Christian Pulisic’s bravery the difference in World Cup’s Great Satan v Iran II | Christian Pulisic


lIt was never going to be easy. On the other hand, neither has the oppressive pressure of being American football’s chosen one. But when the right opportunity presented itself, Christian Pulisic surrendered his body for his team and finally seized his signature moment on the international stage.

With the temperature of this geopolitical proxy war between the United States and Iran reaching a boiling point during the first World Cup in the Middle East, Pulisic turned down the volume with a goal the United States desperately needed, making the difference in an exciting time was made. and compelling win-or-go-home showdown for the Americans. When Sergiño Dest headed a header towards goal from Weston McKennie’s floating pass in the 38th minute, an onrushing Pulisic burst through a thicket of white shirts and hit what turned out to be the winner as he collided with the Iranian keeper. Pulisic then lay stretched out in the goal mouth for almost four minutes.

He was taken to hospital at halftime with dizziness and to undergo an abdominal scan as a precaution. But when the US held off a blistering Iranian attack late in the second half, sealing their progress to the knockout stages and a date with the Netherlands on Saturday, the fallen winger joined in the lavish locker room party via FaceTime and was already back at the team hotel by the time they arrived. US Soccer later said that Pulisic is “day to day” and had suffered a “pelvic contusion”.

“Christian is making those runs,” USA manager Gregg Berhalter said after the game. “That’s what he does. That is the special quality he has. As soon as the ball goes wide it goes into the penalty area with intensity and good things happen and you score goals. We have seen at Chelsea that he has scored a number of goals on the same type of runs. He crashes into the box and makes things very difficult for defenders with his change of pace.”

The 24-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania, continues to front a romper room breathlessly touted as America’s golden generation. More than half of Berhalter’s 26-man squad compete in the top five leagues in the world, including Pulisic (Chelsea), Dest (Milan), McKennie (Juventus) and captain Tyler Adams (Leeds United). It’s a set-up designed at least in part for the next World Cup, when the US will be co-hosts and today’s core players will be in their presumptive primes, even if Berhalter opposes the idea. “We want to build a lot of momentum by 2026,” he said last week. “But it all starts now.”

And how. Berhalter has selected the three youngest lineups of all matches played in Qatar and Tuesday’s was the youngest so far with an average age of less than 25: the first-ever US squad at the World Cup where all 11 starters played for European clubs . Each of them reached a level on a night when the thorny political underpinnings were uncomfortably pushed to the forefront. The atmosphere in and around many of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums was strangely flat. That was not the case on Tuesday, to the extent that it almost felt like a completely different tournament. It was clear more than three hours before kick-off outside Al Thumama Stadium that American fans would be vastly outnumbered by the Iranian supporters and the many neutrals thrown into their fold. They turned the 44,400 seat venue into a cauldron of noise: a neutral venue in name only.

After a draw with Wales that felt like a loss and a draw with England that felt like a win, the United States always faced a tough climb into the group stage final, needing three points against Asia’s top-ranked team . Iran would almost certainly go through with a tie, meaning they could put players behind the ball in the sort of low block the United States has consistently struggled against. But the hostile roar and deafening cacophony of vuvuzelas and drums made it all the more difficult. Welcome to Great Satan v Iran II, a rematch that’s been a quarter of a century in the making.

The US celebrates after victory over Iran. Photo: Ashley Landis/AP

The first half hour unfolded on the cutting edge, with the counter-attacking threat of the Iranian forward pairing of Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi looming over the American team’s promising start, but the Americans were unfazed by the opportunity. The itinerant Adams took command in midfield. McKennie made the longbusting box-to-box runs that have become his calling card. The prodigious Yunah Musah, celebrating his 20th birthday, dribbled out of the pressure and fearlessly ran towards defenders.

By the 35th minute they had already peppered the Iran goal with as many shots as they had in the whole Wales game, but the agita increased with each missed finishing touch. Until That moment. Despite all the precocious talent in their ranks – so young and ambitious, unaffected by failure, with the perfect mix of confidence and humility – Pulisic remains the benchmark; as he goes, so go the Americans. It is no coincidence that the American team has won eight games in a row in which he has scored.

“What I saw from the group was a tremendous amount of focus, especially leading up to the game: you could tell they were locked in,” Berhalter said. “The end of the game is really what I’m most proud of because it’s the sign of determination and an extreme amount of effort and resilience to hang on and take the win and not pin it down. You know, that’s the first time in 92 years that we’ve had two shutouts in a World Cup, so the guys are doing something right.”

It’s the United States’ fifth time to reach the knockouts since 1994 – which puts them in some elite company – but this means so much more after the dismal low point five years ago when they failed to qualify against Russia in a heavy defeat in Trinidad & Tobago. Pulisic is one of only four survivors of that traumatic night in Couva and the wait certainly makes his first World Cup goal even more beautiful.

And now? The Americans enter the business end of the tournament with a tailwind of confidence, looking for goals but not yet conceding from open play. Berhalter, who will forever be remembered by supporters as the player whose left foot almost sent the US to the semi-finals in 2002, is confident this team can follow that path.

“Anything can happen from here,” Berhalter said. “All we have to do is play game by game and there is no need to even project how far this team can go because the next game is against the Netherlands and that is our main focus. It’s great to be in this knockout format. We enjoy this. It’s a chance for our guys to keep grinding and stick together and enjoy this experience.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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