Clint Dempsey gave Christian Pulisic advice on how to get through tough times

DOHA, Qatar – Christian Pulisic could be the Golden Boy of American soccer, the first US national team player to play in and win a Champions League final, the face of the 2002 World Cup team heading into Friday’s mammoth Group B encounter with England (2 pm ET, FOX and the FOX Sports app).

However, despite being The Ungetted Once since bursting onto the international scene at the age of 17, Pulisic has also been through his share of struggles.

In the coffee table book Pulisic published last month, the 24-year-old candidly details some of the darkest he endured last year at his English Premier League club Chelsea.

“I was struggling with depression, and it was a very difficult period where I probably hit rock bottom in February 2021 and had to seek professional help,” he says on “Pulisic: My Journey So Far.”

“Frankly, without the support of my family and my closest circle of friends, I don’t know how I could have gotten through that period.”

Christian Pulisic on fighting depression

Christian Pulisic on fighting depression

USMNT star Christian Pulisic talks about the importance of mental health.

The reality of life in the world’s top national league is as grim as it gets. A poor performance can lead to weeks on the bench, especially within a world team like the Blues.

Pulisic remembers speaking to American legend Clint Dempsey, who shone at Fulham and Tottenham before returning to MLS to finish his career, about the routine of constantly having to prove himself day after day.

“He said he felt that during his time in England as well,” Pulisic said of Dempsey, now a World Cup analyst for FOX Sports.

Dempsey remembers the conversation. She will never forget another one she had with then-teenage Pulisic. It was moments after the US lost to Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, a loss that cost the Americans a spot in the 2018 World Cup, ending a qualifying streak for seven consecutive tournaments.

“He had his head down, obviously very upset, distraught, because we didn’t qualify,” said Dempsey, the joint top scorer in USMNT history along with Landon Donovan, who told Pulisic after playing his 141st and final cap. “I just put my arm around him like, bro, you couldn’t have done more than you did, in terms of goals and assists, trying to help put this team in a position to qualify for the World Cup, especially the age you are.

“Keep your head up, this is your team now,” Dempsey told Pulisic. “Take us back to where we need to be.”

Pulisic on having to prove himself

Pulisic on having to prove himself

Christian Pulisic talks about having to prove himself on the World Cup stage.

Five years later, Pulisic and the USA are here on the biggest stage. And Dempsey has enjoyed watching his attacking successor develop, particularly how Pulisic has adapted from promising frontrunner to undisputed focal point for the US up front.

“He’s in a new situation because now the other team’s eyes are on him,” Dempsey said. “They are double-teaming him, they are kicking him, and he has to find ways to solve that problem, because now it is different.

“There used to be other guys who would take that attention away from him,” Dempsey added. “It’s tough, man. But it’s what you have to deal with being a great player for your country.”

Another difficult thing that Pulisic has to deal with in this World Cup is the lack of recent replays. The winger was not starting regularly for Chelsea before the mid-season break. He mainly came off the bench, playing 10 to 30 minutes at a time.

“You have a guy who is playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world,” USA coach Gregg Berhalter said of Pulisic before the England game. “He’s in a very competitive environment and he finds a way to keep getting on the field. And that’s all you can ask of a player. He has the mentality, the determination to stay disciplined, keep working hard and wait for his opportunity “. .”

I’m a “private boy”

I am a "private boy"

Pulisic talks about running the spotlight like a private person.

Still, it’s an adjustment to go from a supporting role to a key holder.

“It’s hard to flip that switch and be able to turn it on if you’re not playing 90 every week,” Dempsey said. “It’s hard to have that fitness, that confidence.”

As one of the pioneers among Americans when it comes to starring in, and not just playing in, the Premier League, Dempsey has enjoyed seeing other American players join Pulisic in England.

Leeds United duo Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams are also making a name for themselves at the Prem this season. Others, like Dempsey’s fellow Texan Weston McKennie of Italian titan Juventus, are excelling on other major European tours. However, some level of bias still exists, according to Dempsey.

Pulisic’s journey

Pulisic's journey

USMNT prodigy Christian Pulisic sits down to talk about his road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and how to be the face of the national team.

“When you’re in England you can’t be as good as the British players, you have to be better to get minutes,” he said.

“The way American players are seen is getting better. They’re at bigger clubs, winning trophies, playing in the Champions League. But he still has a ways to go. When you see an American player at a big club being the main man for that club, I think that’s what will really change the perception.”

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Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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