Christian Pulisic has hit yet another road bump early in his time as a Chelsea player.
Resigned to the bench in four of the club's last five matches, Pulisic was left out of the 18-man squad altogether for Chelsea's Champions League match against Lille on Wednesday. What once could have been a showdown between exciting American talents in Pulisic and Lille's Tim Weah wound up featuring neither of them, with the latter still out with an injury.
Pulisic's lack of playing time has snowballed into a troubling trend–one that isn't troubling U.S. national team manager Gregg Berhalter. On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, following the release of his Nations League squad for matches against Cuba and Canada later this month, Berhalter said that Pulisic, like any other talents in new locations, needs time to settle in and adjust before finding his form.
"In terms of our team, his status hasn’t changed one bit," Berhalter said. "He's a very important player for our team. He’s a catalyst for our attack. He’s a guy that can make plays and make things happen on an international level. When you look at his situation with Chelsea, it's not uncommon for a player to take some time to get settled and to adapt.
"We believe in the long run he's going to be fine."
Berhalter said that he recently visited Pulisic at Chelsea and chatted with coach Frank Lampard about the American, who was released early from U.S. camp in the September FIFA window only to not play in Chelsea's subsequent matches. Berhalter took no issue with that, saying he was released with "no strings attached" and that he has to earn his way into the squad.
That's become a bit more challenging after the return of Callum Hudson-Odoi, who missed the start of the season after overcoming a long-term Achilles injury. Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and veterans Pedro and Willian have made Pulisic the odd man out, even with his $73 million price tag.
The 21-year-old American has appeared in six matches for Chelsea thus far, still looking for his first goal. He did register an assist in a starting role vs. fourth-tier Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup on Sept. 25. He also assisted on a Mount goal vs. Norwich City in Premier League play on Aug. 24 and an Olivier Giroud goal vs. Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup on Aug. 14 in his official debut for the team.
He'll have one more chance to suit up before the next international break, with Chelsea playing at Southampton on Sunday.