Pulisic, Steffen Will Return to USA Camp “seven feet tall,” says Roberto Martinez

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Tomorrow night will see either Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Manchester City’s Zack Steffen become the second U.S. player to win a Champions League medal. Jovan Kirovski was the first in 1997. Pulisic could start, or he may feature off the bench, and we discussed his potential role in an article earlier this week

Steffen will only play if the No. 1, Ederson, gets hurt. Still, the Champions League is uncharted territory for the United States National Team. It’s rarified air for players in the CONCACAF countries even, and no matter what happens this weekend, it’ll put Pulisic and Steffen on a whole new plane.

 

Chelsea FC vs Manchester City UCL Final FYIs

Kickoff: May 29, 2pm EST, Estádio do Dragão, Porto

Team News    Chelsea     Manchester City

Starting XI Predictions:  Chelsea    Manchester City

Betting Preview: go here

Watch: CBS Sports Network, Paramount+, Peter Drury and Rob Green on the call

Form Guide Champions League: Manchester City (WWWWW) Chelsea (WWLDW)

Odds: Manchester City -110, Chelsea +340, draw is +235

CBS Sports/Paramount+ did a media Zoom call this week, to preview the two UEFA finals and the upcoming CONCACAF summer. During that session Analyst and Belgium Manager Roberto Martinez discussed how Steffen and Pulisic, two Pennsylvanians, will come back to Team USA camp as the BMOCs.

“These two players are going to go back to the national team seven feet tall,” Martinez said “and looking forward to going back and sharing the experiences of being in a Champions League Final.

“This could be career-changing, even if you lose it. Just the experience of being in a Champions League makes you a better player, and for those players to join the national team, it’s gonna be almost a celebration, and they will feel that it can lead to different preparations.”

“Players that come back after winning a league, or something domestiucally, nothing is more enthusiastic in football terms than being involved in tha Champions League final.”

It’s going to be a huge summer for the USMNT, with the CONCACAF Nations League final four coming up June 3-6, and of course the Gold Cup in July.

Looking forward, the next frontier for American soccer is the men’s national team. Failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup hurt, badly, but with a new generation of players making their mark all over the world, especially so in Europe and the Americas, the trajectory is overwhelmingly positive. 

On December 5, 2020, three different Americans (Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Weston McKennie at Juventus and Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund) scored in Europe’s top five leagues, on the same day, for the first time in 11 years. 

In February, French outlet L’Equipe ranked their top 50 players under 20, and two USMNT players made the list, both cracking the top 20. Reyna was fifth while Yunus Musah, who’s with Valencia, was #19.

To quote Al Pacino’s boisterous and braggadocio soliloquy at the end of “The Devil’s Advocate,” “We’re coming out baby!”

As more and more American internationals continue to put their stamp at the biggest clubs in the best leagues, the national side will only elevate further. It’s a rising tide that’s lifting all boats.

Martinez added that he’s been a fan of Pulisic since his time at Dortmund, describing him as “such an intelligent footballer.”

Steffen hails from Coatesville, PA which is only an hour and 15 minutes drive from Pulisic’s hometown of Hershey, PA.

“It is incredible and also, Zack [Steffen] on the other team, who would have thought, two dudes from Pennsylvania you know!?” Pulisic said in an interview earlier this week. 

“I can see how it is a massive thing and it makes me very proud but I’m focused on this game and I want to win this thing.”

Prediction: Manchester City 2, Chelsea 1

Chelsea ended City’s quadruple hopes, and if anyone is going to deny them a treble, it’s probably the Blues. I just don’t think they will though.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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