Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has said that United States star Christian Pulisic is still “in pain” ahead of the key World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica this week, and has warned U.S. counterpart Gregg Berhalter against overusing the 23-year-old forward.
Pulisic was named in the U.S. squad last week after returning from an ankle injury sustained in the 4-1 victory over Honduras two months ago but has only played a total of 23 minutes in substitute appearances for Chelsea against Malmo and Burnley.
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– ESPN+ viewer’s guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more
The U.S. sit in second place in the qualification standings in the race to reach the Qatar World Cup, three points behind Mexico and a point ahead of third-place Canada ahead of the crucial meeting against El Tri in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.
But when asked if Pulisic was ready to play a significant role for the U.S. during the international window, Chelsea boss Tuchel cast doubt over whether the forward will be able to feature for the full match at the TQL Stadium on Friday.
“The answer is if you look at the minutes, the question is maybe answered,” Tuchel told reporters following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Burnley. “I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough.
“Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.
“He wants desperately to come back. We needed him back. It was a good start for him in Malmo. Today he had 10 minutes [against Burnley]. We are a bit worried.
“Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”
The U.S. have already been hit with a double injury blow, as Barcelona full-back Sergino Dest and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna were ruled out of the fixtures against Mexico and Jamaica.
The absence of both players heightens the importance of Pulisic’s return, but Berhalter has insisted that he will be cautious in managing the Chelsea forward’s minutes after spending the past two months on the sidelines.
“We’re gonna see what kind of minutes he gets [against Burnley],” Berhalter told reporters after naming his 25-player squad last week. “It was unexpected that he played against Malmo and he ended up playing a little bit.
“So for us, it’s about progressing him in a safe way. We know he’s valuable to the team. We know we want him on the field. But we’re also not willing to risk anything. It’s about how he feels, and depending on that will dictate what role he plays in these two games.”