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USMNT’s Christian Pulisic: Playing for Chelsea ‘everything I hoped it would be and more’

The young midfielder is settling in with his new club.

Chelsea's Christian Pulisic, left, and Sheffield United's John Egan battle for the ball during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (John Walton/PA via AP)

SHORT HILLS, N.J. — Much has been made about Christian Pulisic’s move from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea.

Every time the 20-year-old American puts cleat to grass in England, it has been covered with a flurry of social media posts. 

The attention is nothing new for the United States men’s national team midfielder, and while the noise from the outside has been loud, he has not paid much attention to it as he hones his game under Frank Lampard at one of the Premier League’s top clubs. 

“It’s amazing. It’s everything I hoped it would be and more,” Pulisic told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s incredible. They’ve helped me so much over there just getting accustomed to everything. It’s been great learning under Frank and playing with top players in the Premier League. I’m still learning a lot. I have a long way to go, but it’s been great so far.”

While he notices some differences between the Bundesliga and Premier League, Pulisic is used to playing at the European game’s highest level. 

With every game comes a new challenge. He’s already faced Manchester United and Liverpool, recorded two assists and is reportedly headed back after Friday’s friendly with Mexico to prepare for an early season clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

“It’s not like a huge difference where it’s something you really notice, but it’s great,” Pulisic said. “The games are very intense. Every single game I played so far has had a new challenge. I’m learning a lot.” 

Friday’s match with El Tri at MetLife Stadium presents a challenge on the international stage for Pulisic and the new wave of American talent that has received an overflowing amount of hype.

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic, right, controls the ball against Mexico defender Carlos Salcedo during the first half of the CONCACAF Gold Cup final soccer match at Soldier Field in Chicago, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Although the contest marks the third time the USMNT and Mexico will play in 12 months, the Americans still have a fire to wash away the disappointment of losing to their rivals in the Concacaf Gold Cup final.

“I’m taking it very seriously,” Pulisic said. “Obviously, it was a disappointment, a tough one in the final. We wanted to win that one bad. The best thing is we have a second chance now. We’re excited for it. 

“Anytime you play against Mexico, especially these games are really important to us to develop and it’s going to be a good one.” 

Mexico also possesses a good amount of young stars, and some in attendance Wednesday were quick to get Pulisic to compare himself to Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, El Tri’s 24-year-old star forward who made the jump from PSV Eindhoven to Napoli this summer. 

“I’m not going to give you [a Zlatan Ibrahimovic] answer here,” Pulisic said. “I’m not like that, but I am very confident in myself.” 

The 20-year-old, who does most of his talking on the pitch, is comfortable in any position assigned by Gregg Berhalter, whether it be outside or in one of the No. 10 roles. In every spot, the goal remains the same. 

“I’ve always said I’m very comfortable in both positions,” Pulisic said. “I like playing wide. I like playing in any of the attacking positions that give me a chance to score goals, create assists and just help my team win. I’ll be comfortable wherever I fit in.” 

Pulisic is the leader of the young contingent of American stars, but unlike a few years ago, he is not the only one playing at a high European level. Ajax’s Sergino Dest, who is scheduled to make his first-team debut Friday night, is the latest to make waves, and the two are set to face each other in the UEFA Champions League group stage. They are in the same group as Lille’s Timothy Weah.

“It’s great for people watching the Champions League, to have three Americans in one group, it’s exciting,” Pulisic said. “I don’t know the stats, but I doubt we’ve had that before, so it’s pretty cool.” 

“I’ve obviously played in some Champions League games before. It’s exciting, and for those guys, they’re going to get a great experience, and I can take some that I’ve learned with me and bring some of that and help in those games.” 

The Concacaf Nations League is next on the docket after the September friendlies, but there is an outside chance Pulisic and a few other first-teamers participate at the 2020 Summer Olympics. 

It’s a small possibility given his stature with Chelsea and the USMNT — plus the Olympic tournament is an under-23 competition for the men — but nothing is completely out of question for an American squad with confidence building by the match. 

“Absolutely. I think we’re a confident young group of guys, and I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t,” Pulisic said. “We set big goals for ourselves and that would be one of them, and something I think we can do.” 

“I would play in every competition if I could. I still love the game, especially playing with your country, it’s always the greatest honor. I would play in everything if I could, but there’s just a lot of things I’m realizing as I get older that my body can’t go all the time, so I just have to be cautious of that.” 

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