hudson-Odoi's cross with his chest, took two touches while turning -- made futile the defending efforts of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez -- and slammed a half-volley past goalkeeper Alisson.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp -- who after the game would be celebrating the Reds' league championship regardless of the outcome -- couldn't help but smile. It had been Klopp, while Borussia Dortmund coach, who invited a 16-year-old Pulisic into first-team practices. That paved the way to the American's Bundesliga debut at age 17, under Coach Thomas Tuchel, who succeeded Klopp when he left for Liverpool.

Klopp's quest to lure Pulisic to Liverpool failed as Chelsea paid the extraordinary transfer fee of $73 million to Dortmund.

Pulisic's feats on Wednesday weren't enough to secure Chelsea a Champions League spot. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 5-3 Liverpool in the 84th minute, and that's how it stayed.

EPL Standings (Top 10)
1. Liverpool 96 pts.
2. Manchester City 78
3. Manchester Utd. 63
4. Chelsea 63
5. Leicester City 62
6. Wolves 59
7. Tottenham 58
8. Sheffield United 54
9. Burnley 54
10. Arsenal 53

But win or tie with Wolves -- or Manchester United win over Leicester City -- on Sunday will be enough to achieve that lucrative and prestigious Champions League spot. It was the importance of the season's last two games -- and the FA Cup final -- that kept Pulisic on the bench at kickoff against Liverpool -- and in Sunday's 3-1 FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester United.

"He had a small injury in his thigh that kept him out against Manchester United," Chelsea coach Frank Lampard said. "Today I felt it was a risk to play him for 90 minutes given we have two huge games coming up.

"When he came on, he looked great so I’m really pleased with that in terms of his individual performance. Since the restart when he’s been fit and firing, he’s looked some player. So as I say disappointed I haven’t been able to start him in the last two games, but we’ve got them coming up."

Pulisic had scored three goals and assisted once in the previous seven league games before sitting out the FA Cup semifinal with the thigh injury.

“We were very close, we got it within one goal and the momentum was really changing,” Pulisic said in a Sky Sport postgame interview. “I thought we had them but obviously it is just that one counterattack and it changed real quick. We weren’t quite there. In the second half the subs coming in and making a difference and getting a quick goal, that changes things. You could see they were on the back foot for a while but they withstood our pressure. We were very close.

"We needed the result today, unfortunately we couldn’t get it, but luckily it is still in our hands and we have one more game to go. We go next game and we win and we qualify for Champions League and that’s the goal.”

28 comments about "Christian Pulisic dazzles in return and eyes crucial Sunday showdown".
  1. frank schoon, July 23, 2020 at 8:59 a.m.

    Dazzle??? Come on!.. I saw 4 defenders playing with both fingers stuck up their nose, attempting at least  to look like they are trying to play defense. Just look at space and time he was given.. The score was 4-1, 60th minute. If Pulisic attempted this in the first 25minutes of the game, they would have needed a bulldozer to dig him out of the ground. Look at #12, the last man, he didn't even attempt to sprint back and go after Pulisic. It look liked the Liverpool players' heads were no longer into the game but wanted to go back and celebrate. 
    Just look at the goal Pulisic scored and watch his defender pathetic try at defense... and then look at Klopp's reaction...He really looks upset, like he just wants to get out here....

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, July 23, 2020 at 11:41 a.m.

    Frank, the first clip didn't show much before the pass to Pulisic. From what I saw though, I thought the poor defending was before that. Once he got the ball, Pulisic punished them for giving him too much space. The best part of the sequence was the assist. He bent the ball perfectly. 


  3. John Polis replied, July 23, 2020 at 1:20 p.m.

    Geez while we're at it, let's kill Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. If we're going to analyze quality of defending before we give credit for prowess on attack,, then we might as well throw out a lot of what we see each week. Pulisic is the crown jewel of the American game and our first opportunity to have an American global star. Yes, he's not there yet, but while he's making progress, let's allow the kid to enjoy a little praise from his home country's soccer publication of record. 

  4. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 2:25 p.m.

    John, I think your assessment is way over the top and I understand your enthusiasm and I certainly would like to express that likewise...but... What happens when he plays another stinker like he did against Canada a few months will you assess him then for that will be a downer for you, but not for me for I will remain realistic. That is why I will reserve my judgement for this action is not the way to judge him. Yes he is our best capable player, relative to what we have in the US.  

    Of course you judge a player's ability by the manner in how he is defended against , otherwise you have no standard to measure him by in how good he really is.  Anybody can look like a million dollars if the defense gives him time and space. It is the great players who can handle a situation with little time and space which sets the off from the others...

    Bob, Actually yes, it was too much space given along with poor defending before but then again why should Liverpool play tight defense near the midline in the 60th minute, leading 4-1, and outnumbering the attackers 4v3,.. so why bother playing tight defense , perhaps getting an unnecessary yellow. If I were Klopp I would really be upset the laxness of his players for that is what happens when you're up and take the foot off the pedal....

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, July 23, 2020 at 3:31 p.m.

    Frank my idea of a tighter defense is simply to stay close enough to players to be able to immediately apply pressure if they receive the ball. When I played FB and marked someone faster, I would play a little deeper (a step or 2) to assure that I would not be beaten. If I marked someone faster and a dangerous dribbler, then I stepped closer to insure that I got to the ball before he did or that for him to get the ball he had to be sprinting back to beat me.

    I think those are widely understood points. (Of course when you aren't alone, the risks are different.) The point is that it takes no more effort to be closer than farther away from your opponent. The effort comes with having to sprint to get between the opponent and the goal, i.e., sprint to recover from bad positioning.

    I agree with everything you said, but just wanted to explain why good positioning takes less effort and carries less risk.

  6. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 4:51 p.m.

    Bob, I agree.....R2 mentioning about the 5subs, and I think the players mental state all played a factor....

  7. Michael Saunders, July 23, 2020 at 9:59 a.m.

    Cold Frank and a bit harsh.     

    And unless you have telepathic capabilities we are not aware of,  the viewing party I was attending unanimously concurred with Mike's reading of Klopp's" smile, even if your observation of the lack lustre effort by LPL defenders is correct! 


  8. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 10:50 a.m.

    Mike , you're right . It begins with the LACKLUSTRE EFFORT of the defense. Klopp's reaction says enough which concurs or rather is in line with the mentality in how the defender's played as aforementioned..

    When the defense played  with such lacklustre  than efforts as produced by the opponents look better than what they really are....

  9. jack chapman, July 23, 2020 at 1:57 p.m.

    Frank your the problem with American Soccer you can't believe that one American player could  progress to this International Skill Level. Let's celebrate the beauty of the game that is flowing from this player. 

    By the way Klopp would love to have him in his squad!

  10. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 3:04 p.m.

    Jack ,what Pulisic did was nothing special for I expect everyone of those players on the field to be able to that with the poor defense that was afforded like that....

  11. Seth Vieux replied, July 23, 2020 at 4:07 p.m.

    Frank, I sometimes love you, but then am always reminded how fantastical your shins are with our game. You would expect anyone could do that, and yet none other did make such beautiful plays with 90 minutes available between two of the best teams in the world, both of which are far better than ANY Dutch team, even Ajax.

  12. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 4:33 p.m.

    Seth, what I meant by that is anyone could do that is like comparing a defender making a beautiful goal with his head. Realize this defender who is good and used to  heading balls away, clearing so to speak puts one in with accuracy and power in the goal and it does happen. It is all about technique, all these players could do the same thing given the right ball and moment.

    Technically speaking, take the defenders away for a second, so you only see Pulisic dribbling the ball.  The dribble itself is nothing special. Look and study what he did and ask the players to this exact dribble as a footwork exercise....You're telling me these players would have difficulty doing this, I don't think so. The difference is the other players because where they are positioned on the field  are not asked or required often to try a dribble like that but that doesn't mean they can't. It just like the example I gave of the defender heading at goal..he position does not require him to make those types of headers but he can make them....

    Maybe it's me but I don't see the difficulty factor

  13. R2 Dad, July 23, 2020 at 2:09 p.m.

    This is a lesson learned for Klopp. At 4-1, and with 5 subs, there is no reason for him to continue playing this wide-open match. He has derided Mourinho arking the bus, but with that Liverpool counterattack he may learn to like it in order to preserve the legs of his players and avoid this Pulisic-type open field running you see at Leister, Chelsea & Wolves. And he may not have a choice in 2021 if injuries mount--Liverpool are more healthy this season.

  14. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 3:02 p.m.

    R2, thanks for filling me in about  there being 5 Liverpool subs, the more reason why the Liverpool looks so lousy defensively 

  15. Wooden Ships, July 23, 2020 at 3:23 p.m.

    I think CP would have scored another if Tammy would have had a clue as to what was going on. 

    it's exciting to see Pulisic excell with Chelsea and he does appear on track of becoming the  most successful threat/scorer the US has produced. With regard to my friend Frank, both of us
    being strikers in the 60' and 70's, I understand his analysis. If you ever saw footage of Frank in his University of Maryland days you would get it. Not sure I'll get to see the FA Final. I like Lampard, but in that game I think he was playing for the point. Mount is no where near the threat as CP, but maybe that muscle concern was genuine. Getting past the Wolves won't be easy. 

  16. Bob Ashpole replied, July 23, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.

    I always appreciate your and Frank's comments. The vast majority of my experience was at the bottom of the pyramid, but it is enough for me to understand your comments (usually). 

    I also understand the over the top comments about Pulisic. American fans have been dying of thirst in terms of MNT success for over a decade. Pulisic is like the first ice cold mug after a game. The bar has ice cold beer for anyone with the price, but it still tastes to a dry mouth like the best beer you ever had.

    Pulisic is not the first US player with success at the top of the pyramid and centainly won't be the last. My thanks to them all, and the present and past US coaches too--all the way back to 1930. Hooah.

  17. Wooden Ships replied, July 23, 2020 at 7:28 p.m.

    Good one Bob. Excellent comparison the ice cold beer after a hot 90 minute match. I'd like to add after a hot day mowing the yard too. Or, an Isley brothers reference, or after a couple hours Between the Sheets. Miss two of those three comparisons. 

  18. Wooden Ships, July 23, 2020 at 3:23 p.m.

    I think CP would have scored another if Tammy would have had a clue as to what was going on. 

    it's exciting to see Pulisic excell with Chelsea and he does appear on track of becoming the  most successful threat/scorer the US has produced. With regard to my friend Frank, both of us
    being strikers in the 60' and 70's, I understand his analysis. If you ever saw footage of Frank in his University of Maryland days you would get it. Not sure I'll get to see the FA Final. I like Lampard, but in that game I think he was playing for the point. Mount is no where near the threat as CP, but maybe that muscle concern was genuine. Getting past the Wolves won't be easy. 

  19. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 4:41 p.m.

    Ships, Pulisic is most effective when he stays as far downfield as possible ,where he has space near the opponents third. This is where I find him most effective, in those 1v1 against the right back, but when he comes back to midfield near the center of the field he absolutely really has no effect there and I have no idea what he is doing there. I mean what do you need him for there, to outhead some midfielder ????

    Pulisic is the type of player that needs space to operate, thus leave him on the flank and also when he does have the ball don't go near him to help for then you draw another defender with you giving Pulisic less space. I hope on the MNT they understand that and not have McKinney or someone run to him to help him out for he doesn't need anyone, just let him do his thing...

  20. Wooden Ships replied, July 24, 2020 at 9:22 p.m.

    Absolutely Frank, CP out wide and forward. Not sure what Berhalter has in mind with him. He's not a central player. Play him where he's most effective and comfortable. 

  21. R2 Dad replied, July 25, 2020 at 2:33 p.m.

    I thought Dortmund got the most out of him, and CP understands that attacking system in the final 3rd. The best way to support him is overlapping/underlapping, with a runner at the near or far post (Paco/Haaland/Batshuayi/Reus/Sancho/Guerrero) for the Dortmund tap-in inside the 6 yard box. That's why I thought Batshuayi up top was a natural to pair with CP but it hasn't played out that way.

  22. Bob Ashpole, July 23, 2020 at 5:26 p.m.

    Guys, the other benefit of keeping Pulisic outside and 1v1 is safety. Every CONCACAF opponent will paint a target on Pulisic (except perhaps Mexico and Canada). 

    If I was the coach and we didn't need Pulisic to qualify, I would leave him (and other promising youngsters) in Europe with their clubs to continue to improve their play. Especially for away games which are notoriously ugly soccer (again except for perhaps Canada and Mexico). They won't learn to play the beautiful game in CONCACAF. 

  23. frank schoon replied, July 23, 2020 at 6:07 p.m.

    Yup, so true

  24. R2 Dad replied, July 25, 2020 at 4 p.m.

    Agreed. If I had my way, I'd encourage CONCACAF to support non-US/Canada/Mexico stadia around the Carribean to raise their quality and reduce the benefit of maintaining poor fields. Also, I would try to rotate officials through other Confederations in order to raise the quality of CONCACAF  referees--they tend more towards regional/parochial standards and that leads to more injuries to skilled players. But good luck getting USSF to protect CP in qualifiers. They woiuld rather run him into the ground, play him out of position, then act surprised when the injuries keep him out of competitions.

  25. Gordon Holt, July 23, 2020 at 5:57 p.m.

    Polis..... Happy to see you still have your head on straight. Nice counter. 

  26. frank schoon, July 23, 2020 at 7:03 p.m.

    Guys , if someone ask me to describe an American soccer player, as far as what he should look like I would describe Pulisic. The American player is not a sophisticated player,  not a Pirlo or Zidane type, but someone who feels free, independent, prefers to operate in open space, willing to take players on , lacks risk aversion, and tries to go to goal in the shortest manner and works hard and is serious.  Every country has reflects certain characteristics in their players and this is what I like to see in our players. So when a certain foreign club is looking a for a certain style of player they would come to America that produces more of those types with these  qualities they are looking for.

    Currently we have Pulisic but can you imagine if we produce 2or 3 more Pulisic types who play like that then that becomes more of an identity for us. For example when Johan Cruyff played so many young players in Holland try to dribble and play and look like him....It gave players an identity that we don't have currently. Dutch Coaches were looking for that "Cruyffie" on their youth team....

    The problem is that our coaches don't know what type of identity our players can be described as. And furthermore coaches aren't interested in developing a Pulisic for they are busy wanting to have an successful winning team. Our strength is our Individuality , this is what our country is build upon ,but unfortunately, INDIVIDUALITY ,seems to be a bad word when it comes to soccer players.

    We are developing our players against the grain of our national character, our strength which is INDIVIDUALITY. We should be producing youth players who are selfish with a ball, who are not afraid, who will come right at you,and who lack risk aversion. But instead the coaches are too much into Coaching , Structure, Organization, Team concepts, although fine much later on,  but first lets develop those players into the crazies with a ball. 

  27. humble 1, July 24, 2020 at 12:02 p.m.

    Interesting comments all.  Thank you.  I have my son training with a Hungarian coach who played in Hungary and played and coached in Germany.  Watching him train my boy, I see how a player like Pulisic was developed for the first time.  I already knew that he like almost all MNT players come not through the 'system', but thru some bespoke pathway.  In his case he took the golden passport to Germany at 15, which make him not an American, but a hybrid player.  Anyway, watching this Hungarian coach work with my son, I see the roots of what Pulisic would have been exposed to.  For sure, the guard was down at Liverpool, but also, Pulisic did what Pulisic does.  He is improving and getting better in his strengths and working on his weaknesses.  This is something Lampart was specialist in and appears encourages and demands from his players.  Liverpool clearly has not come back from quarantine with the defense they had earlier, but still, the kid made it happen, and if you've watched him you know, this is not a fluke, this is kid that has been working diligently on his game.  My 2c.  All the best, thanks SA.  

  28. frank schoon replied, July 24, 2020 at 12:34 p.m.

    Humble, Great term "Hybrid", exactly. Pulisic left at the right time, right before they would begin to institute on the youth players the creative brakes, the handcuffs, the horseblinders,ball and chain, accoutrements in order to make them Subbuteo style soccer.... Welcome to the American soccer development....

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