For two U.S. men's national team forwards, the wait to play again is over.
Christian Pulisic has made the trip with Chelsea to Sweden to face Malmö in the Champions League, while Jordan Morris's return from an ACL tear is set to take place Monday night in the Seattle Sounders' match vs. the LA Galaxy.
Pulisic's return to the first team is a game earlier than expected. Last week, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel claimed Pulisic would be back in frame for this coming weekend's Premier League match against Burnley, but Monday he confirmed that the 23-year-old Pennsylvania native would be part of the 21-man traveling party for the Matchday 4 affair.
"The good news is that Christian Pulisic is back in the squad and in contention for tomorrow,” Tuchel said in his prematch remarks.
Chelsea beat Malmö at Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago, with Jorginho scoring on two penalty kicks as part of a 4–0 rout. The Blues can eliminate Malmö from knockout stage contention while taking a sizable step forward to the last 16 with another victory.
Pulisic hasn't featured for Chelsea since Aug. 14, when he scored in the Premier League opener vs. Crystal Palace. He contracted COVID-19 and was then hurt in the subsequent U.S. camp following his clearance to play, suffering an ankle injury in a World Cup qualifying match vs. Honduras. What was originally set to be a 10-day layoff upon his return to Chelsea turned into something significantly greater, with setbacks delaying his ability to contribute to the club. Chelsea could use his services, with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner both currently out injured.
It'll be known this week whether Pulisic is fit enough to be called back into U.S. camp for this month's World Cup qualifiers at home vs. Mexico and at Jamaica. The roster is due to be revealed in the coming days, and the U.S. faces El Tri at FC Cincinnati's TQL Stadium on Nov. 12. Whether he can get back up to full speed for a qualifier of that intensity in such a short period, after being out for so long, remains to be seen.
Morris's return, meanwhile, has been a long time in the works. The Seattle star tore his the ACL in his left knee while on loan with Swansea City in February, three years after he tore his right ACL while playing with the Sounders. The injury cut his loan short and sent him back on the rehabilitation trail, which culminates in Monday's match at Lumen Field.
“Jordan Morris is going to feature in that game against the Galaxy, I know that,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer told a local radio show last Thursday. “The doctors have given him the medical clearance so he will feature against the Galaxy.”
It'll be Morris's first live action in over eight months. He had scored 20 goals and added 15 assists in the last two MLS seasons combined, while also being held in a place of high esteem by U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter.
“Every day this week, I was telling my wife I woke up kind of like when you're a kid on your birthday or Christmas morning, with that excited feeling in my stomach,” Morris told MLS's website. "And when I was driving by the stadium on the way to training, that's what you think about when you're going through a recovery like this, is that first game back, that moment that you're stepping back on the field. The fact that it's so close now is pretty surreal because it's been a long year.”
It's unlikely that Morris's U.S. return would come so soon given his lack of match fitness, but with Berhalter name-checking him throughout the summer, he figures to have every chance to play his way back onto the radar. Morris hasn't played for the U.S. since a November 2019 Concacaf Nations League group match vs. Cuba, in which he scored twice. He scored five goals in his last five appearances for the U.S.
In the meantime, he gives Schmetzer and the Sounders another attacking weapon as the playoffs approach. Seattle is one of three teams tied atop the Western Conference—the Sounders and Sporting KC each have a game in hand on the Colorado Rapids—and with Nico Lodeiro also set to contribute again, the club could find itself in prime position to reach a fifth MLS Cup final in six seasons.
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