US national team praise confident star Christian Pulisic: "He's a natural"

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – If Christian Pulisic is indeed graduating quickly from an 18-year-old phenom to a full-fledged American soccer legend, what he promised after the US national team’s2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday evening may be as much a part of the lore as what he did during it.

Asked about the upcoming match against Mexico on Sunday by FS1 reporter Jenny Taft in a post-match interview, Pulisic asserted,  “We’re going to come out with a win there, too.”

That was a bold statement, especially since the US had just finished a game where they initially experienced difficulty finding separation from the Soca Warriors on the scoreboard. But if anyone on the US team was equipped to make a bold statement, it was the game’s lone scorer.

Twice in 10 minutes, starting in the 52nd minute, Pulisic added to his legend, scoring his second and third goals of this World Cup qualifying round, and 6th and 7th of his young international career.

Pulisic also scored the lone US goal in the 1-1 exhibition draw against Venezuela last Saturday, giving him a goal every 60 minutes on the field in June matches—with potentially more on the way Sunday when the US faces Mexico at Estadio Azteca (8:30 pm ET, FS1, Univision, UDN).

Coach Bruce Arena had praise for Pulisic following the match.

“He’s having fun,” Arena said. “I just think he’s a natural. He sees the game very well. He has good instincts on getting in good spots, especially his running off the ball, which is exceptional. As he gets a little bit better, and gets a little more experience, his ability to be a playmaker will improve. He’s certainly exceptional.”

“I’m trying not to get in his way too much, but I do have to say something every now and then,” he added. “I gave him responsibility to take free kicks and corners. He wasn’t sure, and I said to him, if I get fired because you can’t hit free kicks and corners, I’m okay with that.”

The first goal in particular stood out to Arena, not only for how Pulisic finished, but how Darlington Nagbe and DeAndre Yedlin set Pulisic up for the breakthrough moment.

“They continuing to come on in big ways,” said captain Michael Bradley of the trio. “I think it’s exciting for everybody. We’re going to continue to need contributions from the entire group, and we’ve gotten that. We feel good about the direction we’re headed. And we’re excited for Mexico. To us, there’s no bigger game.”

Pulisic was a little more circumspect once off the field, noting that there are “so many things” the team will need to work on to face Mexico, “which I think we’ll figure out once we watch the video.” But he also said he’s ready to play against Mexico if called upon—even with the relatively quick turnaround. “It’s going to take a lot,” he said of the rivalry match, “but the guys we have are confident.”

If Pulisic does play on Sunday, he may expect the continued, physical level of defending he encountered in the Panama match earlier this year as well as in this latest match. It only took 90 seconds against Trinidad & Tobago for midfielder Khaleem Hyland to throw Pulisic to the ground with both arms. But for Arena, who’s seen plenty of young players develop in his time, the attention is a sign he’s arrived.

“He’s played some pretty big games. He’s a big boy now. We’re not playing in an age group competition. No one cares how old you are. He’s got to deal with it, but he’s been fine.”