DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic was fond of speaking about what happened in front of his goal on Tuesday that carried the United States to the round of 16 at the World Cup.
He was fond of talking about the trip to the hospital after clashing with Iran’s goalkeeper, how he followed the rest of the game on a coach’s phone during that trip and the chances – not 100 percent, he said Thursday – that he would tune would be available when the United States take on the Netherlands on Saturday.
What he was much less happy to talk about, staring into the faces of at least 100 journalists, were the details of where he had been injured. US Soccer has described Pulisic’s injury as a “pelvic bruise”. 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 pelvic bone, he added, “is there for a reason, and I hit it well.”
The peculiarities hardly play a role. What’s significant for the United States, at least, is that Pulisic admitted he wasn’t sure he would be physically able to complete a full training session with his teammates on Thursday, 48 hours before their biggest game deny life.
Basically, Pulisic’s problem is that the shot he fired in the collision when he scored in Tuesday’s 1-0 win had affected his ability to get the job done. A soccer player’s hips, and in particular all the muscles, tendons and tissues that support them, do important and interconnected work in supporting movements, turns and sprints. Pulisic appeared to admit he wasn’t sure, at least on Thursday, that he had recovered sufficiently to perform at the level he knows will be required on Saturday. Privately, the team expects him to play.
“I’m going to go now and meet with the team and medical staff and make a decision today, just see how I feel,” he said in his first public statement since the injury. “I’m taking it day by day for now, but doing everything in my power to be able to be on the field on Saturday.”
It was excruciating, he admitted, leaving the game after a goal. Pulisic lay on the field for several minutes after scoring, then needed help to get to his feet and stay put. After a few minutes he returned to the game, but minutes later the half-time whistle sounded.
However, when his team returned to the field for the second half, Pulisic was gone.
“Obviously the emotions were so high, so I did everything I could to keep playing,” he said. “It was kind of a blur, to be honest.”
After his condition was assessed at halftime, US Soccer’s medical staff decided he needed to be taken to a hospital to assess the full nature of his injury. A team coach, Harris Patel, went along; Along the way, he pulled up a video feed of the game on his phone so he and Pulisic could watch.
“That was the most difficult thing,” said Pulisic. “I think they checked my blood sugar and everything and it went through the roof but it wasn’t due to anything – it was just my stress from watching the game. When I got over that and the final whistle sounded, I was very happy.”
Saturday’s game would be hard to miss. The United States have not played a knockout game at the World Cup since 2014 and the current team represents a new generation of players who have high hopes not only for this tournament but also for the World Cup, which will be held in the United States will take place. Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Pulisic already has a good memory of it – and an agonizing one. But as he sat alongside team-mate Timothy Weah, who scored the Americans’ only other goal in Qatar in the team’s opening game, a 1-1 draw with Wales, Pulisic said they still had a long way to go.
“It feels great to score at a World Cup,” said Pulisic when asked if he had already enjoyed his special moment of the tournament. “Timmy knows how it is. I hope I haven’t had that moment yet. I hope it’s ahead of me.”