This is a story about how the USMNT suddenly and desperately needs an 18-year-old to reach its zenith.
There is little question among even the most conservative U.S. fans now that Christian Pulisic is the side’s best player. He is, without reservation most nights, the team’s most dangerous sword in the darkness. Pulisic is rare in that his deployment rarely bookends his night. He’s coherent enough tactically to settle where the game leads him to settle, and that means a central deployment could lead to a wide night, if the service up the central channel isn’t there. As it wasn’t in the U.S.’s most recent qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago.
You can read games by the flavor of Pulisic’s movement, and no matter where he finds himself on the field, there’s often either a purpose to it or a reasonable expectation that it’ll genuinely lead to something more positive. He’s perhaps the only player on the team with this kind of leeway, and it’s more than deserved. You can understand the exact tenor of a game (and, really, the tactical character of a team) by simply watching one man.
And the U.S. needs him now more than it ever has.
Pulisic has, incredibly, been directly or, in one case, indirectly involved in each of the U.S.’s last eight goals stretching back into the guts of the 6-0 qualifying blowout against Honduras nearly three months ago. That includes, of course, a crucial 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over T&T that featured a pair of Pulisic goals to bring his international tally to seven in 15 games. He is 18, need I remind you, and you stomp your feet on the brakes of his train at your peril. Let go.
This is what reliance looks like.
Goal 1: Pulisic scoop assist (US 3-0 Honduras)
Goal 2: Pulisic low-slotted finish (US 4-0 Honduras)
Goal 3: Pulisic threaded through-ball assist (US 5-0 Honduras)
Goal 4: Pulisic foul to earn a Dempsey FK (US 6-0 Honduras)
Goal 5: Pulisic hold-up assist (US 1-0 Panama)
Goal 6: Pulisic opposite-post goal (US 1-1 Venezuela)
Goal 7: Pulisic sliding one-time finish (US 1-0 Trinidad and Tobago)
Goal 8: Pulisic one-on-one finish (US 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago)