The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) went into a must-win group-stage match against Iran and punched their ticket to the knockout rounds of the 2022 Men’s World Cup thanks to a 1-0 win! The USA will now prepare for a round-of-16 matchup with the Netherlands on Saturday; could that match be the start of a winning streak that sees the USMNT as champions of the world?
Can the USA start a four-game run to win the World Cup?
After a gutsy 1-0 win and two previous hard-fought draws, the USA boasts an undefeated record in group-stage play. They head to the knockout rounds with an impressive one goal allowed (a penalty kick in their first match) and a youthful team full of courage and skill. Could this be enough to start a run that would see the United States win the men’s World Cup for the first time ever?
The one thing that could deter this side from going on a proper knockout stage run could be their effectiveness in front of goal. The USA only scored two goals in three games, but both were beautifully worked build sequences that resulted in goals. The United States will need to see more of that type of play if they want to win four in a row en route to a World Cup championship.
Luckily for the USMNT, they have courage, youth, and what could be an elite defensive structure on their side.
A young yet courageous side.
The USA has the second-youngest roster at the 2022 Men’s World Cup with an average age of 25.2 years old. Add on to that, that this is the first time the USA is being represented by their men’s team in the World Cup in eight years, and all the pressures that are placed on the backs of a team so young could be crushing for most.
The pitfalls that come with being on the biggest stage at such a young age seem to not be bothering this United States team. They have yet to show any game-changing nerves about being at a World Cup, instead, they have collective courage. Every player gives their all for the team; they fight for each other when others might crumble.
The courage of this USMNT is what could carry them far at the knockout stage of the 2022 Men’s World cup, that and keeping up their stellar defensive play while being just a bit more effective in goal-scoring situations.
Defense wins championships; the USA is stellar in that regard.
The USMNT has only allowed one goal, and it was a penalty in the opening match. Their defensive shape and discipline have been very strong. It’s getting a bit overlooked because of the team’s lack of scoring, or the coach’s substitution patterns. The goalkeeping has been sublime, the fullbacks are able to do well isolated on the wings, and the center-backs put out the fires.
Matt Turner has been a revelation in goal for the USMNT at this tournament. He hasn’t been called upon like USA keepers in the past to be the only reason the US stays in matches, but his ability to make the few critical saves when the team really needs him has been a huge momentum shifter in the group stage. Can he be just as important on a run to a World Cup? The USA will need him to be.
The USMNT fullbacks, Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest, are seen more as attackers than defenders for this team. They bomb down the wings to create attacking overloads but are also called upon to get back and do some 1-v-1 defending in wide areas. They have done well with this to prevent a team like England from scoring on them. They’ll need to be just as sharp in the knockout rounds for the USMNT to keep a run going.
Quietly the stability that center backs Walker Zimmerman(for the first two group games), Cameron Carter-Vickers (in the final group stage match), and especially veteran Tim Ream (in all three matches) has been the difference between the US getting out of the group and a quick exit at this World Cup. In years past the center-back play for the USA has been suspect, but these players and the defensive shape that the team keeps have created stability and the ability for the team to focus their thoughts more on creating attacks.
Goals win games; can the USMNT attack spark a World Cup run?
As the USMNT heads into the lockout rounds to face the Netherlands, they will need their youthful courage and defensive structure, but they will also need to be more clinical in front of goal. Only scoring two goals in three matches won’t be enough to propel this team to World Champions.
The attackers like Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Brenden Aaronson, and hopefully Gio Reyna will need to combine well with attacking midfielders, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Mussah to be more goal dangerous.
We’ve seen them all do this for their club teams, and the national team at certain points, now this core of young talented attackers has to rise to the biggest moments of their lives. They will be the driving force for the USA. Whether or not they put the balls in the back of the net will determine just how far the USMNT will go.
Their Journey continues Saturday morning (10 am ET) as they take on the eighth-ranked team in the World, the Netherlands, in a win-or-go-home match.
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Mandatory Credit: JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire