'I'm not here to prove people wrong' - USMNT camp offers Pulisic escape from Chelsea microscope

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For weeks now, Christian Pulisic has found himself coming under intense scrutiny.

Chelsea coach, Thomas Tuchel, has repeatedly had to explain the American winger's absences while defending his own decisions to leave him out.

Pundits and reporters, meanwhile, have hypothesized about a potential exit from Stamford Bridge, while Pulisic's performances - including a Man-of-the-Match display against Sheffield United on Sunday - have had every detail combed over.

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The one opinion that has not really been just so happens to be the one that matters the most: Pulisic himself.

Since his breakthrough as American soccer's first true superstar, Pulisic has often preferred to remain quiet, opting instead to let his talent do the talking. But, when the world is questioning you, sometimes you have to answer them.

And Pulisic is determined to provide some of those answers as he returns to the U.S. men's national team fold.

"It hasn't been the easiest thing," Pulisic admitted of his recent club difficulties. "Obviously, I'm a guy who always wants to play, but I think I'm on a really good path.

"I love to take on challenges. I love to, not prove people wrong, but prove myself right in a way. So I'll just continue to work hard.

"Coming into camp, I'm really just excited to get more minutes and play for my country. Regardless of what's happening at the club level, I'm just thrilled to be here and I'm excited to represent this crest again."

After emerging as one of Frank Lampard's most reliable goalscorers following the Premier League's post-lockdown restart in the symmer, Pulisic battled injuries as he began his second Chelsea campaign.

Then came the big change: Tuchel.

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Lampard was dismissed in January, with Chelsea bringing in the German coach fresh off his run to the Champions League final with Paris Saint-Germain.

Tuchel and Pulisic have long had a strong relationship, with the 47-year-old having coached the winger during his rise at Borussia Dortmund.

As yet, though that relationship has not translated.

Pulisic has started just three of the manager's 14 games in charge, and has scored just two goals in 28 appearances across Lampard and Tuchel's reigns this season.

"I was in a similar situation, I think, when I first came to Chelsea, so I had to work my way and earn my position in the team and to finally get some minutes," Pulisic said. "I feel like I did that and I feel like I'm basically going out there and trying to do the same thing now.

"I feel very confident in my form right now and the way I'm feeling and playing, so I think I'm on a good path."

That path, at least this week, leads him to the USMNT for the first time in a year-and-a-half.

Pulisic has not been with the U.S. since November 2019, and has watched from the sidelines as players such as Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna have blossomed at big clubs of their own.

For U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter, the reintroduction of Pulisic comes at the best time, for both the winger himself and the team.

"I think this will be a great opportunity for him to get together with his friends and get to see the group," Berhalter said.

"I remember when I played for the national team coming back and joining up with the team and seeing all your buddies again and then getting on the field and being able to compete with them, that was the best part of it.

"So I'm sure he's excited about it and it will be great to have him in camp and great to have him on the field."

Pulisic added: "It's amazing to watch these guys go through similar stuff to what I go through and what I've been through, and it's just awesome to see other people challenging themselves and playing at such high levels.

"It's really a good thing for our country and for our national team, of course. I wish, obviously, I could have been there instead of watching those last couple of friendlies and games that I had to miss out on.

"Now I finally get the chance to play with these guys, and we're all really excited.

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"Coming back and just talking to some Americans is always really nice. You kind of take it for granted, always being in a different country, but just being able to talk to these guys, some of them that I've known for so long, it's good.

"It's good playing with these guys again and also seeing the new faces. It's exciting times."

This call-up may be nice for Pulisic, but it is also great news for Berhalter, who finally gets another chance to work with a player that remains vital to everything this program is doing.

Pulisic's ability with the ball remains a key component of Berhalter's system, and the coach did say that Pulisic may be tested out in formations other than his usual 4-3-3.

The idea, Berhalter said, is to make Pulisic the heart of the team. No matter where he starts, whether that is on the wing or centrally, the hope is that the U.S. can get him the ball in dangerous areas.

That idea will surely be good news to Pulisic, who is once again a centerpiece after several months of being on the outside looking in at Stamford Bridge.

"Ideally you'd want every player to come into camp in top form, but it's not always possible though," Berhalter said. "These are things that we do take into consideration and we are thinking about. 

"What I would say is we also want to create the type of environment here that the players enjoy coming into, and sometimes this can almost be like a kickstart for the player, and it is the case for Christian on this trip. We're so excited to have him in camp.

"I know he has the resiliency to keep going and I know it's a matter of time before he breaks through. He's a fantastic player, and his qualities will show through, as they did the last game in the FA Cup that we saw."

As Berhalter says, perhaps upcoming friendlies with Jamaica and Northern Ireland will be exactly what Pulisic needs.