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DOHA, Qatar — The last unexpected guest of the welcome line that welcomed the U.S. team back to the hotel after their 1-0 win over Iran early Wednesday morning waited patiently. Safe from the raucous high-fives and forceful hugs, smiling and recording the player’s arrival on his phone is the man who made the celebration possible: Christian Pulisic.
Pulisic, the only goal scorer for the United States in their World Cup knockout rounds, took another route home from the stadium. He was injured on goal and ended up in a violent collision with the Iranian keeper, forcing him to withdraw at half-time before being taken to hospital for tests.
The U.S. Soccer Association described the injury as a pelvic contusion, with Pulisic listed as an everyday injury. But he is not expected to miss Team USA’s next game, Saturday’s last-16 showdown against the Netherlands, at least Pulisic seems to agree.
In a message from his hospital bed as soon as the game was over, along with a photo of him pumping his fist, he congratulated his teammates on the win and wrote: “I’ll be ready for Saturday, don’t worry. “
Coach Greg Behalter said after the game that the team celebrated the absent Pulisic in a video call from the dressing room. About an hour later, they saw him again in person.
The reunion came at the end of a raucous guard of honor that greeted the U.S. players as their team bus ferried them back to their hotel early Wednesday morning: two cheers and applause from fans, family members, the federation and hotel staff.
Pulisic waited alone at the end of the game, documenting it all on his phone. It appears that his presence surprised at least a few of his teammates. Forward Tim Weah spotted his friend and embraced him with open arms. On Pulisic’s taping, defender DeAndre Yedlin pushed his face front and center.
The goal that made the celebration possible was no surprise to his coach.
“Christian ran — that’s what he did,” Berhalter said. “That’s his special quality. Once the ball goes wide, he’s going all out for the box and good things happen.”
His injury? His teammates assured them their friend was not seriously injured and 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 is successful,” midfielder Weston McKennie said.
U.S. captain Tyler Adams added to Pulisic more specifically: “He’s going to do anything for this team for us to win.”