Pulisic admits Chelsea season ‘really tough’ ahead of CNL

United States midfielder Christian Pulisic admitted that his 2022-23 club season with Chelsea was “really tough.”

Pulisic spoke with reporters on Monday from Carson, California, where the USMNT is training ahead of its June 15 CNL semifinal versus Mexico, and said he’s eager to get on the field with the national team and get back to “being that confident player I know I can be.”

Statistically speaking, the just concluded club season was easily the most difficult of Pulisic’s tenure with the Blues. He recorded just 813 minutes in league play, his lowest mark since he broke in with Borussia Dortmund back in the 2015-16 season. Even on a per 90-minute basis, Pulisic’s touches (45.98), goals (0.1), expected goals (0.14), shots (1.75) and shots on target percentage (27 percent), were all substantially lower than previous campaigns with Chelsea.

“It’s been a really tough season for me personally and for our team of course at a club level,” Pulisic said during media availability with the USMNT. “So for me it’s just about coming in here and having a fresh start and being able to be a part of a team that hopefully can come out and win some games. So I’m really excited to be here and just to get some minutes on the field and just get back to being that confident player that I know I can be in and just find my footing again and just enjoying the game because it feels like it’s been tough to do that lately.”

Pulisic’s diminishing role with Chelsea, plus the glut of players on the Blues’ roster brought in since new owner Todd Boehly arrived, has given the impression that he’ll be switching clubs during the summer. Sources have told ESPN that Juventus is one likely destination for the 24-year-old, but he insisted that the national team will be his sole focus over the next few weeks.

“Obviously, it’s been an interesting journey at club level for me. I thought it was a great couple years and the last couple years just haven’t gone at all how I’ve planned them to be,” Pulisic said. “And right now my focus is obviously here with the national team. I’m just excited to get back playing and just enjoy myself and do what I love to do out on the field. And from there, this summer, we’re obviously going to have to see what happens.

“It’s obviously very early. As of right now I’m a Chelsea player and I plan to go back. But a lot of things can happen. A lot of things can change.”

The U.S. will enter the CNL semifinal against Mexico with its second interim manager of the year in B.J. Callaghan. The U.S. men have been without a manager since Gregg Berhalter’s contract was allowed to expire at the end of 2022 in the midst of an investigation into a domestic violence incident from 1992 that involved him and his wife Rosalind. The U.S. Soccer investigation ultimately concluded that Berhalter and his wife accurately portrayed the nature of the 1992 incident and that he was free to be hired for a coaching role in the future.

After Berhalter’s contract wasn’t renewed, Anthony Hudson managed the team for five games. But he resigned late last month to take an unnamed managerial post in the Middle East, leaving Callaghan to take over.

Pulisic said dealing with change — both at club and international level — is something he’s used to, but his familiarity with Callaghan will ease the transition.

“I’ve had quite a few managers in my time, so I’ve dealt with change,” Pulisic said. “I mean [Callaghan] especially he, he’s been a part of Gregg’s staff. We know him well. We know what he is all about. He’s not going to come in and try to change everything. He’s going to come in, give some new ideas, give input, and obviously make sure [to] run by everything with the team, with some of the leadership guys.

“We’re going to have to be well prepared once the game comes around. It’s not something that any of us have never seen before, so we’re just going to give our best and help him along the way as he helps us and try to win some games.”

On the possibility of Berhalter returning as U.S. coach, Pulisic said he supports the idea.

“I think [Berhalter] should be considered,” Pulisic said. “I think he did a great job with the team. He brought us a long way. I think a lot of people and a lot of guys in the team especially would agree with that.”