The United States men’s national team was eliminated by the Netherlands in the round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Saturday. First-half goals from Memphis Depay and Daley Blind brought the team down by Gregg Berhalter as the Americans left Qatar with a 3-1 loss to the Dutch after a respectable campaign in the group stage. The Netherlands will face the winner of Argentina and Australia in the quarter-finals on Friday.
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It was a game that showed how much the USMNT still had to grow as it was exposed to Dutch counters. This is an American team that did not concede a goal in open play in the group stage before Saturday. Denzel Dumfries dominated the wing with two assists and a goal to his name.
The Americans were without Josh Sargent, who hasn’t dressed due to an ankle injury, and they missed his presence with the lack of movement and space on offense. From being too fast in their passing games to not going back on the Dutch counters, the United States were rocked by the play that Dutch coach Louis van Gaal had been preparing for.
On the first Dutch goal, Coady Gakpo made room for Depay to overtake the United States midfielder and end the chance created by Dumfries. Again before half-time, a full-back Sergino Dest was caught off guard by Blind to finish in a back-to-back goal that brought the Dutch style of play home. Changes came at half-time with the entry of Gio Reyna in place of Jesus Ferreira, but that wasn’t enough to get back into the game. Haji Wright pulled a goal back from a crumbling Netherlands before Dumfries capped their excellent game with an 81st-minute goal to put things out of sight.
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The United States, meanwhile, will have to wait until 2026 when they host the next World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico. Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Learning experience
The United States squandered their chances of entering the game while the Dutch made them pay with the small number of chances. Once again, Berhalter had his tactic to start the match well. Pulisic and Weah were flying out the door, as was probably scripted, but they couldn’t find the last bullet in the box. From ill-advised shots to excessive dribbling, the United States did exactly what the Netherlands wanted them to do.
The chances were there when they pressured the Dutch, but USA could only keep that pressure up for 15 minutes of each half. Then, when caught off guard, the Netherlands flew down the unmarked pitch, showing the tightrope Dest and Robinson are walking on cheating too much. The defense depends on the play of the full-backs, and the Dutch full-backs came in strong as they were able to get behind consistently.
America’s full-backs will have to pick their spots better to advance in games like this, but you don’t know where your weaknesses are until they’re exposed on the big stage.
2. End of an era
We are four years and a day into Gregg Berhalter’s tenure in charge of the USMNT. Is it time to move on and appoint a new manager for a very important cycle that involves the Americans hosting the World Cup and not necessarily needing to qualify through Concacaf? The track record of coaches that last more than one cycle isn’t exactly great.
Berhalter has done a great job of bringing the team back to the world stage, but it’s fair to wonder if he took the team as far as he could.
“When you think about this group, how they’ve come together over the last three and a half years, it’s really special to see,” Berhalter told Fox reporter Jenny Taft after the game. “You don’t often have a bond like that between teammates and staff and everyone. I’m really proud of this group, but bitterly disappointed with the result tonight.”
The bonds forged between the team are important as most of them have played together at youth level. Bethalter’s substitutions, however, did not allow the team to perform at their best. Bringing Reyna on after half time but playing him as a false nine didn’t cause much danger as he had to move wide to influence the game.
Despite scoring what appeared to be an awkward goal, Wright also struggled during the World Cup. His performances once again left us wondering what could have been with Jordan Pefok and/or Ricardo Pepi in the team. When your striker scores a goal in four games, it’s fair to wonder what happened there. Berhalter absolutely nailed the calls for Turner at goalkeeper and Ream at centre-back, which were key to their success, but questions remain over how this can become a well-rounded team for 2026.
Given the talent at the U-20 level, some players just need more experience under their belt. Having a manager who has a plan B in his back pocket to switch games after half-time may have pulled a little more out of this game.
3. Don’t underestimate the Dutch
Assuming the Dutch take on Argentina in the next round, it’s another chance for van Gaal to use his plan against a team that likes to keep possession. With Memphis finding their footing at the right time, it gives the Dutch more to pick up the pace. Noppert was also strong in goal and it was Dumfries’ best performance at the World Cup. Keep it up and they can cause a surprise in the next round. Gakpo didn’t even need to score against USA, but his movement made room for everyone else on the team.