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U.S. Soccer star Christian Pulisic is mending, hopes to play in Saturday's match

Christian Pulisic of the United States attends a news conference before a training session at Al-Gharafa SC Stadium, in Doha, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.
Ashley Landis
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AP
Christian Pulisic of the United States attends a news conference before a training session at Al-Gharafa SC Stadium, in Doha, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

DOHA, Qatar — U.S. men's national soccer team star forward Christian Pulisic said Thursday he's taking it day-to-day with his injury but "doing everything in my power to be able to be out there on the field Saturday."

That's when the Americans play a round of 16 match against the Netherlands at the World Cup in Qatar.

Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion when he collided with Iran's goalkeeper while scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in a 1-0 victory that vaulted the U.S. into the knockout stage.

At a news conference Thursday at the U.S. team's training site in Doha, Pulisic said he took a knee to the pelvic area that was "obviously very painful," but added he's feeling better.

Pulisic, 24 years old and considered the face of the young U.S. team, was asked whether the immediate pain prevented him from realizing he'd scored.

"I realized the ball went in," he said. "I was a bit confused because the [teammates] around me, I think they were, like, just trying to keep the distance and like make sure I was OK. It didn't really feel like a celebration, so I was worried [the referee called] offside. You never know nowadays. So I wasn't sure what was going on. But I knew I hit it in."

After his goal in the 38th minute of the match, Pulisic played the rest of the first half but then was pulled for a substitute as the second half got under way.

Christian Pulisic of the United States scores his side's opening goal during the World Cup group B soccer match between Iran and the United States at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.
Luca Bruno / AP
/
AP
Christian Pulisic of the United States scores his side's opening goal during the World Cup group B soccer match between Iran and the United States at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

He was taken to a local Doha hospital, where he watched the match on a U.S. team trainer's phone.

"It was like the hardest thing," Pulisic said. "They were checking my blood sugar and everything, and I was flying through the roof. But it wasn't because of anything [with the injury]. Just me stressed watching the game!"

A reporter asked Pulisic what it felt like having his "forever moment" at the World Cup, with his dramatic winning goal in a must-win match.

"Feels great to score in a World Cup," he said, "[but] I'm hoping I haven't had that moment yet, to be honest. I'm hoping it's in front of me."

The Netherlands, ranked 8th in the world, finished first in its group after its three group stage matches. The Dutch are favored in Saturday's knockout round contest with the U.S., which finished second in its group, holding two opponents scoreless along the way. It's the first time the Americans have had multiple shutouts at the World Cup since 1930.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.