DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic was happy to talk about what happened leading up to the goal he scored on Tuesday that carried the United States into the round of 16 at the World Cup.
He was happy to talk about the ride to the hospital after colliding with Iran’s goalkeeper, about how during that journey he followed the rest of the game on a trainer’s cellphone, and about the chances — still not 100 percent, he said — that he would be available to play when the United States faces the Netherlands on Saturday.
What he was far less comfortable talking about, as he stared out into the faces of at least 100 journalists, were the details of where he had been injured. US Soccer has labeled Pulisic’s injury a “pelvic contusion.” Asked by a reporter to clarify what that meant, Pulisic took a long pause.
“I mean,” he said, “it’s a pelvic contusion, you know?”
The specifics hardly matter. What does matter, at least for the United States, is that Pulisic admitted he was not sure he would be physically capable of going through a full training session with his teammates Thursday, 48 hours before they play the biggest game of their lives.
Pulisic’s problem, basically, is that the shot he took in the collision while scoring in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory had affected his ability to do his job. A soccer player’s hips, and especially any of the muscles and tendons and tissue that support them, do vital and interconnected work in assisting movement, turning and sprinting. Pulisic seemed to admit that, at least as of Thursday, he was not sure he had recovered sufficiently to be able to perform at the level he knows will be required on Saturday.
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“I’m going to go now and meet with the team and the medical staff and make a decision on today, just kind of see how I’m feeling,” he said in his first public comments since the injury. “Taking it day by day for now, but doing everything in my power to be able to be out there on the field on Saturday.”
It had been excruciating, he admitted, to leave the game after scoring. Pulisic had lain on the field for several minutes after scoring, then needed assistance to get to his feet and remain standing. After a few minutes, he returned to the game, but minutes after that, the halftime whistle blew and he was gone down the stadium tunnel.
When his team returned to the field for the second half, Pulisic was missing, replaced by his teammate Brenden Aaronson.
“Obviously the emotions were running so high, so I was doing everything I could to continue playing,” Pulisic said of his brief return to the game. “It was all kind of a blur, to be honest.”
After an assessment of his condition was made at halftime, he said, the US Soccer medical staff determined he needed to go to a hospital for scans to determine the full nature of his injury. A team trainer, Harris Patel, went along; on the way, Patel called up a video feed of the game on his phone so he and Pulisic could watch what they were missing.
“It was the hardest thing,” Pulisic said. “I think they were checking my blood sugar and everything, and it was flying through the roof, but it wasn’t because of anything — it was just me stress-watching the game. Once I got through that, and the final whistle blew, I was very happy.”
Saturday’s game would be a difficult one to miss. The United States has not played a knockout game at the World Cup since 2014, and the current team represents a new generation of players who have high hopes not only for this tournament, but for the World Cup that will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Pulisic already has one good memory from this year’s tournament — and one excruciating one. But as he sat alongside his teammate Timothy Weah, who has scored the Americans’ only other goal in Qatar, in the team’s opening game against Wales, Pulisic said they still felt they had a long way to go.
“It feels great to score in a World Cup,” Pulisic said when asked if he had enjoyed his special moment of the tournament already. “Timmy knows what that’s like. I’m hoping I haven’t had that moment yet. I’m hoping it’s in front of me.”