Despite all the agita, tension, and seemingly never ending stoppage time, the USMNT got it done in Group B. In a win or go home scenario they secured the necessary 3 points against Iran to advance to a round of 16 clash against Netherlands. A tough draw on paper, but this young USMNT can most definitely slay the Oranje giants. Here’s how.
Play the whole match like the first half
The US looked like the better team in the first half of each of their group stage matches. Controlling the midfield play, attacking with tempo, and sound defending. In the second half of those matches they often looked like they were hanging on by a thread. In the second half of the first match against Wales an unnecessary challenge in the box from USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman allowed Wales to equalize from the penalty spot. Against England they truly looked the better side in the first half but didn’t show the same gusto and cohesiveness in the second. And most recently against Iran, around the 8 minute mark of stoppage time Iran played a dangerous ball into the box that forced US Goalkeeper Matt Turner off his line and defender Cameron Carter-Vickers to seemingly drag down Iranian and Porto FC Striker Mehdi Taremi to the ground as he was trying to get a clean strike on the ball. Taremi still got the ball past Turner, but lacked the pace needed to get it across to score as US defender Zimmerman cleared the ball away from the empty net.
A stressful watch to say the least as an equalizing goal would have sent Iran through and the US back home. If the stars and stripes are going to beat the Netherlands it’s going to not just take a good 45, or 90 minutes. It’s going to take everything they have for 90+ whatever is necessary.
Mitigate mistakes and take advantage of opportunities
Kiss it. Keep it simple stupid. A phrase that the USMNT should apply to their play. Throughout this World Cup I’ve seen dozens of US scoring opportunities end in shots that fly way above the crossbar. And every time it happens I think about a rival fan watching and making some sort of “that’s not three points here” type of joke. Take a little off your shots to get it on goal and actually test the goalkeeper. Keeps your opponent on their toes and keeps you from having to do this predictable gesture with your hands over your head afterwards.
That beautifully crossed ball into the box that gets sent over the bar at 100 mph in the 16th minute doesn’t seem that detrimental at the time, but could go on to be the opportunity that allowed more defensive cushion at the end or pushed the game into extra time.
Force the action
The Netherlands are ranked as the 8th best national team in the world for a reason. Historically, The Oranje are known for their well balanced players and play style. A team with strong defensive prowess centered by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk. The Oranje are a team without any glaring weaknesses, so success against them is going to take a team effort. Which plays into the current style of the USMNT.
In World Cup appearances of the past the US teams were more of one trick ponies so to speak. Former stars like Landon Donovan struck fear into defenses' eyes but the rest of the team didn’t always match that quality. That imbalance kept those USMNT’s from ever advancing past the quarterfinal. This 2022 team has much more of a “by committee” type feel to it and I think the team has really embellished an underdog persona in their style of play and overall swagger. Even when Pulisic excited the Iranian game early, the team still felt just as composed and confident without him. A “we’ll play anyone, with anyone, anytime, anywhere” attitude that should be a tremendous asset to them against Netherlands and potentially beyond.
The US wins this match by dictating the tempo, taking advantage of their scoring opportunities, limiting and controlling those of their opponents, and by being calm through the impending storm. Getting the first goal would be huge for the US but even more important is keeping the pressure on them regardless of the current score. Scoring just one and sitting back hoping to bleed the clock out isn’t the way to win World Cups. You do so by being relentless, strong, and surgical. They have everything to win and nothing to lose going up against European powers like this Dutch side. Call me a foolish yankee, but I like their odds.
US First Half ML +400 Bet365
US (Full Time) +360 BetRivers
Draw (Full Time) +240 Bet365
US to Advance +175 Bet365
Super Speculative Sprinkles
US to Reach Semi-Final +800 Bet365
US to Reach Final +4000 Bet365