Pulisic and Wright played together at the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup, and seven years later now are playing together with the full team ahead of a quartet of games over the next two weeks.
The U.S. will begin its four-game run on Wednesday against Morocco at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium (watch live at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). That will be followed four days later with a match against Uruguay at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Then come a pair of CONCACAF Nations League matches, first against Grenada at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, on June 10, followed by a road game against El Salvador four days later.
Back when they played together at the U17 World Cup, their roles were similar to what they are now, with Pulisic acting as the playmaker for Wright.
“That was the duo back in the day, me and Haji,” Pulisic said during a roundtable with reporters. “We played a lot of games together in the youth national teams. And it’s cool to have him back in, first of all, seeing him do so well at club level, and having him in here is great.
“So he’s gonna get his opportunity and yeah, I’m just so excited for him. And I know he’s going to use the opportunity.”
McKennie not only crossed paths with Wright at youth level, but they were teammates at Bundesliga side Schalke 04 from 2017-19. And while Wright had the greater success at youth level, McKennie made bigger inroads at Schalke before moving to Juventus.
“I think it’s beautiful,” said McKennie about Wright’s recall. “I didn’t have an easy path through the national team, especially in the youth. We had a bit of a different story at the youth age. And just to see that some players would be knocked down, some players would be [where] their spirit is gone, and I think just for him, finding his own path to get back in here is definitely one that’s inspirational and something that I can kind of relate to.
“It’s wonderful and exciting just to see him in here, and kind of sharing the same story at the same time.”
Wright’s meandering path saw him move from Schalke to a loan stint with Sandhausen and then to VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands, and he struggled to find the net at all three stops. He saw his fortunes improve with Danish SuperLiga side SonderjyskE starting in 2020, but it was a loan spell last season with Turkish Super Lig side Antalyaspor — where he scored 15 goals in 35 league and cup appearances — that got Wright back in the national team frame.
“I really respect people who haven’t necessarily had it easy and given to them and everyone’s on their own path,” said Pulisic. “I’ve seen it myself. Ups and downs and to come out the other side and be performing like he is now is impressive.”