USMNT squares off against the Netherlands in a win-or-go-home tilt

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Ah yes the USMNT is in the knockout stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. After an eight-year hiatus, they are back and skated into the Round of 16. This is thanks to striker Christian Pulisic and apparently, his ah-hm, pelvis in a dramatic 1-0 win over Iran. Their opponent? The Group A topping Netherlands with a red-hot (or I guess for them The Oranje-hot) Cody Gakpo.

USMNT
Qatar 2022 World Cup. USA team group, during the Qatar 2022 World Cup match, group B, date 1, between USA and Wales played at Al Rayyan Stadium on Nov 21, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Pressinphoto/Imago/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

Can USMNT beat the Oranje?

This isn’t the first meeting of these two teams, they’ve met five times actually. Yet it’s the first COMPETITIVE tilt between these two. The record between the USA and the Dutch is in favor of the Netherlands, 1-4-0. The first-ever meeting was in 1998 and their last was seven years ago (and also their only win).

So if the USMNT wants to book its ticket to the quarterfinal against either Argentina or Australia, it will have to leave it all on the line. For the Dutch, it might just be their midfield to send them through. Regardless, it will be the “I Believes” against the Soccer Stroopwafels in a match you won’t want to miss.

More than a first-half team

So if we had a based-off-the-first-half game, Team USA would have this game in the bag. So far, they have only allowed one first-half goal in this tournament. Keyword there: first half. Oh, and if you look at stats from their first 45 minutes, they rank fifth in chances created and sixth in goals. For the first time since 1930, the USMNT has recorded two shutouts at the FIFA World Cup. A cool 92 years if you’re keeping count. Also, say what you will about Gregg Berhalter but there is his lineup to thank for this feat.

Putting Weston McKennie, captain Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah in midfield was a smart move. Adams has been a wall in the team’s matches against England, Wales, and Iran. The trio hasn’t allowed a goal in full-time, with the one against Wales coming off a stoppage-time mark from Gareth Bale. Giving Adams a chance to put that work up against the Netherlands might help to limit them for the whole match, not just half number one.

The second half, it’s not our strong suit. And to say that is downplaying how it’s been at each game in this World Cup. It’s not a defensive issue because in two of the games against Iran and Wales, they were protecting a lead. Relying on McKennie and Musah is great until you tire them out too much.

The issue the USMNT struggle with is the offense. Pulisic is a force and I’m sure Berhalter is going to be very happy that he’s well enough to play Saturday. Youth, while often a gift, is not one here against a much more experienced Dutch team.

The USMNT’s average age is 25 years old, the second-youngest roster at the tournament. They’ll need the stamina and a defensive mind to outplay the Dutch. Because if there’s one thing the Americans are NOT known for, it’s their attacking. It’s well, middling at best. Forwards and wingers will need to bring their A-game (see what I did there) to the Dutch. Tiring legs and substitutes who can’t match those they’re replacing are their weakness.

Enter the Soccer Stroopwafels

There is a statement heading into this match that rings true: the Dutch are one of the best teams in the world to have never won a World Cup. Headed by captain Virgil van Dijk, the Dutch defense is going to be TOUGH. He’s been an imposing challenge for any team looking to score on The Oranje. van Dijk is also focusing on working to develop the young Dutch squad. Since he suffered an ACL injury back in 2021, he’s become less of a physical player.

But Cody Gakpo is going to be someone the Americans are going to have to keep an eye on at all times. He scored three out of five of the goals for the Netherlands in Qatar. The 23-year-old is the Swiss Army Knife of an athlete: an attacking forward, a winger, and when needed a more conventional type of forward. He’ll be a challenge for the wrecking ball trio of Americans. Seriously his goal against Ecuador was *chef’s kiss*.

The weaknesses of the Dutch are there, never fret USA fans. Their toughest game of the tournament so far was a 1-1 draw against Ecuador. The physicality of the Ecuadorians gassed the Oranje and it was visible. They also haven’t been great at generating goal-scoring chances either at this one. Gakpo’s goal wasn’t GREAT but it did the job. The squad also doesn’t seem built for a protracted siege on the opponent’s goal and they haven’t had to try that just yet. Tenacity and intensity are going to be two things that challenge the Dutch. That is the signature of the American team and it’ll put the also young Oranje through its paces.

Prediction

The USMNT has a decent blueprint to beat the Dutch. They’re not going to be afraid to use it either. But it also might be vulnerable to certain Dutch strengths and the USMNT will have to be mindful on the pitch.

The winner will be the one able to shore up its weaknesses and exploit all the bad sides of the other squad. The loser will have to start over in another four years.

USA 2- Netherlands 1

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Mandatory Credit: Pressinphoto/Imago/Icon Sportswire

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