DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic was happy to talk about what happened before the goal he scored on Tuesday that propelled the United States to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
He was happy to talk about the trip to the hospital after colliding with the Iranian goalkeeper, how on that trip he followed the rest of the game on a coach’s mobile phone and chances – still not 100%, he said – that he would. be available to play when the United States takes on the Netherlands on Saturday.
What he was far less comfortable talking about, as he stared into the faces of at least 100 reporters, were the details of where he had been injured. US Soccer called Pulisic’s injury a “pelvic contusion”. Asked by a reporter to clarify what that meant, Pulisic paused for a long time.
“I mean,” he said, “it’s a pelvic bruise, you know?”
The details don’t matter. What matters, at least for the United States, is that Pulisic admitted he wasn’t sure he was physically capable of completing a full training session with his teammates on Thursday, 48 hours before they’re not playing the biggest game of their lives.
Pulisic’s problem, essentially, is that the shot he took in the collision as he scored in Tuesday’s 1-0 win affected his ability to do his job. A football player’s hips, and in particular the muscles, tendons and tissues that support them, do vital, interconnected work to aid movement, turns and sprinting. Pulisic appeared to admit that, at least as of Thursday, he wasn’t sure he had recovered enough to be able to perform at the level he knows is required on Saturday.
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“I’m going to go now and meet the team and the medical staff and make a decision today, just to see how I feel,” he said in his first public comments since the injury. “I’m taking it day to day for now, but I’m doing everything in my power to be able to be on the pitch on Saturday.”
It had been excruciating, he admitted, to leave the game after scoring. Pulisic had been lying on the pitch for several minutes after scoring, then needed help to get up and stay upright. After a few minutes he returned to the game, but a few minutes later the half-time whistle sounded and he descended into the stadium tunnel.
When his side returned to the pitch for the second half, Pulisic was out, replaced by team-mate Brenden Aaronson.
“Obviously the emotions were so high, so I was doing everything I could to keep playing,” Pulisic said of his brief return to action. “It was kind of a blur, to be honest. “
After an assessment of his condition at halftime, he said, US Soccer medical staff determined that he needed to go to the hospital for tests to determine the full nature of his injury. A team coach, Harris Patel, accompanied him; on the way, Patel called up a video stream of the game on his phone so he and Pulisic could watch what they were missing.
“That was the hardest thing,” Pulisic said. “I think they were checking my blood sugar and everything, and it was flying through the roof, but it wasn’t because of anything – it was just me watching the game stressed. Once I got through that and the final whistle sounded, I was very happy.
Saturday’s game would be hard to miss. The United States haven’t played in a knockout game at the World Cup since 2014, and the current squad represents a new generation of players who have high hopes for not just this tournament, but the World Cup. which will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Pulisic already has a fond memory of this year’s tournament – and an excruciating one. But as he sat alongside teammate Timothy Weah, who scored the Americans’ only other goal in Qatar, in the team’s opener against Wales, Pulisic said they felt though they still had a long way to go.
“It’s great to score in a World Cup,” Pulisic said when asked if he had ever enjoyed his special moment in the tournament. “Timmy knows what it is. I hope I haven’t had that moment yet. I hope it’s in front of me.
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