U.S. star Christian Pulisic says calf injury 'improving every single day'
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic says his injured left calf is improving, but wouldn't definitively say he would play in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago.
"Doing better. I've been improving every single day. I'm just trying to get as much recovery in as I can," Pulisic said.
Pulisic said he was kicked in his calf in the latter moments of his 57-minute stint against Panama on Friday, which the U.S. won 4-0. He added his recovery was interrupted to a degree by the waterlogged pitch at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
"We couldn't do much in training," he said. "I got to move around a little bit and see where I was at, so I was feeling pretty good."
Pulisic scored the Americans' opening goal against the Canaleros, and also set up Jozy Altidore for the U.S. team's second score. He admitted that the celebration surrounding his goal was the result of plenty of pent-up emotion.
The U.S. is aiming to secure its eighth consecutive trip to the World Cup finals. A win will clinch the third and final qualification spot, and a draw will likely be enough to get through given the advantage the U.S. has in goal differential over Panama and Honduras. Pulisic feels the soggy conditions will not stop this U.S. team.
"[The conditions] can change the game, but in the end we're going to fight and we're going to do everything we can to try to win this game no matter what the conditions are.
"There were a lot of things going on leading up to that game, a lot of criticism, a lot of things going on with our team," he said. "I guess all of my emotion just came out after that goal. I just wanted it so bad, I wanted to win that game so bad. It meant so much to me, so that's what you saw."
Pulisic has increasingly become a marked man, and was on the receiving end of some physical challenges from Panama. The Borussia Dortmund attacker is taking a philosophical approach to the extra attention, and has done his utmost to keep his cool on the field.
"It's not going to change if I'm freaking out all the time, or trying to make a big deal out of it," he said. "That's how it is and that's what I have to deal with."
When asked if the physical challenges feel like a mark of respect, Pulisic said: "It doesn't feel like respect. I don't know what you'd call it. It's definitely something I'm getting used to, and it's nothing I can't handle."
Pulisic said that getting fouled is something he has long had to cope with, especially since he was usually one of the smaller kids on the field growing up.
"I was always getting kicked around, I think, so it's something I kind of grew up with," he said. "Now, I guess, I don't know how to explain it -- it's getting a little stronger, getting a little more [physical]."
Pulisic added that his parents, both former players, had different reactions to him getting fouled during his youth career.
"My mom would be the one to kind of yell. My dad would be just like, 'Get up,'" he said. "It was a good balance, I guess."
Earlier in the day, U.S. manager Bruce Arena remarked that he would like to see how "hotshot teams from Europe" would fare under some of the extreme conditions the U.S. faces on the road in CONCACAF. Pulisic echoed Arena's sentiments, though he said he wouldn't know how to describe the conditions to his club teammates back in Germany.
"What should I even tell them? Today I saw the field and I just kind of giggled," he said. "That's how it is. I tell them, 'Go try to play in one of these places' sometimes.
"But I would also like to see it. It would be interesting. It's something different than what I experience in Europe."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.