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Christian Pulisic: Wayne Rooney an inspiration, U.S. needs permanent coach

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EXCLUSIVE - Pulisic: New USMNT manager 'must have a plan' (4:30)

Christian Pulisic speaks exclusively to ESPN FC about being a leader for the USMNT, his best position and his hopes when the U.S. appoint a new manager. (4:30)

LONDON -- United States midfielder Christian Pulisic has said he looks up to Wayne Rooney ahead of Thursday's friendly against England (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Pulisic will likely be making just his second appearance of 2018 for the U.S. after injuries prevented him from taking part in the last two international windows.

"[Rooney] was a very passionate guy, and I loved watching that about him," Pulisic told reporters. "He worked so hard, and my dad always told me he was a good guy to look up to. I still agree with that."

Pulisic added that it was difficult to follow Rooney's career when he was younger, but that the length and degree of success the former Everton and Manchester United striker has had are still an inspiration.

"A guy like [Rooney] has had such a successful career, that's something I can look at and I want to be just like that," Pulisic said. "I want to have a long career, wherever I may be, [and one where] I'm doing the best I can.

"Now he's ended up in MLS. Who knows if I'll end there one day? But it's great to see that and it's great to look up to a guy like that."

Rooney will take part in Thursday's match, with an eye towards promoting the newly formed Wayne Rooney Foundation. If he does see the field, the appearance will be his 120th, adding to his tally as the most capped England outfield player of all time.

Earlier this summer Rooney joined D.C. United and proved to be an instant hit, scoring 12 goals and contributing seven assists.

"What he's done in Europe and now what he's doing in MLS is honestly great for our country as well because he's gone there and you can see what he's still doing over there," Pulisic said. "It's great to see."

Asked if a result against England would see an increase in respect for the U.S. team, Pulisic agreed it would, though he added that's not the goal for this young U.S. side.

"We just want to play great international competition," he said. "Of course when we play we want to get a good result. If that means getting more respect, great, but we want to continue to get our young guys experience and just continue to grow this team moving forward."

The U.S. will play Thursday's match, as well as next week's friendly against Italy, without a permanent head coach in place. Dave Sarachan has been coaching the side on a caretaker basis for the last 13 months, and Pulisic wants the search for a new manager to reach its conclusion.

"We definitely want a permanent head coach, someone who has a plan and someone who has a great idea of how we want to play moving forward," he said.

"But Dave in the meantime is also doing a good job developing these young guys and calling guys in, just allowing them to be part of the team as well. [Naming a new manager] is something that I think will definitely happen in the near future."

In a side whose average age is just 23 years, 241 days, Pulisic, 20, counts as one of the more experienced players on the roster. He admitted that he'll need to step up his leadership responsibilities, even though that role doesn't come easily for him.

"I can see how now I definitely need to be a more important piece and continue to grow as a leader," he said. "I think that's important for the team and for myself. It's going to be fun moving forward with these guys.

"For me it's tough, because I'm not a vocal guy. I'm not super outgoing, but I think the biggest thing I can do is lead by example. I want to show these guys how it's done on a professional level. I want to go in and be focused every day in training, and I think if guys see that they'll want to do the same thing."

2018 was meant to be the year in which Pulisic made his first appearance on the world's biggest stage, but the U.S.'s failure to qualify for Russia 2018 ended those hopes. Still, says Pulisic, the year has not been a total loss.

"I think what we've done bringing in younger players is great," he told ESPN's Taylor Twellman. "Seeing them have success at their clubs and getting their first caps makes us stronger and I don't think any year is a lost year. We continue to learn things as a country and nation as players and it's a good thing moving forward.

On the injury front, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced that left-back Antonee Robinson will miss both of the national team's friendlies during the international break after spraining his right ankle in training on Tuesday, a knock that's expected to sideline him for four weeks.

Robinson plays for Wigan in England's second-tier League Championship. He made his U.S. debut in May and has six international appearances.