LOS ANGELES — Christian Pulisic does not know Los Angeles very well. He grew up on the other side of the United States, in Hershey, Pa. But as he prepares for the Soccer Champions Tour 2023, Los Angeles could be the start of something special for him.
“Everyone always says, ‘we’re in your country; you got to show me around,’ but I grew up like a five-hour flight from here. I’m not from here at all.”
Pulisic will do his best to show them around with the few people he knows in Los Angeles. He was last there in early June with the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), training ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League semi-final, a tournament they would go on to win.
The Nations League was a significant tournament for Pulisic because it offered him a fresh start. During the 2022-23 club season with Chelsea F.C., inconsistent playing time under three different managers and one goal and assist in 24 appearances marked his season, a decrease from six goals and two assists in the previous season.
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In 2022-23 with Chelsea, Pulisic made his most appearances from the bench and had his least productive season (goals and assists). On the contrary, with the United States in the Nations League in Las Vegas, Pulisic started their final two games, scoring two goals.
Just over a month later, Pulisic has another chance to display his talents after signing with Serie A club AC Milan on July 13.
Pulisic made his presence for Milan against Serie D club FC Lumezzane VGZ in his debut, picking up two assists in their 7-0 victory. He especially appreciated this game because he could play in positions he enjoys.
“We dominated the game, and for me, it was a great position, and I had a lot of opportunities to run for defenders with the ball, and that’s what I like to do,” Pulisic said.
Now, Pulisic will have the chance to continue showing his talents. But this time, it will be against top European clubs in the United States. Pulisic and Milan begin the Champions Tour against Real Madrid CF at the Rose Bowl on July 23 before facing Juventus F.C. and FC Barcelona at Dignity Health Sports Park and Allegiant Stadium, respectively.
The Rose Bowl is sold out for Milan’s first game as fans will flock to Pasadena, California’s historic venue. There will undoubtedly be supporters wearing Pulisic’s USMNT jerseys in the crowd as many fans cheer on the American star.
“I think I’ll have some family in the crowd, some people I know; it’s always great to see. Playing in the U.S. always adds a little bit extra, something special for me,” Pulisic said.
While competing against arguably some of the best clubs in the world, Pulisic will try to earn the respect of his teammates and hopefully start with Milan more impactfully than how he finished with Chelsea.
“It’s a big moment for me. It’s a fresh start,” Pulisic said. “I’m really excited to go and give that good first impression in the club, to get the trust of my teammates, and hopefully play really well with them.”
One of the reasons Pulisic joined Milan was because manager Stefano Pioli ensured he was valued in an assertive attacking role. And the Champions Tour will help them define the specifics of how they will do it.
“I felt like I was wanted here to play in an attacking role and to be yet to be very aggressive, to be very direct and bring what I can pregame and help this team to create chances score goals. And that’s what I’m here to do,” Pulisic said.
Pulisic joined Milan because he was valued in an attacking role. (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
As the American fanbase cheers on one of their national team’s most popular players, Milan’s ties to Los Angeles could show, too. According to Milan’s chief executive officer (CEO), Giorgio Furlani, Los Angeles is one of the club’s top three international markets; Milan has a supporter group based in Southern California, one of 13 in the United States.
“[Los Angeles is] top three of terms of international markets for us in terms of fanbase. We have 16 fan clubs in North America, 13 in the USA, and two in California… and we hope to welcome a lot of our fans from these clubs, other clubs, and just from the country and our games in the next few days,” Furlani said.
Milan is also American-owned, as RedBird Capital Partners fund it. They last played in the United States in 2018 against Bundesliga club BVB Dortmund. However, the club would like to play more in Los Angles moving forward.
“[RedBird] operate[s] sort of at the core of the intersection of sports media, entertainment, and culture. And LA is the capital of all of these things. LA is the capital of entertainment. We, in Milan, are the capital of fashion… And so, fashion, culture, entertainment all come together, and it’s important for us to be here. Last time we were in LA was 2018, so five years; we would like to come more often,” Furlani said.
And now, with the American star, Pulisic, on their team, many Americans will direct their interest toward Milan. At the same time, he hopes to relish his “fresh start” as he builds a legacy with his journey starting in Los Angeles.