The 2018 World Cup is thoroughly in everyone’s rearview these days, but Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic still thinks about how the Americans should have qualified, even though they didn’t.
“I definitely feel that we had a good enough team and definitely should have qualified, so that was tough for me,” Pulisic told ESPN in an exclusive interview.
Pulisic was the lone bright spot in the match that cost the USMNT the most. They lost to Trinidad & Tobago on the final day of World Cup qualifying in 2017, with Pulisic scoring the only goal in the 2-1 loss.
It was the first time the U.S. had failed to qualify for the World Cup since 1986, and the loss put a disastrous capper on a campaign that saw the USMNT fail to capitalize on earlier chances to qualify.
Pulisic still thinks about what kind of damage that team could have done in the World Cup.
“I think we had quality to [make a deep run],” Pulisic told ESPN. “I don't see any reason why we couldn't have. Once you get to those knockout stages, I think anything's possible, I think anything could happen.”
Former USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann agrees with Pulisic, telling ESPN that “the team belonged [in] Russia. They belonged in the World Cup.”
Klinsmann was fired in November 2016 after a poor start to World Cup qualifying, but believes that the team would have made a deep World Cup run if he’d stayed in charge.
“I'd take that team in Russia to the final eight, maybe even the final four because there was a building block there and there was a plan for it and the plan got interrupted and it got even more interrupted when the U.S. didn't qualify for Russia.”
The USMNT can only move forward, and they’re doing so with new head coach Gregg Berhalter and newer general manager Brian McBride, whose hiring was announced on Friday. But the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup seems like it will continue to haunt Pulisic, Klinsmann and others for years to come.
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