Christian Pulisic: 'I've had to continue to prove myself, over and over again'

The United States will have not one, but two players headed to Istanbul for the 2021 UEFA Champions League final.

Zack Steffen, the backup goalkeeper, watched from the bench as Manchester City beat Paris St. Germain, 2-1, to advance to the final for the first time with a 4-1 aggregate win.

The surprise was that Christian Pulisic, the Chelsea goal-scorer and best attacker in the 1-1 tie at Real Madrid, started on the bench for the second leg of their series on Wednesday.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel picked Kai Havertz ahead of Pulisic, and the German was involved in the play that led to the opening goal, heading a ball off the crossbar that Timo Werner headed into the empty goal to give the Blues a 1-0 lead in the first half.

Pulisic came on in the 67th minute for Werner and put the game away in the 85th minute, setting up Mason Mount for the second goal in the 2-0 win. Frenchman N'Golo Kante fed Pulisic on the right side, where the American froze keeper Thibault Courtoisbefore delivering a ball for Mount to slot into the goal.

"I know what I have to do when I get on the field," Pulisic told CBS Sports in his postgame interview. "I have to get on the field and do my bit, be creative and try to finish the game off strong. Luckily, I was able to do that."

He did not hide his feelings about not starting.

"I was very frustrated," Pulisic said. "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. As always, I reach out to God, and He gives me strength. With that behind me, nothing can stop me, really."

Tuchel liked how Pulisic channeled his anger in a positive way.

“It was a very tough decision against Christian today," he said afterwards, "[but] I’m very happy that Christian turned his anger around into positive energy for the team, helped the team, and assisted the decisive goal. So big credit to him (and the whole team).”

Tuchel's rationale for starting the 6-foot-2 Havertz ahead of Pulisic worked out. He picked the 21-year-old German based on his recent form -- he scored both goals in Saturday's 2-0 win over Fulham -- and his ability in the air and hold-up play.

"Christian got a bad message for him today, unfortunately," Tuchel said in his pregame interview, "but I'm pretty sure we need more than 11 players to sneak through today."

5 comments about "Christian Pulisic: 'I've had to continue to prove myself, over and over again'".
  1. Nick Gabris, May 6, 2021 at 11:13 a.m.

    How many more chances does Werner need??? CP needs to find another team, he is totally unappreciated at Chelsea.  


  2. Seth Vieux, May 6, 2021 at 1:17 p.m.

    Werner nodding in a free goal from 1 yard with not a single Madrid player to even lightly challenge him does not vindicate him in any way. If ANY of my U12-14 players failed to put one like that in they'd never forgive themselves. So glad Chelsea made it through, and no doubt credit to Tuchel for what he's done with the squad, but Pulisic continuing to be the most dangerous and exciting player on the pitch every time his number is called did nothing to change my mind that A) Pulisic should be a first choice XI every day, and B) Werner needs to be a last 20 minutes threat at most until he can regroup and figure it out before the next season.

  3. William Shine, May 6, 2021 at 2:15 p.m.

    Trying to be objective as an American but Pulisic is doing more for the offense than Werner at the moment.  Is Tuchel being objective when selecting German players vs non-German?  Bias is a challenge for all of us.  On a related point Ziyech, Giroud, Abraham and CHO are not getting the looks they deserve too.

  4. Bob Ashpole, May 6, 2021 at 6:06 p.m.

    When a club plays only in a league, it is easy for a coach to manage the starting lineup. When you have a club that plays in several competitions, instead of 38 matches a year the club is playing as many as 60 matches a year. The coach has to rotate starting assignments to avoid fatigue and injury. 

    Specificly with Pulisic, the manager has to find a balance that gets the most out of Pulisic while minimizing fatigue and risk of injury.

    Every elite player wants to start every game. That is a healthy attitude, but it is unrealistic for clubs that play in multiple competitions.

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, May 6, 2021 at 9:31 p.m.

    You got this one Right Bob, With a 1-1 "Away" Lead; The only Reason you would need a Goal, is of you got Behind 1-0... Then you could bring on your "Spark Plug"... If CP Started, You has No One coming Off the Bench to Spark a Goal... Good Coaching, Unfortunately for my Merengues, The Better Team Won... Whaaaaa.....,

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