U.S. men's national team star Christian Pulisic says that the entire group is "very confident" heading into World Cup qualifying after seeing two different teams complete a trophy double this summer.
Pulisic scored the game-winning goal in the team's thrilling Nations League final against Mexico, while a vastly different U.S. group went on to win the Gold Cup this summer by once again taking down Mexico at the finish line.
Those two wins have given the U.S. its swagger back as it heads into the most important games of all: World Cup qualifiers.
'There's a different kind of fight'
The U.S. is set to begin World Cup qualifiers next month with a trio of games against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras in what will be the first World Cup qualifying run for many of the team's stars.
It won't be the first taste for Pulisic, though, who says he's seen some changes in the young U.S. team over the last few months.
"I’d say we have a lot of confidence just from recent games and different tournaments we’ve played in," Pulisic told Complex. "And just how much this team has grown. I think we should definitely be confident in going in, but we know that we have to go in there and get a job done. But I mean I think the way we feel right now, we’re very confident."
In the aftermath of the 2018 World Cup qualifying failure, many lamented the perceived lack of fight in the USMNT as it missed out on a trip to Russia.
For years, that fight had been the USMNT's hallmark, with the group often taking down more talented teams with a combination of gritty tactics and pure willpower.
And Pulisic says that idea is now combining renewed mental fortitude with the increased talent of the team's European-based youngsters to create a group that can do something special.
"I think there’s just a different kind of fight in the team that you’re seeing," he said. "I mean the last two competitions that we’ve seen, even watching this Gold Cup, the team just has… Yeah, there’s always that feeling that we’re going to come out with that result. We’re going to fight till the end. We’re going to just find that result in the end. And I think that’s the difference and there’s just so much passion and growth that’s been in the team.
"I mean I think growing up watching the U.S. what was so special back in World Cups back when I was very young, I think there was just always that feeling, like I said before, that somehow they would come away with a result. They had that fight to them. They had that American spirit. That little something, that fight in them. So I think that’s something that, yeah, hopefully that we’re starting to see. And I think we are seeing as of late."
'I went nuts at four in the morning!'
Pulisic also revealed his reaction to the Gold Cup triumph, saying he watched the entire game despite the time difference.
The USMNT was able to top Mexico on a 117th-minute finish from Miles Robinson in a game that went deep into the night in Las Vegas, but that didn't stop Pulisic from staying up to watch his teammates' victory.
"Honestly, it was just incredible," he said. "I mean how far this team has come. We’ve had different squads in for the Nations League, for the Gold Cup, and no one has backed down from the challenge. And I’m seeing just a fight in this group that it makes me so proud and just very excited for what’s to come.
"I went absolutely nuts at four in the morning. I was jumping out of my bed. I was so excited. I mean it, yeah, I mean you could just feel it coming and then it happened. And it was just amazing to watch."