Unfortunately for U.S. men’s national team supporters who were hoping for the contrary, there won’t be a Christian Pulisic vs. Weston McKennie showdown in the UEFA Champions League this week.
Pulisic has been ruled out for Chelsea’s match vs. Juventus in Turin on Wednesday as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered on national team duty in World Cup qualifying three weeks ago. Upon Pulisic’s return to Chelsea, manager Thomas Tuchel indicated it would be a 10-day window before he returned, but it’s been double that now, with the Pennsylvania native not yet making as much as a match-day roster, let alone seeing the field. Tuchel confirmed his continued absence in his pre-match press conference Tuesday.
That leaves Pulisic with very little opportunity to get back into playing shape if he is to take part in the next set of World Cup qualifiers, which run from Oct. 7 to 13. It remains to be seen whether he would be able to play in the middle of the three matches regardless, given the U.K.’s travel restrictions involving Panama, but that match is sandwiched between home games vs. Jamaica and Costa Rica, which would have no serious COVID-19 travel protocol ramifications. Chelsea hosts Southampton on Saturday in the last match before the international break. Pulisic, who also missed time after testing positive for COVID-19 in August, has appeared just twice in all competitions for Chelsea this season. His most recent appearance was Aug. 14, scoring vs. Crystal Palace in Chelsea’s Premier League season opener.
While McKennie vs. Pulisic won’t be taking place (their clubs will meet again on Nov. 23 in London), there is one other Champions League match of intrigue this week that could pit two U.S. players against each other—two players who would help fill the void in the U.S. attack if Pulisic and Gio Reyna, who remains out for Dortmund with a hamstring injury, are unable to go next week. Brenden Aaronson’s Salzburg hosts Tim Weah’s Lille on Wednesday as part of a group where all four teams drew their opening match.
Weah is coming off his best performance of the season, assisting on a goal and drawing a penalty that led to another for the reigning French league champion.