Before last night, casual U.S. soccer fans may not have had any idea who Haji Wright is. After last night's impressive 3-0 win against Morocco, that changed. Wright came on as a halftime substitute and immediately impressed, with a series of clever flick-on passes in build-up play and surging runs into the box that showcased his attacking threat. It was his 64th-minute penalty conversion, however, that Wright and USMNT fans alike will never forget.
The touch from Haji Wright in the build up then the run!! If only he could have finished it. Beautiful build up play though pic.twitter.com/Pr841wQKC5— USAxSPURS (@USAxSPURS) June 2, 2022
Haji Wright Debuts, Delivers
After assisting earlier in the game, Pulisic was brought down in the box by Achraf Hakimi in the 61st minute. In the ensuing chaos, during which three Morocco players were shown the yellow card for dissent, Pulisic held the ball as if he was going to take the penalty. Adopting a decoy strategy that Chelsea fans will surely recognize, Pulisic calmly absorbed the three minutes of abuse from Morocco's players. Once referee Ismael Cornejo had eventually cleared the penalty area, Pulisic passed the ball off to Wright, whose ensuing penalty was merely a formality.
Christian Pulisic gives Haji Wright the penalty for his first international goal
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 2, 2022
Really, really cool of Christian Pulisic to give the ball to his boy Haji Wright for the penalty on his USMNT debut. Awesome moment.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) June 2, 2022
"We go way back,” Pulisic told ESPN after the game. “He needed that goal and said he was confident so I wanted him to get that confidence and I'm happy he scored."
A Friendship for the Ages
Pulisic and Wright share a special bond. The two, who came through the youth national team ranks together, were members of the 2015 U-17 World Cup squad and both moved to Germany as teenagers.
"That was the duo back in the day, me and Haji," Pulisic told reporters before the game. "We played a lot of games together in the youth national teams. 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.”
Haji Wright scoring was genuinely lovely moment. He came through with so many of these boys. After the agony he has been through, you can tell exactly what watching him score means to all of them pic.twitter.com/oCjy8prRpD— roger bennett (@rogbennett) June 2, 2022
After joining the Schalke youth team in 2016, Wright bounced around several European sides before eventually finding form at Turkish side Antalyaspor, where he currently plays. It’s been a long, sometimes heartbreaking journey for Wright, and the 24-year-old was sentimental following his debut.
“Unbelievably grateful to my Friend, Brother, and Captain,” penned the striker on Instagram.
Pulisic looking out for his friend is the exact type of leadership and comradery that USMNT fans will love to see heading into the World Cup. This team has been together from a young age and stuck together through thick and thin. Here’s to more celebrations and special moments for this bunch in Qatar.