USMNT banged up but buzzing as World Cup knockout round nears

USMNT banged up but buzzing as World Cup knockout round nears


RAYYAN, Qatar — Gregg Berhalter and the United States Men’s National Soccer Team arrived at the World Cup preparing for two tournaments. They managed to navigate the former (a three-game rumble culminating in a heartbreaking victory over Iran on Tuesday) and will now enter the No Mercy phase with a round of 16 showdown with the Netherlands on Saturday.

“From here, anything can happen,” Berhalter said. “It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something we’re going to take thinking it’s an honor. We deserve to be in the position we are in and we want to continue.

Featuring the youngest starting line-ups in the 32-team competition and featuring a player with World Cup experience – defender DeAndre Yedlin made an appearance as a substitute – the Americans are playing with the money of the House.

With brave goal, USMNT overtakes Iran to qualify for World Cup

Although the FIFA rankings suggested (accurately) that they would finish second to England in Group B, there were genuine questions over Berhalter’s player maturity and coaching qualities on the world stage. . Failure to move forward would not have been a disaster, but would have been deeply disappointing and possibly marked the end of Berhalter’s tenure. (His contract ends after the tournament.)

Moving forward, however, Team USA regained their dignity after missing the 2018 World Cup – their first absence from the sport’s premier event since 1986 – and continued to grow.

World Cup fixtures and round of 16 schedule

“The most important thing is to go as far as possible in the tournament,” said midfielder Weston McKennie. “Look back on what it took to get here. Not just the last four years, but the last game, that game against Iran. We’ll definitely look back and see what it took, we remember it and use it as fuel.

The Americans will need all the fuel they can find against a Dutch side that won Group A with a 2-0-1 record and both carry footballing history (three-time runners-up, including 2010) and the current Excellence (a star-dotted roster led by gigantic Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.)

“A huge opportunity for us,” USA captain Tyler Adams said.

Svrluga: Christian Pulisic has his moment, and the United States survives thanks to it

What America’s line-up will look like remains unclear after two starting forwards were injured against Iran. Christian Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion after colliding with Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand as he scored in the 38th minute and Josh Sargent left the game in the 77th minute with an apparent ankle injury.

Sargent, who started Games 1 and 3, was evaluated Wednesday, a team official said. Haji Wright and Jesús Ferreira are the other strikers on the list. Wright, who started Game 2, looked lost as a substitute for Sargent on Tuesday. Ferreira has yet to play.

When asked a few days ago if he considered using wingers in the central role, Berhalter said he was happy with his current options. So in all likelihood Wright or Ferreira would replace Sargent on Saturday.

Pulisic was taken to hospital for tests during the second half and returned to the team hotel in time to meet his teammates returning from the stadium. The US Soccer Federation has listed it as day-to-day, a status that looks unlikely to change ahead of Saturday’s game to keep the Dutch in the dark.

Teammates who spoke to him after Tuesday’s game, however, said Pulisic planned to play. They marveled at how he connected with Sergiño Dest’s header cross as Beiranvand came out forcefully for the ball. Pulisic got there first, half volleying it a moment before the heavy collision.

“He’s just showing his bravery,” said midfielder Kellyn Acosta. “I mean, you want it so badly. I’m glad he was finally rewarded with a goal. He is very hungry [and] hard as nails.

They knew the story of Christian Pulisic before it even started

The Americans have also shown unity and are fighting this tournament, seeming fully invested in the cause.

That’s what Berhalter was looking for when he finalized the roster, filling several slots with what he calls “stickers” – players who improve team chemistry and embrace their reserve roles, even if they weren’t the best talent options.

Those on the ground in the nervous final minutes of Tuesday fought for each other to fend off relentless pressure from Iran. When the final whistle sounded, the players fell to their knees, stomachs and backs, exhausted from the physical and mental weight of World Cup victory.

“It was one of those games where you can look left and look right,” Adams said, “and you have someone fighting for you.”

The effort, however, will only take one team so far. Good football helps too. The American objective was just that. It started with Turner controlling the ball with his feet and driving it into midfield. Tim Weah touched it to Yunus Musah, who provided space for Adams. Something was brewing.

Three passes later, McKennie delivered a superb pass to Dest for a header that met Pulisic charging head-on into the six-yard box.

“The guys executed it perfectly,” Berhalter said.

The goal made possible a victory that requires historical perspective. Only once before had the United States won the third World Cup group game, in 2010, when Landon Donovan scored in the dying seconds against Algeria to turn impending elimination into sure progression.

From the archives: Landon Donovan’s goal means Americans are moving forward

The victory was also the first for the United States since the 2014 opener against Ghana and only the ninth of the program’s 11 World Cup appearances – the same number of triumphs France won in just 2014 and 18 combined. The only times the American team has won two games in a World Cup was in 1930 and 2002.

In the knockout round, the Americans have little time to heal and reset. Opportunity awaits.

“You don’t even have to predict how far this team can go because the next game is against the Netherlands, and that’s our main goal,” Berhalter said. “It’s great to be in this knockout format. We savor that. It’s an opportunity for our guys to keep working, to stick together and to benefit from this experience.

World Cup in Qatar

The last: France have already secured their place in the round of 16 and three other nations will join the Blues on Wednesday. Follow our live coverage for the latest World Cup news, updates and highlights.

USMNT: Star striker Christian Pulisic scored in the first half and the United States men’s national team beat Iran, 1-0, at the World Cup in Qatar. By finishing second in Group B, the United States (1-0-2) earned a round of 16 victory on Saturday against the Netherlands, who won Group A with a 2-0-1 record.

Tie-Breaking and Advancement Scenarios: All 32 World Cup teams have entered their third group stage fixtures and the progression scenarios are now clear.

Perspective: “This moment – his moment — called for something more than finesse or creativity. It may not be brave or courageous, exactly, to charge on a soccer ball in the middle of heavy human traffic, risking injury, showing what sporting sacrifice means. Read Barry Svrluga on Christian Pulisic’s moment on football’s biggest stage.

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