The most substantial story for the United States men’s national team this summer has nothing to do with the Gold Cup. Nor any of the drama surrounding Gregg Berhalter’s return to the Yanks’ helm. It was always where the best American male soccer player on the planet, Christian Pulisic, landed in the summer transfer window. The mass exodus from Chelsea was expected for months due to new owner Todd Boehly’s spending habits during the January window, with Pulisic being one of the easiest-to-spot players in need of a West London exit. He’ll be leaving England altogether to reportedly play for AC Milan.
Pulisic is only 24 and will be integral for the next decade-plus for the USA. Getting the American star player a route to much more playing time was critical. A move to any top-five European league would’ve benefitted Pulisic. Now he’s headed to a league that won’t kick his ass physically as much as the Prem, and will play in the Champions League this coming season. Of course, it’s no guarantee he’s integral to Milan’s success or stays healthy, as it was heavily rumored Captain America would’ve left the team on loan in January if it wasn’t for a knee injury. And he was essentially treated like he was injured in the final days of Graham Potter’s tenure with the club and whatever don’t-get-relegated job Frank Lampard did to end the season. The Blues’ needing to stabilize economically and Pulisic playing the team’s deepest position were the only pair of clues needed to determine his future.
Anyone who watched the USMNT in the Nations League saw how electric Pulisic can be. He’s the best North American soccer player in the world. Shouts from both sides of the border about Alphonso Davies and Chucky Lozano should fall on deaf ears. It’s Pulisic by a Hershey mile. Look at the first 46 minutes of the Americans’ recent clash against Mexico. The Mexican fullbacks were so outmatched, they found an effective tactic in tackling Pulisic, better seen in football, not fútbol. Pulisic’s first golden chance at goal saw him dance around the Mexican defense and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, only to sky the post over the crossbar and a few rows in the seating directly behind the net. We’ll just call that his final parting shot of Chelsea influence. Then came his two goals to bookend the halftime break. Good Christian Pulisic is a world-class player. And the chances good CP10 continues to be stellar for the Stars and Stripes increase heavily with a move out of London.
The deal isn’t officially done, but Pulisic is as good as gone, as several teams would gladly swoop in for his services if Milan backs out. Milan is where Sergino Dest spent the last season on loan from Barcelona and he only made eight appearances for the team and needed him so much during the stretch run of the season, which included a run to the Champions League semifinals, that they allowed Dest to play in the non-FIFA-window USMNT friendly against Mexico in April. Dest is the only other American to ever suit up in the red and black for Milan in Serie A. Oguchi Onyewu, who currently works in US Soccer’s front office, did sign with Milan in 2009, but never played in his 18 months with the team. Also making the move from West London to Milan is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who completed his transfer away from Chelsea on Friday. Fellow USMNT star Tim Weah also is headed to Italy to play for Juventus.
Pulisic with more playing time at the club level is the biggest safety net USMNT fans could hope for. It can’t get worse than it is now. You’d think Sandro Tonali’s anticipated move to Newcastle opens up a perfect place in AC Milan’s rotation for Pulisic. With plenty of games on the horizon for Milan, as opposed to Chelsea who will only be playing teams from England or Wales next year, it’s a solid move all-around. While the Premier League no doubt has more visibility in America than Serie A, how much would watching Pulisic play away from the Yanks matter if he’s on the bench anyway? Today was a good day for American soccer.