When the United States went to face Grenada in Concacaf Nations League the team could've struggled thinking about the players who didn't make the trip or they could've taken control scoring early and often. In the fifth minute Christian Pulisic picked up the ball on the left wing, cut back onto his right foot, and pinged a cross into the waiting Ricardo Pepi to not home from point blank range. It was the first of seven goals, a result which left no doubt about which approach the team adopted, led by Pulisic. While the team employs a captain by committee approach and Tyler Adams was the captain at the World Cup, it's clear that Pulisic is the driving force behind the attack and it's a role that he embraces.
Because the team is so young, Pulisic, despite being only 24, has become one of the veterans that the squad looks up to as he marked his 57th cap with a goal and two assists. Driving at Grenada's defense he made sure that the match result was never in doubt and it's of no surprise to his teammates either.
WHAT A START FOR THE @USMNT!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) March 25, 2023
Ricardo Pepi heads the #USMNT into the lead less than four minutes into the match.
📺: @NBCUniverso & @peacock for Spanish Coverage pic.twitter.com/yyjYUcC9cN
"I mean to be completely honest, it's what I expect of him. And, for him to be able to do it consistently and be back in that zone," midfielder Weston McKennie said about Pulisic's performance following the game. "It always helps the team out in the best way because he's one of the players who can create things and make things happen. So, just to see him having fun and playing his game with the confidence that he has is just amazing. So hopefully, we can look forward to more of that." McKennnie was a chief benefactor of that performance, scoring a brace of his own.
Comparing Pulisic's club form to international form, would make it hard to keep the kind of faith McKennie has, but a switch flips when he joins the United States for duty. At Chelsea, Pulisic is struggling for playing time dealing with injuries, and the club signing every winger that they can get their hands on. Between the Premier League and Champions League this season Pulisic has only one goal and two assists in barely 800 minutes played, but when he joins the United States, Pulisic's role as a scorer and creator is clear.
He shined at the World Cup and is picking up right where he left off in Nations League play. Pulisic already spoke up about how he feels comfortable in the environment around the USMNT and he's even using his platform as a leader to address issues around the team.
"I am not here to appoint the next manager," said Pulisic addressing the drama between Gregg Berhalter and teammate Gio Reyn and his parents. "It is not my job and whoever it is, I am going to play and give it 100%. Everything that happened with Gregg, first of all, has been handled in an extremely childish manner.
"I think we have seen what has been going on. I think it is childish -- it is youth soccer, people complaining about playing time. I do not want to go too far into that, but I think Gregg has been extremely unfortunate to get into the position he is in now."
A grizzled veteran at only 24, Pulisic is beginning to enter what should be the prime of his career, which only means good things for the USMNT. No matter how much playing time he gets while with his club, he's ready to go when he wears the United States badge and that's something that will only help with figuring out what his next destination is as well. Clubs will recognize the professionalism that he has shown while dealing with an adverse situation at Chelsea as well as his USMNT performances.
Being able to put struggles in the rearview while putting on top performances shows another evolution of Pulisic's game and his growth as a person. The job is far from done with El Salvador up next, but through Pulisic all things are possible for the USMNT.