Pulisic blames lack of focus for USMNT World Cup qualification failure

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USA Today
The Borussia Dortmund winger said the team wasn’t ready to play against Trinidad and Tobago and downplayed earlier excuses of chemistry issues

Christian Pulisic has blamed lack of focus, rather than chemistry issues, for the failure of the United States national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The USMNT needed just a single point in its qualification finale against already-eliminated Trinidad and Tobago, however, ended up losing 2-1 and missed out on this summer’s showpiece in Russia.

Blame has been passed around since the shock defeat, with former U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati declining to run for another term, and then-manager Bruce Arena leaving his post.

Arena and national team defender Geoff Cameron traded words in the winter, with Arena suggesting Cameron was part of the cause of the team’s chemistry issues that hurt them in qualification.

However, Pulisic, who scored the lone U.S. goal in Trinidad, believes it was a lack of focus in that final game which ultimately doomed the team to premature World Cup elimination.

"There could be a lot of small pieces. It's hard to say exactly," Pulisic told ESPN FC. "I think we put ourselves in a good spot and we made a mistake in the final game. That's how it went.

“We weren't focused. We weren't ready to come out and finish the job. That's really all there was."

Pulisic specifically rebutted the idea that Cameron was at the heart of any chemistry issues, saying the Stoke City man actually helped him while with the national team.

"I wouldn't say [chemistry] that was the biggest problem,” Pulisic said. “Chemistry issues, I was fine with Geoff. He was a good mentor of mine actually, he taught me a lot of things.

“It's hard to say exactly what went wrong."

With the U.S. missing out on Russia, the federation is already looking forward to 2022, as a young squad has been called in for the May 28 friendly against Bolivia.

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While Pulisic had already begun to move to front and center with the national team, he is without question the biggest name on the squad now.

But the teenager is taking in in stride.

"It's a lot sometimes, they like to put this label on you," he said. "I'm just trying to live in the moment and do the best I can for myself and for my team-mates, and that's all I can really focus on."

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