Gregg Berhalter discusses Christian Pulisic performance & defends late USMNT subs

Chris Smith
Berhalter restored Pulisic to the line-up for the full 90 minutes against Canada.
Berhalter restored Pulisic to the line-up for the full 90 minutes against Canada. / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Gregg Berhalter has praised Christian Pulisic's performance in the United States' 1-1 draw with Canada in World Cup qualifying on Sunday.

The Chelsea forward played the full 90 minutes in Nashville, just days after missing the USMNT's 0-0 stalemate in El Salvador due to a positive Covid-19 test.

Though he didn't find the breakthrough himself, Pulisic was one of the few US players really trying to take the game to Canada. The 22-year-old ended the match with more successful dribbles (2) and shots (3) than any other American, while he consistently dropped deep to try and drive the ball forward at speed.

"We made the decision to play today, and I felt pretty good and it’s good to be back with the team," Pulisic said of his own performance (via NBC Sports).

And Berhalter was pleased with what he saw from his star man, praising Pulisic's character for being able to come straight back in with 90 minutes.

“I think Christian did a good job that he got himself back to where he could compete for 90 minutes," he told reporters. "I think that was the most important thing, that he hasn’t played soccer in a while. He didn’t travel to El Salvador, he’s doing individual training, so to step into a match and give that type of effort, I think says a lot about him and who he is.”

Berhalter was heavily criticised on Sunday for failing to make a substitution before the 83rd minute - aside from the enforced withdrawal of Sergino Dest due to injury - with his side struggling to break down a stubborn and compact Canadian defence.

Eventually, Konrad de la Fuente, Josh Sargent and Cristian Roldan were introduced, but by then it was too late for them to have a tangible impact on the game.

Berhalter defended the timing of his changes, insisting the attackers on the field were still having an effect on the game and that it was difficult to decide who needed to be withdrawn.

“With substitutes, we’re looking for who’s not performing up to standard — who’s off the game? — and we felt with our attacking players, Jordan [Pefok] was still being somewhat effective with his physicality, giving them problems. Brenden [Aaronson] was, I thought, one of our better players today with his tenacity and his counter-pressing," Berhalter said.

“And then, thinking about who we could bring on. We need a goal late in the game, and I can understand how it looks like we should have acted quicker. 100%. In this situation, we were looking at the performances of the guys and trying to figure out who we’re going to take off the field.”

With just two points from their opening two games, the USMNT have not made an ideal start to their World Cup qualifying campaign as they seek to put their absence from Russia 2018 behind them.

The Stars and Stripes face a difficult trip to Honduras on Wednesday - a nation they've failed to beat on the road in their last two attempts, last winning there in October 2009.