Gregg Berhalter has spent the past nine days in Europe meeting with players in the U.S. national team player pool, and none of those meetings were more important than the new U.S. coach's first face-to-face interaction with hihs best player.
Berhalter met recently with Christian Pulisic, and called it a positive experience as the two had the first of what are sure to be many discussions about how they will work together to help the USMNT rebuld after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
"We had a good meeting," Berhalter told reporters during a conference call on Thursday. "It was the first time I really sat down and talked to him and heard his views on soccer and his ideas about the game. It was a very productive conversation."
Berhalter said he has met with a dozen players in person during his trip to Europe, and has had phone conversations with a dozen more.
Pulisic always figured to be one of the first players for Berhalter to meet with, and the meeting comes at a time when the Borussia Dortmund star has been struggling for consistent playing time with the Bundesliga leaders.
Pulisic has failed to earn consecutive starts for Dortmund since September, though he did start in its past four Champions League matches.
"He's doing a fantastic job at Dortmund," Berhalter said. "At the moment it hasn't been going the best for him and I think that's when guys really can show their quality, in how they endure times like this, and we talked about that."
Pulisic had been vocal about his desire to see the national team begin work under a new head coach, revealing some frustrations shared by the USMNT fanbase over the prolonged search that took more than a year before Berhalter was ultimately hired.
"I just want to see a guy with a plan," Pulisic told ESPN in November. "A guy with a great plan moving forward, and having a real style, and planning going into how we're gonna play — what style we're gonna be in — and how we're gonna go about these games and how we're gonna go about qualifying and just have a real identity as a team."
Berhalter has the task of rebuilding the program, a process that will formally begin with the January national team camp, and while he won't have Pulisic available for national team duty until the March window at the earliest, Berhalter has already made it clear how important the 20-year-old will be to the USMNT going forward.
"He's a legitimate international star," Berhalter told Bundesliga.com . "He's a real quality player, a player that can be the catalyst for our attack, can easily unbalance defenders, has a very good understanding of the game and it's been really nice watching him progress over the years.”