By Joey Gulino
Only one American has ever won the Champions League. None have ever played in the final.
Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen have a chance to change that.
Pulisic’s assist on Mason Mount’s goal in the 85th minute sealed Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Real Madrid in the second leg of their semifinal, which the Blues won 3-1 on aggregate.
Chelsea went ahead in the 28th minute after Timo Werner cleaned up a Kai Havertz chip off the crossbar from point-blank range, and a gassed, disconnected Real Madrid rarely threatened to surge back into the affair.
Mount sealed it after great work from Pulisic and N’Golo Kante helped set him up: Now Pulisic will face Manchester City and Steffen, who is City’s No. 2 goalkeeper, on May 29 in Istanbul. It’s the second all-Premier League final in three seasons, after Liverpool beat Tottenham in 2019.
Jovan Kirovski is the only American male to earn a Champions League winner’s medal, having been on Borussia Dortmund’s squad in the 1996-97 season. But he never played in the knockout stages.
Pulisic started last week’s first leg against Real Madrid and scored Chelsea’s away goal, becoming the first U.S. male to score in a Champions League semifinal. He’s been one of the Blues’ most effective players when healthy, so if he’s fit, he stands a great chance to start the final.
Steffen faces a taller task, as Ederson has been firmly entrenched as City’s first-choice keeper for multiple seasons now. But it still represents a historic moment for American men’s soccer, as they’ll likely become the first Yanks to make the matchday squads opposite each other in the Champions League final.
Chelsea has won the competition before, with a stirring comeback against Bayern Munich back in 2012 in Bayern’s home stadium. Man City has never won it.
Chelsea also becomes the first club to send men’s and women’s teams to their respective Champions League finals in the same season. The Chelsea women beat Bayern Munich on Sunday to reach May 16’s final against Barcelona.