U.S. men's national team star Christian Pulisic has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced Friday morning, ruling him out of Chelsea's Premier League showdown with Arsenal on Sunday and raising questions about his availability for the first three games of World Cup qualifying in early September.
Pulisic wrote on his Instagram account that he tested positive “earlier this week.” The 22-year-old said that he is fully vaccinated and symptom-free.
“Can’t wait to get back in action! Thank you for your support,” he concluded.
Neither Chelsea nor the U.S. Soccer Federation had a timetable for that return as of Friday morning. The U.S. men are scheduled to gather in Nashville on Aug. 30 ahead of their Sept. 1 flight to El Salvador and the start of World Cup qualifying the following day. The Americans then return to Nashville for a Sept. 5 meeting with Canada before playing at Honduras on Sept. 8.
Anyone entering the U.S needs a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Chelsea and U.S. Soccer also have their own testing protocols.
According to the CDC, "isolation and other precautions can be discontinued 10 days" after a positive test for adults who don't develop symptoms. Pulisic tested positive on Wednesday, ESPN reported. U.S. Soccer requires all players and staff to test negative and be asymptomatic before arrival.
Speaking to U.S. Soccer last week—well before Pulisic tested positive—national team coach Gregg Berhalter said that he expected to encounter player-availability issues during the qualifying gauntlet, which will feature four jam-packed, three-game windows. Those demands were a big reason Berhalter essentially split his squad this summer, using half in the Concacaf Nations League and adjacent friendlies and the other half in the Concacaf Gold Cup. Depth will be critical.
“That’s why it was really important for us to see the whole player pool in this summer, really important for us,” he said. “They understand it’s going to be a collective effort. They understand it’s not going to be 11 players pushing us through all three games. We’re going to need a team spirit. We’re going to need resilience. We’re going to need a number of different players we’re going to be using. We’re going to be mixing and matching lineups.
“The challenge of it, the grueling nature of it, I think we’ll be prepared for and something we’ll be relishing.”
Pulisic obviously is one of the national team’s most talented players but his potential absence next month, or at any point, won’t create excessive confusion. He’s played in just four of the U.S.’s past 19 matches dating back through November 2019. Berhalter and his team have coped without Pulisic before.
Pulisic has enjoyed a good start to the 2021-22 campaign, scoring in the last weekend’s 3-0 Premier League win over Crystal Palace and helping the Blues win the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast, where he converted in the penalty shootout against Villarreal.
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