US Men’s National Team’s outstanding play propels them to the next stage of the World Cup

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter embraces midfielder Yunus Musah in celebration of their 1-0 victory over Iran.

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USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter embraces midfielder Yunus Musah in celebration of their 1-0 victory over Iran.

Ayel Kikama, Staff Writer

The U.S. men’s soccer team has taken the 2022 Qatar World Cup by storm. They’ve played well enough to progress out of the group stage in second place from Group B. With the first knockout stage match against the Netherlands coming up on Saturday, I look at how the team has fared so far in the tournament, as well as what they have to do to beat the Dutch in their next game.

The U.S. team opened up their World Cup campaign with a disappointing draw against Wales. Timothy Weah gave the side a lead going into halftime before a rash tackle by Walker Zimmerman on Gareth Bale gave the Welsh forward a penalty that he converted to level the game at 1-1. A frustrating game for the U.S. as they dominated the first half, but then decided to sit back throughout the second half which allowed Wales to get back into the game. Despite the frustrations, the team could still be happy with a positive performance in their first World Cup match in 8 years. Their second group match was the highly anticipated clash against England, ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings. This didn’t seem to have any effect on the players as they went out and gave a great team performance. This performance was still only enough for a 0-0 draw. But yet again, it was another positive performance by the team and considering the underdog status they had going into the game, a draw was more than an acceptable result. This set up a must win game against Iran in the final group game. The U.S. was 1 point behind Iran and  win was needed to take them into second place in the group. The U.S. once again put in a solid performance to win 1-0 from a goal by star player Christian Pulisic, who later went off injured in the aftermath of the goal. The group stage ended with the U.S. finishing second in the group behind England. This second place finish means that they will play the Netherlands, who topped group A, in the round of 16. 

While the whole team deserves praise for their performance during the tournament so far, special praise has to go out to the midfield trio of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah and captain Tyler Adams. McKennie has provided great versatility and experience throughout the tournament which has allowed Musah, who became the youngest player ever to start for the USMNT at the World Cup, to use his energy and technical skills to control games and keep the ball for his team. Tyler Adams was named captain of the team just before the tournament and he’s showing exactly why. His defensive abilities, combined with his leadership and organizational skill, have given a balance to this team that has never really been seen before. This trio has been the driving force for the U.S. team and if they have any hopes of going deep in this tournament, the midfield of McKennie, Musah and Adams needs to stick together and play every possible minute. 

The next game for the U.S. comes against the Netherlands and it will definitely be one of their toughest games so far this tournament. The Dutch come into this game having topped their group relatively comfortably, with 2 wins and a draw. They carry a solid combination of youth and experience, so many see them as a team that can go deep in the tournament. The U.S. will have to focus on dominating the middle of the field using the strength and power of their midfield trio. The Netherlands also have a tendency to lose control of games when they get physical, so as long as the U.S. play as a team and make it difficult for the Netherlands to get control of the game from the first minute, winning this game is not at all out of the realm of possibility.

The U.S. has already made the nation proud in this tournament and have definitely shown the world that we are on the rise in the national stages of soccer, but the team seems determined for more at this tournament. Support the U.S. team in their game against the Netherlands at 9:00 am on Saturday, Dec. 3.