Missed chances, experience gap costly in World Cup exit

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – After advancing into the knockout stages of the World Cup with a strong, organized defense, the US men’s national team failed to bring the same sharpness into the round of 16 as they did against the Netherlands lost 1:3.

USA conceded just one goal and none from free play as they finished second to England in Group B. But in Saturday’s first knockout game, every goal came at a pivotal moment as it looked like USA were gaining momentum and dominating the game.

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“In the last three games, I would say we’ve defended moments very, very well,” said US captain Tyler Adams. “And today the three goals come from moments when we’re probably sleeping a bit.”

The US starting XI was the second youngest at the 2022 World Cup (25 years 86 days), surpassed only by the US XI that started the previous game against Iran (24 years 321 days).

And while that means there’s plenty of room for encouragement ahead of the 2026 World Cup being hosted by the United States alongside Canada and Mexico, Adams suggested it may have cost the team that night.

“It’s exciting, the more time together, the more growth we should have,” he told Fox.

“Nevertheless, for moments like this, we still have to develop individually into more mature players so that we can get to the top. Like I said, moments matter and today you can see that a slightly more experienced team has come along – the better of us.”

USA had most of the ball for the first nine minutes of the game and created perhaps the best scoring chance of the game in the third minute when Christian Pulisic was thwarted from close range by goalkeeper Andries Noppert.

“It hurts, man. It hurts,” Pulisic said of the missed shot. “I thought I was pretty offside when it happened but I still scored and he made a good save. It’s going to hurt for a while.”

While USA were plagued by that lack of excellence throughout qualifying and the first three games, the Netherlands showed what a clinical degree looks like.

It took the Dutch until the 10th minute to really get into the Americans’ defensive third, but they did so with a beautiful passing sequence that saw Denzel Dumfries clipping a pass back to late-arriving Memphis Depay – who left Adams and was free in Penalty area – for the opening goal.

“Their first attack was basically a goal and how long did it take them to generate an attack? We were clearly on top, clearly dominant,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter.

“We had a good moment, a chance to score, before that we didn’t score. It’s just moments where a player gets a little off here or there and ends up in the back of the net. And when you play at that level, when you play that high quality, that’s what happens.”

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The goal might have seemed to go against the flow of play, but it was exactly the moment that Dutch coach Louis van Gaal hoped to create by sitting low for most of the game.

Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk said he knew the US midfield was the team’s strength and deliberately did not put much pressure on the US defense to make it harder for the US midfield with Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie and Adams close .

The USA had some brilliant moments of possession – notably from Tim Weah and Sergino Dest – but they couldn’t generate much down the middle, where Jesus Ferreira started as a striker.

Ferreira said he was instructed to drop lower than US forwards – Josh Sargent (unavailable with an ankle injury) and Haji Wright – in their first three games to try and open space behind them, but the plan didn’t work and Gio Reyna came on at half-time in his place.

Seconds before half-time, the Dutch scored a throw-in in a similar order to the first. Dumfries, in turn, cut a pass back into the box and captain Daley Blind finished calmly.

The USA conceded a chaotic, unlucky goal from Wright in the 71st minute, which the Dutch also quickly and systematically answered.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usa/story/4824543/usa-missed-chancesexperience-gap-costly-in-world-cup-exit-to-netherlands Missed chances, experience gap costly in World Cup exit

Emma Bowman

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