Christian Pulisic on USMNT’s Copa América ambitions – The Global Tofay

Christian Pulisic on USMNT's Copa América ambitions - The Global Tofay Global Today

“Opportunity.”

The conversation lasted less than 15 minutes. But over the course of a recent one-one-one phone call with FOX Sports, AC Milan star and United States men’s national team headliner Christian Pulisic used the word no less than seven times.

Pulisic has been in the public eye since he was a teenager. The now-25-year-old has played in (and scored in) a World Cup. He’s got a Champions League winner’s medal and remains the only American to appear in the final. Before joining the Rossoneri last summer, he was employed by two other giants of the global club game, Chelsea in England and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund.

But as Pulisic begins to enter his prime, he knows he’s now in the perfect spot to take the next step. After a roller-coaster four years in London, he appreciates how lucky he is to be a key player with the seven-time European champs, where the winger is the team’s second leading scorer behind veteran striker Olivier Giroud. And he’s well aware of what’s coming over these next two years, namely this summer’s Copa América and then the 2026 FIFA World Cup — with both tournaments to be played on home soil.

“I wanted an opportunity, and Milan has really given me that,” Pulisic, who spoke as part of his new sponsorship deal with Muscle Milk, said before leading the USMNT to its third consecutive Concacaf Nations League title earlier this week. 

Finding a home in Milan

“The lifestyle over here is definitely a shift from London,” Pulisic said when asked how he’s settled in Italy off the field. “Everything feels a bit slowed-down. Obviously nicer weather. It’s been a great change for me.

“Everything was moving kind of 100 miles an hour when I was in London, and the football culture was crazy,” he said. “Here, I’ve been able to get away from the game, too, and enjoy the lifestyle, the culture, the food. I’m liking it a lot.”

He likes his job even more. Pulisic has played in 27 of Milan’s 29 Serie A games so far this season, missing two in November because of a minor injury. He’s been in coach Stefano Pioli’s lineup 86-percent of the time and already has a career-best 12 goals (to go with eight assists) across all competitions.

“He’s been our best attacking player this season at Milan,” USMNT and Rossoneri teammate Yunus Musah told reporters earlier this month. 

It’s the realization of a vision Pioli sold to Pulisic when he personally recruited him over the summer.

“He has really come through on his promises,” Pulisic said of his manager. “It’s not just knowing you’re going to play — it’s having someone who really spoke to me before and really wanted me to come in. He’s given me an opportunity to go out and be myself the best way I know how, and has fit into what works best for the team. I think we’ve found a good balance of that.”

The move has been an eye-opener in other ways. “Tactics are definitely an important aspect in Italy, like everyone says,” Pulisic said. “It’s constantly going over every situation possible in training: how we’re pressing, how we’re doing set pieces. I feel like I’ve learned a lot.”

He’s also learning Italian, which has helped speed his integration into the team and the country.

“I’m understanding just about everything now and doing my best to speak it when I can,” Pulisic said. “I want to keep improving and hopefully be able to do some interviews in Italian soon.”

On off days, he sometimes gets together with U.S. teammates Weston McKennie or Tim Weah of Juventus, who are two hours away in Turin. “We’re not super close [geographically] but we’re always staying in touch. There’s been a few times when Weston has come to Milan, or Timmy. If we can see each other, we always try to.”

Staying healthy

It seemed like whenever Pulisic established himself in the lineup at Chelsea, he’d get hurt, lose his starting job and have to start again from scratch. But as his numbers show, he’s been remarkably durable in his first season in Serie A.

“I wouldn’t say there’s been a big change, or something that I’ve done,” Pulisic said when asked how he’s stayed healthy consistently. “I’ve taken good care of my body for sure. But it’s just been good to get that consistent game time. Your body just kind of gets accustomed to it, which has been really helpful.

“When you’re constantly in and out of the lineup, it can be hard,” he said. Your body isn’t prepared for that constant wear, so then when you come in and give a high-intensity performance, it can definitely be a problem. But this season I’m just feeling good and confident. And that’s when I play my best.”

A huge two years ahead

AC Milan’s chief nemesis and Stadio San Stadium co-tenant Inter has an insurmountable 14-point lead atop the Serie A standings. But Pulisic and the second-place Rossoneri still have plenty to play for this season. Next month, they’ll meet Italian rivals Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals.

“We’re going to fight to have an opportunity to win a trophy,” Pulisic said. Right after the season, he’ll report to Texas for the USMNT’s pre-Copa America camp, which includes a marquee tuneup against five-time World Cup champ Brazil.

“We want to learn how to compete with and beat the best, so there’s no better team to go up against,” Pulisic said of the Seleção. “It’s going to be an important test for us.” 

Hopefully, it sets the stage for a deep run this summer. That in turn would give the American squad momentum ahead of the granddaddy of them all two years on: the first 48-team World Cup. 

“It’s such an exciting time for our team and for our country,” Pulisic said. “It’s hard not to look forward too much, but we want to show this country that we can compete with the best. And we have the opportunity to do that. We’re going to try to go as far as we can.”

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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