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Arena: Panama match a good lesson for Pulisic

The kid got the physical treatment and came out better for it.

Honduras v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Christian Pulisic could still be a senior in high school. When he’s literally carrying the United States men’s national team to a vital away point in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, you forget he’s barely old enough to drive. U.S. manager Bruce Arena says that Tuesday night’s physical affair in Panama City was a great lesson for Pulisic.

“I think it was a good lesson for Christian tonight,” Arena said. “I think Panama saw a bullseye on his back and went after him. He has to learn that if the referee isn’t going to protect him, he has to deal with it. He did well and created a goal, and it was a good lesson for him.

“That’s something you can’t explain to him,” Arena added. “They have to be in it.” — Bruce Arena; Source: SBI Soccer

The Hershey native was banged around by the much bigger and much more physical Panamanian defenders and midfielders all night, but he overcame that treatment to create a goal out of nothing. After a long ball down the right flank by Jermaine Jones was too far for the youngster to get cleanly, he fought hard to put the defender off balance and win possession, from there he dribbled into the box and put a very good defender in Roman Torres on his backfoot to get him off balance. He finally settled himself and found Clint Dempsey all alone for the easy finish. Arena praised Pulisic for his great individual effort.

“It was a heck of an individual effort on the part of Christian and he laid it off to the guy that can score goals,” Arena said following the draw. “It was a lot of individual work on the part of Christian. Jermaine Jones played him the ball and I tell my guys to get him isolated a little bit more. Christian is pretty damn good with the ball in front of goal.”