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  • Ever since the USA's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, it's been a rarity to see Christian Pulisic in a U.S. shirt, and while each of his absences is explainable during a down period, does the USMNT need more from its top talent as it looks to build for the future?
By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
September 11, 2018

Ever since the USA's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, it's been a rarity to see Christian Pulisic in a U.S. shirt.

In fact, he will have played just 89 minutes over the course of a calendar year by the time the next set of friendlies rolls around next month. All of his absences are fully explainable and understandable, but when added up, they have reportedly begun to cause some discontent within U.S. Soccer. Interim coach Dave Sarachan was blunt in his recent assessment of Pulisic, telling SI.com that, "What I want to see from him is a desire, a passion, energy, excitement and a great effort. That should be each and every player that we bring in, and Christian is no different. … Look at the Bolivia game. It was an outlier from that standpoint. Yes, he was tired. He was coming off a long season—whatever the reasons. But when you come in with the national team, those boxes have to be checked."

Ahead of the USA's friendly vs. Mexico in Nashville on Tuesday, we discuss Pulisic and his last year as it relates to the national team on the latest episode of the Planet Fútbol Podcast, a selection of which can be read below. You can listen to the full conversation at the 13:40 mark either or by downloading and subscribing to the podcast on iTunes:

GRANT WAHL: Pulisic has barely played for the national team in the last year. I found it interesting this week (Goal.com's) Ives Galarcep had a story citing sources within U.S. Soccer that there's frustration on their part about how little Pulisic has been around and available over the past year. I don't think you can complain at all about him being injured. He missed a game with Dortmund heading into this window. The guy is hurt.

But I do think overall, from my own talking with U.S. Soccer people this past week, there is some frustration there. And I don't know if it's tied to what we heard from Geoff Cameron at one point in the New York Times a months ago saying there was a divide between the European-based U.S. players and the domestic-based U.S. players. It is very clear, from anyone who observes things, that Pulisic has gravitated on the national team to guys like Cameron and some of the European guys as in terms of who he sort of hangs out with when he's with the national team or at least in the past.

BRIAN STRAUS: But he's also tight with (Weston) McKennie and McKennie couldn't be more committed, more easy to get along with. He's been great so far.

GW: True.

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BS: So I don't know. I think Pulisic, it's one of those deals where he'll have played 89 minutes for the national team over the course of a calendar year. ... You're trying to build the foundation for something. You're trying to build relationships. You're trying to establish a new culture. And Sarachan said one of the reasons he hasn't called in some of the veteran leaders is because he wants to give the young players time to establish their own culture and their own leadership. And so Pulisic has missed that. Maybe you want to grunt out on Twitter that it doesn't matter, and that's fine, that's your opinion. But if you're starting something from scratch and you're getting this slow burn developing, I can see why you might want your best player involved. 

I think the interesting thing is that each of Pulisic's absences in a vacuum is understandable, right?

GW: Right, right.

BS: They didn't need to call him back for the Portugal game a month after Trinidad. Get him time with Dortmund. He's had a long season. He's injured. Each one of them, by itself, in isolation, is understandable. But now, in total, in sum, we have 89 minutes over a calendar year, and that's not nearly enough. That doesn't happen anywhere in the world, that a player of his stature misses so much time with the national team, regardless of when it is in the cycle. 

Sarachan was on the record with me before the games not only saying that 'we'd like to have Christian more, but that his attitude wasn't great when he was in (for the Bolivia game).' And Sarachan went on the record saying that 'we needed more from him. Yes he'd had a long season. Yes he'd been tired. Yes that's the reason we agreed to let him go after the Bolivia game. But during the time he was here for that game there wasn't enough there from him.' And Sarachan was very pointed about that.

So it may not be only frustration with his absence, but obviously in the one time he was in, he didn't make the best of impressions.

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