U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter was full of praise for Christian Pulisic after his side’s win over Northern Ireland as he hailed the Chelsea star’s “unbelievable” effort in a man-of-the-match display.
Pulisic scored the second of the USMNT’s two goals in a 2-1 win over Northern Ireland as he was clearly the star of the show in a 90-minute performance.
The winger’s efforts come in the wake of a difficult spell at Chelsea, but Berhalter was left thrilled by a display that highlighted the best of what Pulisic has to offer.
What did Berhalter have to say?
“What I say about Christian is to forget about all the great stuff he does on the ball. He just competed today, and, when he’s in that type of mode, he’s just an unbelievable player,” Berhalter said. “That’s what I was most happy with today: the relentless pressing. He just kept going and going and going, and then he’s so good on the ball, he can unbalance a team. To me, he had an overall really strong performance.
He added: ” In my opinion, that’s the next level for Christian: just that type of performance all the time. When he does that, the rest speaks for itself.
“He’s such a creative player, he’s such a good player and I was really impressed with his performance, really impressed with how he handled himself today before the game, during the game and after the game. So overall, I really liked his performance.”
Starting on the left of the USMNT’s 3-4-3, Pulisic shone as he created chance after chance throughout his 90-minute shift.
His performance paid off with a goal in the second half, as the Chelsea winger was dragged down in the box to draw a penalty.
Pulisic picked up the ball and took the penalty himself, scoring the USMNT’s second goal while joining fellow winger Gio Reyna on the scoresheet.
“It always feels good, of course, to get on the scoresheet,” Pulisic said. “It’s definitely going to help build some confidence.
“I’m feeling good, the guys are feeling good as it seemed here. For me personally as well, going back to the club level, I’m excited. I’m feeling confident, as I’ve said. I feel the best I’ve felt in my game, so I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Pulisic had several memorable moments on the day, including a first-half sequence that saw him slalom through several Northern Ireland midfielders while on the ball.
He also nearly created another USMNT cool with a through ball to Daryl Dike, although the on-loan Barnsley striker flubbed his finish in the end.
Overall, though, it was a job well done for Pulisic, who looked significantly more comfortable than he did in the USMNT’s prior match against Jamaica.
“I was definitely playing my game. Obviously, positionally things changed a bit from a formation standpoint, but when I get the ball, I still have the same objectives in mind,” he said.
“I’m still going right at the goal and trying to create things, and I was able to do that today.”
The big picture
Given the rise of the USMNT’s current crop of young stars, Berhalter’s side is no longer totally reliant on Pulisic to carry the team creatively.
However, on the days where he can, the U.S. is a team that can take things to an entirely different level.
On a day where the U.S. looked sloppy at times in an unfamiliar formation, Pulisic was creative and dynamic, offering a glimpse into what this attack can look like when the U.S. is at full strength.
With Reyna on the other side, the U.S. has two legitimately dangerous and creative wingers that are always threats to cut inside and make something happen.
Those attributes fit perfectly into the 3-4-3 setup Berhalter opted for against Northern Ireland, although it’s unlikely that this system will be the USMNT’s go-to when Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are free to join Yunus Musah in the midfield.
But, regardless of the system, the U.S. is a much better team with a confident Pulisic, who looked every bit like a star on Sunday.