Christian Pulisic may be the Golden Boy of American soccer, the first U.S. national team player to play in and win a Champions League final, and the face of the 2002 World Cup team heading into Friday’s titanic Group B match against England
Nevertheless, despite being The Chosen One since bursting onto the international arena at the age of 17, Pulisic has had his share of difficulties.
In the coffee table book Pulisic published last month, the 24-year-old describes frankly some of the darker moments he faced at Chelsea, his English Premier League team, during the previous season.
In “Pulisic: My Journey So Far,” he writes, “I was battling depression, and it was a really difficult period during which I probably hit rock bottom in February of 2021 and was forced to seek professional assistance.”
I honestly do not know how I would have gotten through that era without the support of my family and closest friends.
In the world’s premier domestic league, life is as cutthroat as it gets. Within an all-world team like the Blues, a single poor performance may result in weeks on the bench.
Pulisic recalls a conversation he had with U.S. legend Clint Dempsey, who flourished at Fulham and Tottenham before returning to MLS to finish his career, about the grind of having to prove oneself day in and day out.
Pulisic stated that Dempsey, who is currently a World Cup analyst for FOX Sports, shared this sentiment during his time in England.
Dempsey recalls the discussion. He will never forget the subsequent encounter he had with an adolescent Pulisic. Moments after losing to Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, the United States missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, ending a string of qualifying for seven straight tournaments.
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“His head was down, obviously really sad — devastated — about us not qualifying,” Dempsey says he told Pulisic after playing in his 141st and final international match. “I just threw my arm around him and said, ‘Bro, you couldn’t have done more in terms of goals and assists to help this team qualify for the World Cup, especially at your age.’
Dempsey advised Pulisic, “Keep your head up, this is your team now.” Bring us back to where we should be.
Five years later, Pulisic and the United States have reached the grandest stage. And Dempsey has relished watching his attacking successor develop, especially as Pulisic has transitioned from a promising youngster to the unquestioned focal point of the U.S. attack.