Christian Pulisic rips Thomas Tuchel on not starting Champions League semifinal: 'I honestly was dumbfounded'

Tue, Sep 20, 2022
Soccer News (AP)

Christian Pulisic rips Thomas Tuchel on not starting Champions League semifinal: 'I honestly was dumbfounded'

On October 18th, book. "Christian Pulisic: My Journey So Far" will be released. The book will encompass his growth from a soccer player in Hershey Pennsylvania to his role at as he heads to the World Cup leading the men's national team. But in the book, he had some scathing comments about former Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel.

According to Pulisic, he was misled by Tuchel into believing that he'd start the 202-21 Champions League second leg against which Chelsea won 3-2, but it wasn't enough to advance to the next round as they lost 5-4 on aggregate to Los Blancos.'

"What happened before that game was hugely disappointing for me. l'd had a really good first leg performance and our following match was against in the league." Pulisic said in an excerpt of his upcoming book. "Tuchel told me that he was resting me for the second leg and as a result, I didn't play a single minute in the Fulham game. Then on match day of the second semi, Tuchel tells me he's changed his mind and he's going with Kai [Havertz]. I honestly was dumbfounded and very disappointed."

It also wasn't the only frosty thing that Pulisic had to say about his former manager. He also spoke about his goal in the first leg, which was the only goal Chelsea scored in that leg.

"The untold story behind that goal is that when [Antonio] Rudiger has the ball, I can see he's looking to play it long over the top and I started my run to get in behind the Madrid backline.", Pulisic said "But as I take off on the run, I hear Thomas Tuchel yelling from the sideline, ", stay in the pocket, don't make the run!" But I just had the feeling I'd find the space and get on the end of the pass, so I continued the run."

Reading the excerpts it seems clear that Pulisic was frustrated under Tuchel although it seems fair to mention that he is talking about a season in which his team won the Champions League, so it's hard to fault the manager's decision making too much. And in that second leg, well, when Pulisic came on he laid on an assist for Havertz, so again the manager seemed to have a plan that worked.

That said, Pulisic would hardly be the first athlete to hunt under every rock and look in every corner to find slights that motivate him. "Nobody believed in us" is a phrase uttered so often by athletes it's a meme, and Michael Jordan saying "I took that personally" is a full on meme for a reason. If anything, Pulisic's version of events is the kind of thing we've come to expect from top athletes, a version in which he's the motivated star, full of self-confidence and belief in his own talents, and always convinced that he'll be able to get the job done, if only he could get the chance.

Below are the full excerpts from the book:

Pulisic on being benched for second leg

What happened before that game was hugely disappointing for me. l'd had a really good first leg performance and our following match was against Fulham in the league. Tuchel told me that he was resting me for the second leg and as a result I didn't play a single minute in the Fulham game. Then on match day of the second semi, Tuchel tells me he's changed his mind and he's going with Kai [Havertz]. I honestly was dumbfounded and very disappointed. I thought that I'd earned a start and, most importantly, he had assured me previously I was going to start. So by the time he brought me on with about 25 minutes left, I was just so wound up.

[Edouard] Mendy made some big saves that game, especially two off [Karim] Benzema, and it was a great night at the Bridge. l'd say my assist for Mason [Mount] was probably my favorite I've ever made. It came at just the right time and closed the game for us.

[N'Golo] Kante played me in on the right side of the box, but Courtois had his near post covered - he's a giant, a huge guy. I didn't want to just try my luck with a shot in the hope that he might spill the ball into the path of one of my teammates. I wanted to be more calculating. I noticed Mason nearest to the goal, but he was more central and I needed him to come to the near post and get in front of his man. So I stood on the ball waiting for what seemed like forever for Mason to make his run to get in front of his man. But then there was still a lot for me to do - if you watch closely, I had to lift my pass over Ramos's foot and find the gap with a pass being hit with just the right weight.

Pulisic on his goal in first leg

The untold story behind that goal is that when [Antonio] Rudiger has the ball, I can see he's looking to play it long over the top and I started my run to get in behind the Madrid backline. But as I take off on the run, I hear Thomas Tuchel yelling from the sideline, "Christian, stay in the pocket, don't make the run!" But I just had the feeling I'd find the space and get on the end of the pass, so I continued the run.

I cut across the front of and behind [RaphaŽl] Varane. When I got the ball I thought I was going to have to shoot straight away, but then I realized that I had far more time than I thought I would have because Nacho had run to cover the goal line and Varane was more concerned about marking the arrival into the box of [Timo] Werner. So I thought that I would create a better angle for myself by rounding Courtois and then being able to pick my spot.

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