After failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018, the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) is on to the round of 16 in Qatar after narrowly defeating Iran on Tuesday. This is just the fifth time since 1990 that the United States has been able to advance past the group stage of the World Cup.
Tuesday’s victory against Iran was not an easy one, as the USMNT barely scraped by with a 1-0 victory, but the game was the best the team has looked on the pitch through their first three matches. The United States outshot Iran 12-4, including 5-1 shots on goal. The USMNT only managed two total shots on goal against Wales and England, their two matches prior to Iran.
The United States’ lone goal came from 24-year-old prodigy Christian Pulisic in the 38th minute of action. The Chelsea star put his entire body on the line to put the ball past Iran’s Alireza Beiranvand, off two beautiful passes from Weston McKennie and Sergiño Dest. Unfortunately, Pulisic was removed from the match at halftime, as he suffered a pelvic contusion after colliding with Bieranvand. Pulisic has since publicly said he will be good to go for the USMNT’s next match.
The USMNT had another opportunity to score minutes after Pulisic’s goal when Timothy Weah put the ball through the net, but the goal was called off after a questionable offsides call that did not get reviewed.
Iran had plenty of opportunities throughout the match to even the score and send the United States home early. There were multiple shots Iran hit off the crossbar and over the net that would have evened the score, but through rock-solid play from the United States’ defense, they kept Iran off the board. Matt Turner — the USMNT goalkeeper — has not allowed a non-penalty goal throughout the tournament, and the only goal he conceded was a penalty shot from Wales’ Gareth Bale.
Next up for the USMNT is the Netherlands, who they’ll face on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. at Khalifa International Stadium. This will without a doubt be the toughest test for the United States, as the Dutch have been touted as one of the favorites to win the entire tournament. This will be the first time the United States and the Netherlands face off at the FIFA World Cup, and though many expect the Dutch to roll over the USMNT, there is still reason to believe an upset is possible.
The United States was able to keep England off the board for a full 90 minutes despite England’s loaded roster that includes prolific scorers such as Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford. The combination of McKennie and Pulisic gives the United States their most talented roster in a long time, and with the way their defense has been keeping teams out of the scoring column, anything is possible on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Erik Drost, Wikipedia.