US star Pulisic confident in form despite Chelsea benching

FAIRFAX, Virginia (AP) – Christian Pulisic said he won’t let his benching with Chelsea affect his play for the United States (US) national team as they prepares for a match against Cuba, pronouncing himself in peak form despite scant playing time of late.

“I feel the best I ever have. I feel very confident in my game. I’m not going to let any of that affect me,” Pulisic said on Wednesday before training with the national team at George Mason University, where both of his parents played college football. “I feel very strong, and I’m really looking forward to this game (against Cuba).”

The 21-year-old midfielder has been mostly a spectator in his first season in the Premier League, limited to two appearances since August: a League Cup start against fourth-tier Grimsby Town on September 25 and a 10-minute substitute stint versus Southampton in the last Sunday during which he contributed an assist. Pulisic arrived at Chelsea in the offseason for USD73 million from Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic has previously voiced frustration with his playing time under Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, but declined to elaborate on those feelings.

“I’m here now to be focussed with the US national team, so that’s really all that’s on my mind right now,” Pulisic said. The US will play Cuba on Saturday in Washington and then visit Canada in Toronto next week, its opening two matches of the CONCACAF Nations League.

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic vies for the ball with Leicester’s defender Ricardo Pereira and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel during an English Premier League match. PHOTO: AP

While he’s been a role player with Chelsea, Pulisic is the undisputed star of the rebuilding US team, which is trying to recover from its failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia. He said he’s looking forward to seeing what 18-year-old midfielder Brenden Aaronson, who was added to the roster last week, can bring to the squad.

“It’s fun to play with these younger guys,” Pulisic said.

“He’s younger than me, right? Yeah, he’s much younger… I don’t see myself as young anymore, but whatever.”

For this week of practice, Pulisic will be in the shadow of his mother, Kelley, and his father, Mark.

“My dad texted me after the first training. He’s like, ‘I scored 38 goals on this training field, and your mom scored 10,” Pulisic said. “It’s great, it’s cool to see where they used to play. I haven’t really been here, so it’s exciting.”