Christian Pulisic

How Chelsea's Christian Pulisic is playing his way into bigger role

How Chelsea's Christian Pulisic is playing his way into bigger role

Christian Pulisic won't need to wait as long for his next Chelsea start as he did for Saturday.

Pulisic started against Burnley for the first time in over a month in all competitions and the first time in two months in the English Premier League. But after Saturday's star turn at Turf Moor, Pulisic should be a fixture in Chelsea manager Frank Lampard's starting XI for the foreseeable future. 

The 21-year-old American scored his first, second and third Premier League in Chelsea's 4-2 win over Burnley, becoming the youngest player in club history to score a hat trick. 

“Unreal," Pulisic told Sky Sports (H/T NBC Sports Soccer). "What a day for me. I’m even happier with the result and I wish we could’ve gotten a clean sheet, but in the end definitely a special day for me.”

Pulisic is the second American player after USMNT legend Clint Dempsey to score a Premier League hat trick, which is a fitting distinction for a player defined by such lofty expectations. The Hershey, Penn. native made his professional debut for Borussia Dortmund as a 17-year-old, earned his first senior cap in a World Cup qualifier soon after and starred in the Champions League against Real Madrid a month after he turned 18. 

Chelsea made Pulisic the most expensive American player ever in January, agreeing to acquire him for a staggering $73.1 million. The USMNT failed to qualify for last summer's World Cup, but Pulisic's promise has provided American fans a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dismal year-and-a-half for the national team. 

Pulisic appeared in all four of Chelsea's first Premier League matches and started against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup, but his lone start in September came in a League Cup tie against Grimsby Town. After Saturday's win, Lampard pointed to Pulisic's short summer and Chelsea's wealth of attacking options as to why Pulisic couldn't crack the lineup. 

“The first few months were definitely hard," Pulisic said. "I had a few starts then I fell out a bit and I had to get any minutes I could. The last few weeks I was able to show that again that I was helping that team ... and I think they saw that and gave me a start today. I didn’t think it was going to happen right away being a big success and coming into a big club like this. It takes time. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far, and I’m gonna keep going.”

After not even making the bench for Chelsea's Champions League group-stage win over Lille on Oct. 2, Pulisic has not missed a match for Chelsea. He assisted as a second-half substitute on Oct. 6 against Southampton, helped set up Marcos Alonso's late winner against Newcastle on Oct. 19 and assisted Michi Batshuyahi's 86th-minute winner against Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday. 

But Saturday marked Pulisic's best performance in a Chelsea shirt and showcased what makes him such a promising player. 

Pulisic first two goals resulted from a pair of unforced Burnley errors, but he quickly initiated Chelsea's counter-attack in both instances, dragging the Clarets defenders out of position and creating plenty of space to shoot. His third was the simplest, but the 5-foot-8 midfielder smartly read Mason Mount's cross and lost his man en route to an unmarked header. 

Chelsea's attacking options are plentiful, with Lampard preferring Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi for much of the season. Pulisic now has three goals and two assists in five appearances this month, though, and he's forcing Lampard's hand.

"I’ve tried to deal with it in the way I see best, which is to give him minutes," Lampard said of Pulisic to Chelsea's website after the match. "He has played games this season already, but I’ve also got competition in that area and I need them all trying to perform when they get in the team. Christian has been doing that recently from the bench, he fully deserved his start today and it was a fantastic match-winning performance."

Pulisic surely has deserved a few more starts after Saturday. 

Watch USMNT's Christian Pulisic score hat trick, first Chelsea goals

Watch USMNT's Christian Pulisic score hat trick, first Chelsea goals

Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic made good on his first English Premier League start in two months in a big way Saturday.

The United States Men's National Team star scored his first hat trick for the Blues -- and his first in the Premier League -- against Burnley, setting the tone for Chelsea's 4-2 win at Turf Moor.

In the 21st minute, Pulisic capitalized on a Burnley giveaway in midfield, charging up the pitch and coolly finishing past goalkeeper Nick Pope at the far post with his left foot. 

https://twitter.com/NBCSportsSoccer/status/1188136468616749056

Pulisic struck on the counter-attack once more just before halftime, capitalizing on another Burnley miscue in their own half. The 21-year-old gathered the ball just in front of the halfway line, carrying it into the Burnley box and doubling Chelsea's lead with a deflected shot in the 45th minute.

The American star did not stop scoring in the second half. Pulisic, standing unmarked in Burnley's penalty area, climbed and headed a Chelsea cross past Pope to clinch his first Premier League hat trick.

Pulisic became only the second American to score three goals in a Premier League match, joining USMNT legend Clint Dempsey as the only players to do so. He also kept company with a Chelsea legend after scoring with his right foot, left foot and head.

Willian scored Chelsea's fourth two minutes after Pulisic's third, but the day belonged to the American.

Chelsea signed Pulisic in January for the highest-ever transfer fee for an American player, but playing time had been hard to come by after he joined the club this summer. Pulisic started for Chelsea on Saturday for the first time since a Sept. 25 Carabao Cup match. He had not started in the Premier League since Aug. 31, but the American played his back into starting consideration for Chelsea manager Frank Lampard with a string of strong performances off the bench. On Wednesday, Pulisic assisted on Michi Batshuyahi's 86th-minute winner against Ajax in the Champions League group-stage match.

The goal-scoring monkey now is off Pulisic's back, and Lampard could have a much harder time leaving Pulisic out of his starting XI moving forward. That surely will excite Chelsea supporters and USMNT fans looking for glimmers of hope during an otherwise dismal period. 

Chelsea's Christian Pulisic gets first Premier League start since August

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AP

Chelsea's Christian Pulisic gets first Premier League start since August

After a strong midweek performance in the Champions League, Christian Pulisic returned to Chelsea's starting lineup Saturday. 

The United States Men's National Team star started in place of Callum Hudson-Odoi against Burnley at Turf Moor, making his first league start for the Blues in nearly two months. 

Pulisic, 21, last started for Chelsea in any competition on Sept. 25 in a 7-1 win over League Two side Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup. Chelsea manager Frank Lampard last started Pulisic on Aug. 31 against Sheffield United, but Pulisic's impact off the bench in the Champions League appears to have swayed Lampard. 

Chelsea beat Ajax 1-0 in Amsterdam on Wednesday, and Pulisic assisted Michy Batshuyahi's 86th-minute winner at Johan Cruyff Arena. In six appearances this season, Pulisic has four assists, tying with Hudson-Odoi for the Chelsea lead. 

"The way he's played, he deserves a starting place regularly in the last few weeks, but so do others and that's what I keep saying is the nice problem that I have," Lampard told reporters Friday (H/T Sky Sports). "But it's brilliant that he's coming on and making the impact that he's making and of course he'll get his starts, that's the reason he's come here. ... So [all of Chelsea's attackers are] good options for me, and Christian is getting stronger and he's getting more in the group. With players that come here and some of them you have to give them a bit of time, particularly young players, but he's playing well, so he's certainly in strong contention."

With a win at Turf Moor, Chelsea can keep pace with third-place Leicester City in the race for Champions League qualification. The Blues would sit fourth based on goal difference following the Foxes' 9-0 shellacking of Southampton on Friday night.