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Friday, September 17, 2021

Pulisic, USMNT eye ‘results’ after McKennie exit

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Christian Pulisic said the United States men’s soccer team is focused on picking up its first win in World Cup qualifying when it faces Honduras on Wednesday, amid Weston McKennie‘s exit from the national team camp.

McKennie was sent home by USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter for spending a night outside of the team’s COVID-19 bubble in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as bringing an unauthorized individual back inside the bubble to his hotel room on a different evening, both of which violated the team’s coronavirus protocols, sources told ESPN.

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The U.S. tied Canada and El Salvador in its first two qualifying matches. That leaves the Americans four points behind pacesetter Mexico in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table.

“I think the group is ready to respond from everything that’s gone on,” Pulisic said. “[Canada and El Salvador were] two results that we wish could’ve gone a little bit better, but the guys’ heads are up and we’re ready for a big match [on Wednesday] and hopefully three points.”

On McKennie, Pulisic added: “We didn’t speak to him. We were told what had happened by the coach and everything. We were forced to look past it, which we have. We just have to focus on what’s at hand and do what’s important, which is getting results.”

The Chelsea forward also insisted that the team has remained focused, despite McKennie’s dismissal.

“Of course that’s what we do for a living [focus on games],” he said. “It’s a normal thing, things happen, things go on outside of a game, but it’s our job that whenever we get on the field we’re good to go and give 100%. I know this team will be ready come game time [Wednesday].”

Wednesday’s road game in Honduras presents another tough test, but Pulisic was stoic about the team’s chances.

“I remember from being here in the last qualifying cycle as well how difficult it is,” Pulisic said. “I’m sure it’ll be a good atmosphere and a team that’s ready to battle and will want to get their first win as well.

“It’s going to be a test for us and we need to be mentally strong and prepared for this game. It’s good we got to play them before, quite recently. We’ll be ready and up for the task. As far as the attack, when a team sits deep and defends well, it’s not always going to be easy to create a lot of chances. A few of the chances we were able to create, we were happy about. We know there’s a lot more we can do.”

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