What now for USMNT star Christian Pulisic at Chelsea?

Joe Prince-Wright

LONDON — Christian Pulisic warmed up on the sidelines at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, looking towards the bench on numerous occasions towards Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.

[ MORE: Lampard on Puilsic

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The gesture for him to come on as a substitute didn’t come, once again, as Pulisic watched on as the Blues lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool.

For the third game running Pulisic, 21, has been an unused sub for Chelsea and when asked by Pro Soccer Talk after the game about defensive injuries perhaps impacting the chance for the American winger to come on, Lampard wasn’t blaming a lack of playing time on injuries.

“He wasn’t a victim of the injuries. I’ve got a squad to pick from. Before that he had played a few games,” Lampard said. “Willian has come back in and been sharp and looked good. I decided to go with Mason [Mount] today, because we needed to stay strong in midfield and play Mason high up the pitch. That is my choice to make. He will get ample opportunities. He is a young player as well as everyone is talking about Mason and Tammy and Fikayo. He is actually as young, if not younger, than some of them. His chances will come.”

Lampard then dismissed reports that Pulisic hasn’t quite settled in to life at Chelsea after arriving in England this summer following his $73 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund, and suggested that the likes of Ross Barkley, Michy Batshuayi and Pedro all haven’t got the minutes they deserve.

That led to many fans of the USMNT and Chelsea lambasting Lampard for favoring Mount, Willian and Pedro and already saying that Pulisic made a big mistake moving to Stamford Bridge.

“I have to make choices. There is him sitting on the bench, Pedro sitting on the bench, Ross Barkley on the bench, Batshuayi, who deserves more minutes for the way he’s training at the minute. Those are the unfortunate choices I need to make,” Lampard added.

Pump the breaks here. Chelsea are six games into the PL season and Pulisic has had chances, and will get more chances, to shine.

But with Callum Hudson-Odoi close to returning and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also on the road to recovery, soon there will be even more competition for Pulisic to get past to get some minutes. That kind of competition is normal at any top club.

What now for the American star?

He has to keep focusing on getting on the pitch and when he gets his next chance, which is likely to come against Grimsby Town in the League Cup on Wednesday, he needs to take it. So far he hasn’t quite done that, but he’s shown glimpses of promises and certainly enough for a large chunk of Chelsea fans to be upset that Pedro and Willian are starting ahead of him.

Pulisic has been a little guilty of playing it too safe early in his Chelsea career. Backwards and sideways passes have been plentiful, and the pace and power of the PL is certainly a step up from what he experienced in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. The switch to a 3-4-3 formation didn’t help him either, and Lampard seems to want to play at least one more experienced winger in Pedro and Willian each game.

Being more direct and taking more risks is what Pulisic needs to do if he wants to impress Lampard and become a regular for Chelsea.

It sounds simple, but it is anything but.

Pulisic joined Chelsea to improve as a player and take his game to the next level. The hard work getting to this point was just the start. Make no mistake about it, the Pennsylvanian native is facing the biggest test of his career and it’s off to a bit of a rocky start.

That’s okay. As long as he can stay focused and make the most of upcoming opportunities, starting with Grimsby then Brighton then Lille in the UEFA Champions League.

USMNT fans are already envisaging Pulisic not seeing the pitch agains until December, and the youngster leaving on loan in January. That won’t be the case but Pulisic does have to step up his game based on what we’ve seen so far.

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