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DOHA, Qatar — The surprise guest waited patiently at the end of the line of supporters welcoming Team USA to his hotel after their 1-0 win over Iran early Wednesday morning. Safely out of the rowdy melee of high-fives and powerful hugs, beaming widely and recording the players’ arrival on his phone was the man who had made the celebration possible: Christian Pulisic.
Pulisic, the scorer of the Americans’ only goal in the win that sent them through to the World Cup round of 16, had taken a different route home from the stadium. He had injured himself scoring the goal, which ended in his violent collision with the Iranian goalkeeper, forcing him to leave the game at half-time and then to hospital for tests.
The injury was described as a pelvic contusion by US Soccer, which said Pulisic was listed on a day-to-day basis. But that shouldn’t keep him out of the Americans’ next game, a knockout round against the Netherlands on Saturday, an opinion Pulisic, at least, seems to share.
In a message sent from his hospital bed as soon as the game was over, and accompanied by a stunning photo, he congratulated his teammates on their victory and wrote: “I’ll be ready for Saturday, don’t worry.”
Coach Gregg Berhalter said after the game that the team celebrated with an absent Pulisic in a video call from the locker room. About an hour later, they were able to see him again in person.
The reunion came at the end of a rowdy guard of honor that greeted the American players when their team bus dropped them off at their hotel in the early hours of Wednesday morning: two lines of fans, members of the family, the federation and the hotel staff. .
Pulisic, who was waiting alone at the end, recorded everything on his mobile phone. His presence, it seems, surprised at least a few of his teammates. Forward Tim Weah, spotting his friend, threw his arms around him in a warm embrace. Defender DeAndre Yedlin put his face in the center of Pulisic’s recording.
The goal that made the celebration possible did not surprise his coach.
“Christian does these errands – that’s what he does,” Berhalter said. “That’s the special quality he has. As soon as the ball is wide, it enters the penalty area with intensity and good things happen.
His injury? His teammates, reassured that their friend was not seriously injured, said it was just part of Pulisic’s game.
“Every player is ready to put their body on the line to make sure this team succeeds,” said midfielder Weston McKennie.
Tyler Adams, the USA captain, added specifically of Pulisic: “He would do anything for this team to win us.”
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