Christian Pulisic carries the weight of the United States on his shoulders wherever he goes. Proclaimed ‘Capitan America’ by fans, and still the most expensive American transfer signing in the world, he’s used to a lot of pressure and attention. At Chelsea, a top club in the Premier League, he finds himself in the headlines, whether he’s playing or on the bench. He’s constantly scrutinized and this year is no different.
This past summer, with new ownership, came £273 million worth of new transfer signings, but to begin the new Premier League season, Chelsea’s form has been erratic. The team’s flat play out of the gate resulted in the manager getting fired only seven games into the season. And at the crossroads of the team’s shake up, we find Christian Pulisic. With only a month or so until the World Cup begins, he has frustratingly found himself on the bench for most of Chelsea’s games this season.
Despite his lack of playing time, the young star is optimistic. He spoke with us about the current mood at Chelsea, what training has been like, his take on the All-Star Game debate the new Chelsea owner started, his hopes for the World Cup, the new Team USA kits and much more. He also told us about the inspiration behind his new Gatorade GX Fuel bottle collaboration that he helped design himself.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Please tell me about this Gatorade GX Fuel bottle collaboration. It sounds pretty interesting.
Yeah, I’m super excited about this GX bottle. It obviously looks very cool. I was able to be in the process of designing it and everything. And I think we brought a lot of elements to life that I was looking for. Whether it’s the tiger, or the idea of just bringing a community together, or cities that I grew up in, there’s a lot of cool aspects that I’m really excited for people to see.
What was that collaboration like for you, had you done design collaboration before this?
Nothing quite like this, to be honest. This was something a bit different for me, which I thought was really nice. I was able to work with the Gatorade Design Team closely and they obviously knew some of my background and then had some ideas, and I was able to show them some of the things that I wanted represented and we came out with an awesome result and something that I think we can all be proud of.
I would love to hear a little bit more about that tiger inspiration, obviously the tattoo you have on your left arm, but is there also a connection to Tiger Woods?
Yeah. There’s a few reasons. I was born in the Year of the Tiger. It’s definitely one of my favorite animals. Tiger Woods was a huge, huge inspiration as an athlete for me, just his work ethic and watching him perform, as a kid was inspiring to me. He was different. He really changed the sport and there were a lot of things that I thought were really cool that he accomplished.
You’ve talked about the ability of soccer to unite people and communities, and how that’s represented on the bottle. Is there an experience or memory that comes to mind of when soccer brought people together in your life?
Yeah, 100 percent. I remember living in England for a year as a kid, when my family moved over, and after school, without knowing anyone, we would all play on this mini court outside of my school. And I was just out there playing, they didn’t know who I was, but it didn’t matter in that moment. Throughout the year, they all became some of my best buddies and that’s kind of how I grew a lot of my friendships growing up. So that’s just an example of what the game can do. It didn’t matter where I was from or what I looked like. It was just, I came in and was able to play with these guys and have a great time and enjoy the sport. It definitely brought us together.
Yeah. I also hear that that’s the reason for the five cleats on the bottle, symbolizing those five aside games that you played in growing up. If you had to choose a couple of teammates or just other players around the world, who would be in a five aside team for you nowadays?
A five aside team for me nowadays? Geez. I mean, I would have to pick some of my teammates. It would be impossible to choose to be honest. I could definitely name some great names that I’ve played with both at my clubs and with my country as well.
Is there one person who’s like a must have on your team? Anyone?
For me, I would say Tyler Adams, as a national team teammate, he’s just one of my guys that I think gives everything and is a fighter and one of my best friends as well. So I would put him in there.
What’s one of the most important things that you’d like to pass on to the next generation of soccer players? What’s one thing you would like to leave future players with?
I would just love to leave future players with just an inspiration to know that anyone can accomplish a goal if they truly set their mind to it. I don’t think anyone expected me to be in Europe and be playing at the highest level. And I hope that kids can see that I came over and took a risk and hopefully they wanna do the same and that they set high goals for themselves and just want to go out and accomplish them.
Transitioning to your club, knowing the form that Chelsea is in, what’s the dressing room like right now? How are you guys staying motivated? What’s the energy around the team right now?
I think the energy is good. At the moment, obviously, there’s been some changes and yeah, it’s been a bit of an up and down as a start, but to be honest as a whole, around the training ground the last few days has felt really good. And there’s a lot of guys that are positive about our situation and I think we have it all to play in front of us. So I think all in all, I’m pretty happy with how the team is at the moment.
As you mentioned, it’s a transition period of the club, new owner, new season, new coach, new players, lots of change going on. What helps you drown out all the noise that comes with so much change and transition at a club? What helps you block all that out?
So for me, I think there’s always going to be things going on in this profession. There’s always a lot of pressure and outside noise, but I think it’s just about having conversations and having people that are close to you that you’re able to talk to and have regular conversations with and speak your mind with. I think I have a great support system and whether it’s speaking to my family, my friends, or sticking close to your teammates, because they’re always there for you. That’s how I do it. I think guys deal with it in different ways, but I try to use the people around me and talk to them.
Mental health is such an important topic in sports nowadays. Would you say that it’s that close network of friends and family that you rely on to help protect your mental health?
Yeah, for sure. I think it helps me just getting anything off your chest and speaking with people, whoever it is, whether it’s your family or friends, people you’re close to, they can always help, and I know it helps me. Yeah.
How’s it going in training learning a new system under your new manager Graham Potter?
It’s been good so far. Obviously, he hasn’t been here super long, so we’re still working on some things every day in training, which has been nice. It’s nice to have a different outlook on the game. I think it’s been a positive change. Even in the first game I saw some encouraging signs with the way we’re attacking and the way we have numbers forward. To be honest, I like what I’m seeing so far.
The Chelsea owner came out recently and made this All-Star Game statement, his idea to have a North versus South game to generate more revenue for the league. I don’t know if North versus South is the best format but wondered if you had a take on that? You are uniquely positioned, as an American playing in the Premier League, to react to that statement. Are you feeling that idea for the Premier League? Would you make some tweaks at all?
It’s an interesting one. I definitely watch All-Star Games, whether it’s basketball or in the MLS. And they’re always fun. If you ask anyone that’s a part of ’em, it’s a cool thing. With how everything goes over here, that would be a big change to how things work over here. So I’m not too sure about that one, to be honest.
To round things out, I have a couple team USA questions. What do you think realistic expectations are for Team USA this year?
I think for us, we’re looking at it first and foremost of fighting to get out of our group. That’s our goal. That’s the first step. It’s about putting in a couple great results and moving onto the knockout stages. And I think once you get there, we’ve seen before that anything can happen in knockout games and from there on, once we accomplish that first goal, I think it’s just take it game by game. Realistically, I feel like we’re going go into the tournament and we’re going to fight with the idea to win the tournament. That’s just how it is. I’m not saying there’s a guarantee, or that we’re going to go to the final. But that’s our intention because we’re going to go there a confident bunch of guys.
You mentioned the group. Ever since England was announced as a team in your group, has there been any kind of fun trash talking between you and some of your English teammates?
Yeah, I think we’ve all been excited for it. We’ve been speaking to each other. It’s going to be a fun one for sure. Playing against guys that we train with every day and know so well, playing against them is going to be a good time.
You’ve got to kind of get in Reese James’ head a little bit because I think he would be marking you.
Yeah, I’ll work on that.
Going into the World Cup, obviously the first time for you, is there anything you’re going to take from that Champions League winning experience and bring with you?
I think playing in games like that prepares you for big games in the future. Absolutely. I think it will make you just that little bit calmer. You’ll always get those pre-game nerves, and it’s normal, it’s a big competition, but yeah, I think with more experience just comes with a bit more calmness to your game and you really take on the challenge and you just go for it and try to enjoy it the best you can. I think I will use those moments and remember that I’ve been in, big, big matches and games before and I’ll be ready.
Regardless of the outcome, do you think that this will be a big moment for these young American players, showing the world what you all can do?
I think it’s a big moment for our country. Obviously, missing out on the last world cup too, to be here, and having such a young team, it’s very exciting and people should be excited. Like I said before, we’re going to go in there super confident and hopefully have the country behind us supporting us, and we’re going to give everything that we have and hopefully make our country proud.
Is there a national team that you would love to face off against in the World Cup? I know there’s seating and brackets, but if there was one national team that you could play against, which would it be?
To be honest, I’m not too sure. I would just say it’s always cool playing against teammates, playing against players that you played with before. Playing against them on the national level is definitely fun.
Nike released the new Team USA kits and I saw you were in the press photos for them. What are your thoughts on the kits? A central crest, it’s a little unusual, but I wanted to just get your take on the kits for this year.
Yeah. People have made their comments here and there. I think it’s a bit unusual that there is the crest in the center, but at the end of the day, I think once we put them on, the numbers are on there and we’re ready to play at the world cup, I’m not too worried about what the jerseys look like. We’re going to make them look good with our play, hopefully. That’s the goal at the end of the day.
Have you sought any particular advice from former national team players, ahead of this World Cup? Will you pick anyone’s brain before the World Cup begins?
Yeah, I think I’ll definitely have conversations with people who have been there before. You learn a lot through experience and like you mentioned before, I’ve played in big games and I’m going to be a hundred percent ready when it comes. Yeah.