There is an American at today’s game. Two actually.
Christian Pulisic is expected to feature for Chelsea, though it will be from off the bench, the high-water mark in stages for the high-water mark in American players in Europe.
The other American, Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen, most likely will be a spectator in Porto unless there is an emergency or two in his team’s camp. Steffen’s consolation is that he has already become the first American to win the Premier League.
But for most fans in the United States, Pulisic will be the main talking point today. Even since he joined Chelsea from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in 2019, for a $73 million fee that raised eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic, he has battled to find his place in London, and his team.
Chelsea and its fans have had little complaint about his play.
Just last month, he scored the goal that provided a valuable point on the road against Real Madrid in semifinals.
A week later he showed similar poise to set up a goal by Mason Mount that finished off Madrid.
But the ongoing competition for places in Chelsea’s star-studded attack is never easy; a year after bringing Pulisic into a team that already had Mason Mount, who plays a similar game, Chelsea bought the German forwards Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
Injuries, too, have been a persistent issue for Pulisic, and that is perhaps part of the reason Chelsea Coach Thomas Tuchel has tended to see him as more of a second-half super sub than a 90-minute fixture in his team.
But did his performance against Real Madrid, and some other strong outings this spring, change that impression? No. He will start on the bench as usual, but said this week that he would be ready when called.
“I’ve learned a lot, I’ve come very far,” Pulisic said in an interview with CBS Sports this week. “There have been some real ups, also some times where I had some really difficult moments. I’m happy with my form now. I’m happy with the way I’m feeling. I’m confident.”