Christian Pulisic started only eight of the 24 English Premier League games he appeared in for Chelsea this past season. His 813 minutes of 2022-23 action proved the least playing time he has gotten since his first full season as first-team pro, in 2016-17 with Borussia Dortmund.
"It's been a really tough season for me personally, and for our team at the club level," Pulisic said during the USA's first press conference since convening for the 2023 Concacaf Nations League final four. "It's been an interesting journey at the club level for me."
Pulisic, 24, joined Chelsea for the 2019-20 season from Dortmund for a transfer fee of $73 million and in his first EPL season scored nine goals and had six assists in 25 games (19 starts). He missed nine games with a muscle injury but still logged 1,727 minutes as Chelsea finished fourth.
He started 18 games in the 2020-21 season and in Chelsea's UEFA Champions League-winning campaign played 10 games (4 starts). He scored and assisted in Chelsea's 3-1 aggregate win over Real Madrid in the semifinals.
"It was a great couple years, and the last couple years haven't gone at all how I planned them to be," said Pulisic, who stayed on the bench when Chelsea was eliminated from the Champions League in this season's quarterfinals by Real Madrid.
Chelsea spent about $400 million during the January transfer window. Pulisic was sidelined with a knee injury though early March but after returning saw only 207 minutes of action in the season's final 13 games, only two of which Chelsea won.
On whether his appearance as an 88th-minute sub in Chelsea's season finale, a 1-1 tie with Newcastle United that left Chelsea with a 12th place finish, would prove to be his last with the club, Pulisic said:
"It's really in the back of my head. I'm not even thinking about where do I want to be next season.
"Right now, my focus is on the national team, to get back playing and enjoying myself. And do what I love to do out on the field.
"I'm really excited to be here, and just to get some minutes on the field, and just get back to being that confident player that I know I can be, and just find my footing again, and just enjoying the game because it feels like it's been tough to do that lately."
Chelsea (English Premier League)
Season Games (starts) minutes
2022-23 24 (8) 812
2021-22 22 (13) 1,285
2020-21 27 (18) 1,735
2019-20 25 (19) 1,727
Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)
2018-19 20 (11) 926
2017-18 32 (27) 2,312
2016-17 29 (15) 1,514
2015-16 9 (4) 386
EPL goals/assists: 2022-23: 1/1. 2021-22: 6/2. 2020-21: 4/2. 2019-20: 9/6.
Bundesliga goals/assists: 2018-19: 4/4. 2017-18: 4/6. 2016-17: 3/8. 2015-16: 2/0.
Pulisic has one more year left on his contract with Chelsea, which would want to sell him before he becomes a free agent.
"As of right now, I'm a Chelsea player and I plan to go back, but a lot of things can happen," he said. "A lot of things can change. ... As I said, my sole focus is on the national team. From there, we're obviously going to have to see what happens. It's obviously very early.
"I also need to rest after this [national team duty]. Get away from the game a bit and enjoy my break.
"See my family, all those kinds of good things, and once it's time to make decisions and see what options I have, then I'll deal with it."
Pulisic debuted for the USA in March of 2016 under Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. He has played for the USA under Bruce Arena, interim coach Dave Sarachan and Gregg Berhalter, whom Anthony Hudson succeeded after the 2022 World Cup on an interim basis.
Pulisic played two games under Hudson, the Concacaf Nations League wins over Granada (7-1) and El Salvador (1-0) that qualified the USA for the semifinal next Thursday against Mexico. A week ahead of this camp, B.J. Callaghan replaced Hudson as interim coach.
"Obviously, it's all come as a bit of a surprise for us, just as much as it is for you," Pulisic said. "We're dealing with it as best we can. ... It's not our job as players to pick a manager. We're here to come perform as best we can, no matter who the coach is. We're excited to be here and represent the crest. ...
"I've had quite a few managers in my time, so I've dealt with change. B.J. has been a part of Gregg's staff. We know him well. We know what he's all about. He's not going to come in and try to change everything.
"He's going to give some new ideas. Give input. And obviously make sure to run by everything with the team with some of the leadership guys. We're going to be well prepared once the game comes around. We're just going to give our best and help him along the way as he helps us, and try to win some games."
Pulisic was also asked about the possibility of Berhalter returning to the helm:
"I think he is still considered. I think he should be considered. I think he did a great job with the team. He brought us a long way. I think a lot of people and a lot of guys in the team, especially, would agree with that."
The final question Pulisic fielded returned to speculation about his future club, on social media.
"I don't keep any social media on my phone anymore," Pulisic said. "So I probably don't see as much as you guys think I do. ...
"I'm good, man. My family's healthy. I'm blessed. I'm happy to be here with the boys. I'm doing great and I'm excited to play with these guys."
Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos