Christian Pulisic has said he puts himself under too much pressure to try to “save” the United States men’s national soccer team as he tries to live up to the “high standards” others set for him in his career.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, the 23-year-old revealed the difficulties he has faced in fulfilling the “Captain America” tag given to him ever since bursting onto the scene as a teenager with Borussia Dortmund.
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“Sometimes it is tough,” he said. “I still haven’t completely learned. Especially going back to the U.S., sometimes I put too much pressure on myself that I need to do something special where I just need to play the best I can, do what I can do and hopefully people recognise that.
“It is just about playing my game, doing it to the best of my ability and not worrying about what any outside sources say because that’s not what really matters.”
Pulisic struggled to make an impact in the first two World Cup qualification matches of last month’s international break as the U.S. beat El Salvador and lost to Canada, but the Chelsea winger scored moments after coming on as a second-half substitute in a 3-0 win over Honduras.
“For example in the last national team games, the first couple I’m going into it thinking ‘I need to over-perform and do something to save the team’ but there’s no need for that because we have a very strong team,” said Pulisic, who made his U.S. debut in March 2016 and has 45 caps.
“I think at times I was over-thinking it and try to be too good in a way that’s not necessary. I don’t need to, whatever, over-complicate things.”
Asked whether this meant he didn’t have to try to be “Captain America” all the time, Pulisic added: “No. It has been a lot [to live up to]. Especially in the U.S., I think I do have pretty high standards that people set for me and it can be tough at times.”