Sunday, April 14, 2024

What Christian Pulisic’s red-hot form for Milan means for USMNT ahead of Nations League semifinals

U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic was once again on the scoresheet for AC Milan, this time scoring in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Verona. The play started when Noah Okafor won the ball near the midfield line and made a dash down the left flank, taking a shot on goal in the process. Verona goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo initially got the save but sent the ball straight back into the field of play and Pulisic made a corresponding run on the right side of the field to ensure he would be near goal in order to finish off the chance.

This is the 12th goal of the season for Pulisic, marking a career-best for him with about two months left of the season, as well as the fourth game in a row in which he’s scored for Milan.

Pulisic joined the Serie A side over the summer in an effort to earn more playing time after an up-and-down four-year spell at Chelsea, and he has essentially hit the ground running since beginning his Italian adventure. He slotted into the lineup instantly, generally playing alongside Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud in attack.

Good timing for the USMNT

Pulisic will next head back to the U.S. to link up with the national team ahead of the Concacaf Nations League semifinal against Jamaica on Thursday and will arguably be the most in-form player on the squad when he arrives. It’s good news for head coach Gregg Berhalter and company, who generally make Pulisic a focal point of the USMNT’s attack and stand a good chance of reaping the rewards of that choice next week.

The 25-year-old leads an attack full of players in varying form. Timothy Weah, who successfully occupied the opposite wing as Pulisic during the fall friendlies, might do so again this month as he continues to get regular minutes with Juventus. Monaco’s Folarin Balogun, meanwhile, might still be the main candidate to join them in the lineup but has just five goals in 21 games so far in Ligue 1.

Others, like PSV’s Malik Tillman, Union Berlin’s Brendan Aaronson and Coventry’s Haji Wright are beginning to make a case for themselves after beginning to earn meaningful minutes with their clubs. The latter two were added to the roster to replace the injured Luca de la Torre and Josh Sargent, with Wright in particular in strong form with 15 goals in 40 games this season.

Both Aaroson and Wright were part of the USMNT’s 2022 World Cup squad but were left off Gregg Berhalter’s initial team for the Nations League finals, with the head coach saying that this was “the hardest roster we’ve ever had to pick” considering the number of notable players available. Both, though, will arrive to camp with a decent string of recent performances behind them.

Wright has had a notable first season with Championship side Coventry City, scoring 15 goals in 40 games across all competitions. The latest came on Saturday when he scored the game-winner in the 10th minute of stoppage time as they upset Wolverhampton Wanderers to reach the FA Cup semifinals.

As for Aaronson, he’s been a fairly active participant for Union Berlin as they maintain a comfortable distance from the Bundesliga’s relegation zone. He has played 687 minutes in 22 games this season in the league, scoring twice in the process.

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