Christian Pulisic wasn't a lock to play on Wednesday, but he show no ill effects of a minor calf injury suffered over the weekend and continued his stellar run of form in a losing effort.
The 21-year-old U.S. national team and Chelsea winger started and was impactful for a fourth straight game, setting up his side's two goals in a costly 3-2 defeat. The result, against a side battling relegation, leaves Chelsea just two points clear of Man United and Wolves for fourth in a heated race for places in next season's Champions League. It's compounded by the fact that Chelsea could have gone into third with a win, with Leicester City, a point ahead of the Blues, dropping points in a loss to Everton earlier in the day.
Nevertheless, it was a relatively bright day for Pulisic, from a personal standpoint. He drew a first-half penalty, drew a foul that led to a game-tying free kick, fired two dangerous shots just off target and had one sequence in which he set up two near-chances as part of a fully engaged, direct and confident display.
It follows his goal off the bench vs. Aston Villa, man-of-the-match showing and sensational solo goal vs. Manchester City and another strong effort in the FA Cup quarterfinals vs. Leicester. In that win, Pulisic came off as a precaution in the second half with a calf injury. Despite his recent and past injury history and the schedule congestion, it was perhaps a tad surprising to see him thrown back into the lineup, and even more surprising to have him go all 90 minutes. He remained sharp, though and was a key component to any success Chelsea enjoyed on the day.
In the 20th minute, he was positioned well to take advantage of Tammy Abraham's dummy, curling his right-footed chance just wide of the mark.
As the match wound down toward halftime, Pulisic was at it again, drawing a clear penalty after being fouled by Issa Diop. Willian converted the spot kick to open the scoring.
In the 65th minute, after Chelsea had capitulated and conceded twice, he put two balls in dangerous spots, just out of the reach of teammates who could capitalize.
His influence over the match continued, though, as he won the foul some 23 yards from goal, which allowed Willian, again, to be the hero.
Pulisic won't get credit for assists on either goal, nor was his day perfect. While his four shots were a team-high, none ultimately wound up on target. He looks increasingly confident by the match, though, and this continues to be his best extended run of form in his first season with the club.
Considering the heightened table stakes, the pressure will remain high on the American to keep delivering in Chelsea's upcoming games, starting Saturday vs. Watford.