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USMNT’s Christian Pulisic opens up on Chelsea struggles, mental battle

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nick Mendola look ahead to the United States' next World Cup qualifying window, with big clashes against Canada and El Salvador on tap at the end of January.

Ahead of the USMNT hosting El Salvador in World Cup qualifying on Thursday, Christian Pulisic opened up to the media about his recent form at Chelsea.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

The USMNT superstar doesn’t do this often, if at all, and Pulisic revealed he has found it very tough in the Premier League this season.

Pulisic admitted the 2021-22 campaign has been ‘up and down’ and he isn’t where he wants to be. He was open and honest and reflective when asked about what it’s like to always be in the spotlight on both sides of the pond.

Heading into this international break, the 23-year-old USMNT star was an unused substitute in Chelsea’s last two games in the Premier League after playing in six straight over the festive period in a variety of positions.

After playing as a false nine, wing-back and in his usual role on the wing, he has been left out by Thomas Tuchel and he was asked about his recent positional switches.

Pulisic opens up on Chelsea struggles

“It is tough. I haven’t always been playing in the positions I want to play in. But I think it is a good quality to be versatile and able to play in all kinds of positions and have different strengths on the pitch. I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to hopefully be in a spot over the next few games that I’m more comfortable in,” Pulisic told the media in a conference call.

Christian Pulisic was then asked about his recent form at Chelsea having any impact on his USMNT form, and his future at club level.

“It doesn’t affect me too much coming in to U.S. camps. I am ready when I come in here and to do whatever I can to come to help this team so I’m not thinking about that,” Pulisic said. “Obviously it has been up and down this year, for sure. Not exactly where I want to be and how I want things to be right now. I’m just going to keep going and it doesn’t affect me when I come here. So I am excited to be here.”

Pulisic then opened up when asked about what it’s like to be asked time and time again about Chelsea when he’s with the USMNT, and vice versa, and how he handles all of the stardom and attention.

“I would say there’s two sides to me, especially when people ask you how you are. There is the soccer side and the person side. The person side is even more important to me and I’m doing alright in that sense. It is a lot sometimes,” Pulisic said.

“When I come to the national team it is ‘How are things with Chelsea?’ and ‘What’s this’ and ‘What’s that.’ It’s tough, it is tough. Mentally it has played on me at times but I am always very excited to be on the national team and get to enjoy playing with these guys and just enjoy football in general.”

USMNT proud of Pulisic

The USMNT will be leaning heavily on Christian Pulisic to help them enjoy this cycle of games and move one step closer towards World Cup qualification.

This is the first time since September that Pulisic is coming in to a camp fully fit and raring to go.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter was asked about how he thinks Pulisic has performed at Chelsea in recent months, and revealed he is proud of how hard he is grinding in so many different positions.

“I love the fact Christian is fighting, he is fighting to be on the field,” Berhalter said. “Whether he plays forward, or his natural position as a winger or a withdrawn attacking midfielder, or if he plays wing-back, he will do whatever it takes to be on the field. That is the mark of character and the mark of someone who knows how valuable it is to play for a club like Chelsea.

“It has been fun watching him. He scored a great goal against Liverpool, against Man City he’s playing in a very difficult game and doing a good job. For us it has been fun to watch him and his team. They won the Champions League last year, were battling for the title last year and this year as well, they are going to be playing in the Club World Championships. Really high level of club that he is at.”

Future uncertain but Pulisic developing

There have been reports linking Pulisic with a move to Bayern Munich, Barcelona and many others European giants in recent months as it appears that Chelsea may freshen up their attacking options this summer.

Pulisic, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and even Romelu Lukaku have all been criticized by Tuchel in recent weeks, as a collective, and it appears that Pulisic is truly at a crossroads in his career.

It felt like it was a relief for Christian Pulisic to talk about these struggles, the pressure he is under for club and country, and to get it off his chest a little. He doesn’t talk like this often, if ever. So often he is the hero who is a scoring, assisting and winning machine. But most importantly he’s a human being. And he’s trying to work everything out while the entire world watches on and judges him every single day. That is far from easy.

The USMNT rely heavily on Pulisic and he wants to do his talking on the pitch. But this time, his talking off the pitch was just as impressive.

He is developing into a mature, thoughtful and considerate person off the pitch. In his own words, how he is as a person off the pitch, that is most important. He is okay with admitting his struggles instead of burying his head in the sand. We should all take note of that and follow his lead.

All USMNT fans want Pulisic to be happy and this outpouring of emotion shows he is finding it tough at Chelsea, but he is battling on and is focused on one thing right now: leading the USA closer to World Cup qualification.

“There’s a great focus in the team and I don’t know exactly the math, but even with three wins I don’t think it is guaranteed we are going to qualify,” Christian Pulisic told ProSoccerTalk before the opening game of this penultimate cycle of games.

“We just need to take it game by game, win game by game and put ourselves in a great position next camp to be able have a couple good results and get us to where we need to be. That is qualifying for the World Cup.”

Follow @JPW_NBCSports