Christian Pulisic USMNT Netherlands 12042022 e1670161202578

#Ruthless #classy #Dutch #teach #young #Americans #World #Cup #lesson

DOHA, Qatar — The scene in the U.S. men’s national team locker room after Saturday’s World Cup loss to the Netherlands was funereal. The normally boisterous young American bunch was left stunned and speechless after a humbling 3-1 loss to the Dutch, and as much as

“The silence was deafening,” USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “Everyone’s disappointed. Everyone was in like a somber mood because we knew that we could compete in this game. And we did do that, but competing and losing doesn’t make us all feel better so it’s disappointing for sure.”

The disappointment the Americans felt wasn’t just about the end of their World Cup journey, but also about a performance that had far too many mistakes to survive. The USMNT was always going to need to be at their best to beat the Dutch, and despite the post-game talk about how well they feel they played, the Americans were simply not good enough.

Unlike their play in the group stage, the Americans didn’t defend well against the Dutch, blowing simple assignments left and right, and they didn’t take the chances that did come their way. Christian Pulisic’s third-minute chance was saved well, but that was the kind of golden chance the Americans were going to need to finish in order to make history. Tim Weah also had his chance to score before halftime, but saw it saved, and shortly after the Dutch scored the eventual winning goal.

Conversely, the Dutch were clinical with their chances. Memphis Depay made no mistake when Denzel Dumfries picked him out in the penalty area, as was Daley Blind, and a wide-open Dumfries for the final goal.

After the match, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter lamented the fact his team doesn’t have a Memphis Depay, a proven international striker with the top-tier pedigree. It was a harsh, yet honest and accurate statement, though it can also be said that the Americans don’t have a Louis Van Gaal either.

Van Gaal laid out a winning game plan against the Americans, and delivered a stinging indictment of Berhalter when he noted in the post-match press conference that the USMNT didn’t adapt to what the Dutch were doing.

Berhalter had things he could be criticized for on Saturday, including the decision to start Jesus Ferreira rather than figuring out a way to get Gio Reyna into the starting lineup, but it was tough to point the blame at Berhalter’s tactical strategy for the breakdowns on the Netherlands goals. Failing to track runners on all three goals were individual defensive breakdowns, not a product of the USMNT game plan.

If Berhalter was to blame for those breakdowns it was because of how little he rotated his squad during the tournament, having nine players start all four matches. USMNT players were asked repeatedly after the match if fatigue played a part, and they all refused to concede that, but the evidence suggested otherwise.

Despite the defensive breakdowns, and the wasteful finishing on the precious few chances the Americans created, they were still in the game with a chance after Haji Wright’s fluke finish. Matt Turner’s second-half heroics and the relentlessness of the USMNT provided one final push, but the hope vanished as quickly as it materialized, with Denzel Dumfries capitalizing on a tired defense that inexplicably lost sight him despite him being the Dutch team’s most dangerous player on the night.

The Netherlands showed their quality, and no amount of possession or total shots changes the fact the Dutch were in control of the match for the majority of the night. The Americans had some stretches with the ball, but few of them ever felt truly dangerous, and more often than not it felt like the Dutch were letting the Americans lead while they waited for the inevitable moments to pounce.

Losing to the Dutch is nothing to be ashamed of for this young American team. The Netherlands is stacked with elite talent all over the field, and Van Gaal has them playing as a cohesive unit. They are also a team brimming with experience, and that combination of talent, experience and good coaching was always going to be difficult for the Americans to overcome, even on their best day.

As crushing as Saturday’s loss felt, it doesn’t erase what was overall a good World Cup showing for the youngest team to reach the knockout rounds. The Americans came into the tournament with plenty of expectations, and they delivered a set of performances that gave American soccer fans a reason to believe the future is bright, and this group labeled a Golden Generation just might be able to develop into something special.

“We didn’t qualify for the last World Cup and here we are in the round 16. We’ve definitely come a long way,” Pulisic said. “Right now, it’s just tough, it hurts after a tough loss like that, when we feel like we could have had more.”

The part that hurts, and the part that left USMNT players stunned and understandably shattered, is that they didn’t deliver their best when they needed it the most. A reality that will sting as they board their flights back home, and hopefully it is a reality that serves as fuel for this young group as it builds towards 2026, when the World Cup comes to the United States.

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