US star Pulisic confident in form despite Chelsea benching

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FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA: Christian Pulisic said he won’t let his benching with Chelsea affect his play for the US national team as it prepares for a match against Cuba, pronouncing himself in peak form despite scant playing time of late.

“I feel the best I ever have. I feel very confident in my game. I’m not going to let any of that affect me,” Pulisic said Wednesday before training with the national team at George Mason University, where both of his parents played college soccer. “I feel very strong, and I’m really looking forward to this game Friday.”

FILE – Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic (centre) vies for the ball with Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira (left) in front of Leicester’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeiche (right) during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on Sunday, August 18, 2019. Photo: AP

The 21-year-old midfielder has been mostly a spectator in his first season in the Premier League, limited to two appearances since August: a League Cup start against fourth-tier Grimsby Town on September 25 and a 10-minute substitute stint versus Southampton in the EPL on Sunday during which he contributed an assist. Pulisic arrived at Chelsea in the offseason for $73 million from Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic has previously voiced frustration with his playing time under Chelsea manager Frank Lampard but declined to elaborate on those feelings.

“I’m here now to be focused with the US national team, so that’s really all that’s on my mind right now,” Pulisic said.

The United States will play Cuba on Friday in Washington and then visit Canada in Toronto on Tuesday, its opening two matches of the CONCACAF Nations League.

While he’s been a role player with Chelsea, Pulisic is the undisputed star of the rebuilding US team, which is trying to recover from its failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia. He said he’s looking forward to seeing what 18-year-old midfielder Brenden Aaronson, who was added to the roster last week, can bring to the squad.

“It’s fun to play with these younger guys,” Pulisic said. “He’s younger than me, right? Yeah, he’s much younger. … I don’t see myself as young anymore, but whatever.”

For this week of practice, Pulisic will be in the shadow of his mother, Kelley, and his father, Mark.

“My dad texted me after the first training. He’s like, ‘I scored 38 goals on this training field, and your mom scored 10,” Pulisic said. “It’s great, it’s cool to see where they used to play. I haven’t really been here, so it’s exciting.”

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