There seems to be something a little bit special about the current crop of players in the U.S. men’s national team (USMNT). While the World Cup group stages have been far from perfect, we’re seeing a cutting edge to this team unlike ever before. There’s an unmistakable sense of belief among the group and a ferocity that has corralled the entire nation over the past few weeks.
A win over the Netherlands on Saturday would signal the USMNT’s best World Cup performance for 20 years. Any further victories would mean equaling our best-ever finish, going all the way back to 1930 at the inaugural FIFA World Cup. However, the high-flying Dutchmen that stand in our way have impressed in the tournament and represent the biggest challenge the USA has faced to date.
The American Underdogs
There’s no doubt that the USMNT go into Saturday’s clash as underdogs, but that won’t waver Gregg Berhalter and his team. So far in the tournament, the Americans have been dogged in their off-the-ball work, hounding the opposition during build-up play and disrupting transitions magnificently. Led by team captain and World Cup standout, Tyler Adams, each player, to a name, appears ready to leave it all on the field.
In attack, Team USA has lacked goals. However, the link-up play has been good and you get the feeling Pulisic and co. are close to knitting things together. The combative nature of this side has been crucial in creating rapid counterattacks and with a bit of luck, the games against Wales and Iran could’ve been more comfortable. Fortune favors the brave, and this team certainly doesn’t lack bravery – as demonstrated by Christian Pulisic’s winner against Iran!
In a tournament that’s seen several major upsets, the Netherlands will be very wary of Team USA on the eve of kick-off. The USMNT has been tried and tested throughout the World Cup, especially in the must-win final group game. USA battled adversity and held on to take home one of the most important victories in our history.
The Battle of Form
Several strong Group B performances coupled with recent form means the USMNT will carry confidence into the round of 16. Since January 2021, Team USA has put together an impressive run of 23 wins, 5 losses, and 9 ties, amassing a 62% win percentage. During this time they became the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup Champions.
In the same period, the Netherlands played 12 fewer games, winning 72% of them. This superb form sees them sitting on top of their Nations League table and helped them qualify in first place from World Cup Group A. That said, the Netherlands haven’t looked at their fluid best so far.
The USMNT has developed a winning mentality. This mentality is infectious and there is a clear belief in this young side. Gregg Berhalter’s men will be going into Saturday’s game with one objective: to progress to the quarter-finals.
Haji Wright is the only Cal South Alumni to feature in the tournament so far, starting once and coming off the bench twice. Aaron Long, Cristian Roldan, and Luca de la Torre await their chance to make World Cup debuts. We’ve no doubt they’ll seize the moment if given the opportunity against the Netherlands.