Chelsea and United States midfielder Christian Pulisic has echoed the comments of former manager Jurgen Klinsmann, stating that the U.S. “had quality” to make a deep run at the 2018 World Cup.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the tournament, falling to Trinidad & Tobago 2-1 on the final day of qualifying, with Pulisic netting the only U.S. goal. The defeat ended a hugely inconsistent campaign, one that started off with consecutive defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica — results that cost Klinsmann his job as manager. Klinsmann’s successor, Bruce Arena, was unable to turn around the Americans’ situation.
It’s an episode that still rankles Pulisic.
“I definitely feel that we had a good enough team and definitely should have qualified, so that was tough for me,” Pulisic said in an exclusive interview with ESPN.
In an earlier interview, also with ESPN, Klinsmann repeated a refrain he has been making for two years, that had he remained in charge of the U.S. the team would have gone deep into the knockout stages.
“The team belonged [in] Russia,” Klinsmann said. “They belonged in the World Cup. The qualification was pretty much done and then it happened, the big disaster in Trinidad which no one could ever have imagined.”
Klinsmann added: “I’d take that team in Russia to the final eight, maybe even the final four because there was a building block there and there was a plan for it and the plan got interrupted and it got even more interrupted when the U.S. didn’t qualify for Russia.”
Pulisic is of similar mind, in terms of what the U.S. could have accomplished at the tournament.
“I think we had quality to [make a deep run],” Pulisic said. “I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t have. Once you get to those knockout stages, I think anything’s possible, I think anything could happen.”
Pulisic also spoke of his appreciation for Klinsmann, who gave the Hershey, Pennsylvania, native his international debut back in 2016.
“I had a really good relationship with Jurgen, to be honest,” Pulisic said. “He gave me my first chance really with the national team, so I don’t have anything bad to say about him at all. I’m really thankful for everything that he gave me.”