AMERICAN FINAL: Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen Will Vie For UEFA Champions League TitlePulisic Assists on Chelsea’s second goal in Champions League Semifinal Second Leg
In a season of countless championships, cup wins and firsts for U.S. Men's National Team players, it seems only natural that two members of the squad will face off against one another for some European glory for the very first time later this month.
Christian Pulisic and Chelsea will face Zack Steffen and Manchester City in the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul, Turkey on May 29.
On Wednesday, the Blues booked a spot with a 2-0 second-leg victory over 13-time European champion Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London. Chelsea won the series, 3-1.
Pulisic, a second-half substitute, helped put the final nail in the coffin by setting up Mason Mount’s insurance goal in the 85th minute. In the first leg on April 27, Pulisic tallied Chelsea's lone goal in the 1-1 draw in Madrid.
On Tuesday, Manchester City held up its end of the bargain to make it an all-English final, securing a 2-0 home win against Paris Saint-Germain to capture the aggregate-goals series, 4-1, after its 2-1 victory in Paris on April 28. Steffen is City’s backup goalkeeper but saw action in City’s group finale – a 3-0 win against Olympique Marseille on Dec. 9. He also backstopped City to the English Football League Cup last month.
Chelsea, the only London club to win the Champions League crown (2011-12), enjoyed a sizable time of possession during the opening 20 minutes, but couldn't cash in.
Werner commandeered the spotlight in the opening half hour as he put the ball into the net twice. His first attempt was nullified as he was called offside in the 19th minute.
Eight minutes later, he left no doubt, finding himself in a perfect spot to give the Blues the lead. With goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois pulled out of the match Kai Havertz tried a 10-yard shot that bounded off the crossbar. An open Werner easily heading the ball into an unattended net from point-blank range in the 28th minute for his fourth UCL goal.
Given his fine form, scoring prowess and playmaking ability of late, it was surprising that Pulisic began the game on the bench. The 22-year-old midfielder entered the fray for Werner in the 67th minute, giving the Blues some fresh legs and some zip on its attack.
The move paid off in the 85th minute. N'Golo Kante intercepted a pass from the back and fed the USMNT captain on the right flank. Pulisic penetrated deep into the penalty area, stopped while considering his options, then fed Mount, who beat Courtois from five yards into the lower right corner to seat Real's fate.
Pulisic and Mount celebrated by sliding in unison toward the right corner flag before their teammates piled on.
The American's influence during his 23 minutes could be measured in another way as two Real players were awarded yellow cards for two fouls on Pulisic- Toni Kroos (72nd minute) and Federico Valverde (90th minute).
Looking a decent bet to become the first USMNT player to appear in a UEFA Champions League Final, Pulisic will head to Istanbul leading all U.S. players in appearances (35), goals (5), assists (7) and minutes (2,100).