Disappointment but clear hope for US men’s soccer after World Cup run
How should we feel as within our nation’s soccer community about our latest men’s national team performance on the world stage? Good question.
In the coaching community, although the World Cup performance against England and earning advancement from the group stages in Qatar gave us encouragement, Round of 16 output against the Dutch deflated us. We saw the USMNT being outclassed and outcoached by the Netherlands.
Louis van Gaal, the highly-decorated Netherlands coach, showed that he respected the USMNT threat seriously enough to use it against them.
First of all, the Oranje took away the cog of our 4-3-3 system by marking our center halfback Tyler Adams, effectively taking him out the equation. Still, in the first two minutes, Adams did pull off a wonderful pass to Christian Pulisic, but the latter’s shot was weak and deflected off of Dutch keeper Andries Noppert’s leg. That could have been a game changer.
The Netherlands remained content to allow the USMNT to aggressively attack which led them to being vulnerable to the counter. And without Adams being able to keep the attack balanced in the attacking third, counters were inevitable.
Physically better field veterans that played confidently were a clear edge for the Netherlands. It only took 10 minutes for the Dutch to take advantage of their 3-5-2 midfield setup, building the ball to the attacking third and putting a surgically placed ball across the penalty area to an unmarked Memphis Depay. The ensuing shot was drilled while a dismayed and trailing Adams watched helplessly.
In the 42nd minute, Tim Weah hit a shot that was impressive but was cleared by Noppert. In stoppage time of the opening half, Sergino Dest was caught flat footed defending his area while Daley Blind ran into the vacant space to the side of Dest. From there, Denzel Dumphries was able to slice the back line of the American again for a commanding 2-0 lead.
What was frustrating from the coaches point of view was that the USMNT came into the second half with no real adjustments. The Dutch seemed to be cruising to the next round. The game got interesting when Pulich was able to play a ball on a cross that bounced off of Haji Wright’s foot into the goal. A breath of hope was all it was. The Dutch immediately responded when Blind returned a favor back to Dumphries who found himself wide open outside of the goal because of confusion on the back line.
Okay, you have the basic coaching breakdown. Now, where does this leave us for 2026? As a coach with a vested interest in the long term success of soccer in this country, I say in great shape.
The World Cup is the highest stage of sport. Our team was the second youngest in the World Cup with a first-time head coach. Some are calling for Gregg Berhalter to be replaced after Saturday’s disappointment but I am not one of them. What if Puilisic would have scored on that early chance? The Dutch would have had to decide whether to stay in their defensive shape or chase the game full throttle which could have been to the USMNT’s favor. Plus, the Americans had a few chances to score as well.
I think, at this level, you have to give Berhalter at least one more chance in 2026. He will be more seasoned as will the squad he can build. Our team will be almost have same personnel as their foundation in four years, making his decision to bring the youth to this World Cup and get the first time jitters out of their system a good call.
Also, you have to experience something as serious as a World Cup before you can expect to win one. The USMNT missed out on that in 2018. Now all of our roster can train knowing what kind of game to to expect, not only physically, but mentally and dare I say spiritually as well. Most of our players are playing for top flight teams in Europe, and four years of this level of play will do nothing but better everyone on the team.
Playing at home is an advantage as well when 2026 rolls around. I’m finally as optimistic as when we finished the 2002 campaign one goal short of beating Germany in South Korea.
So fans, don’t panic just yet. I saw the last few weeks not as an ending but the start of our campaign towards a North American-based World Cup run in three-and-a-half years time. Yes, having the Cup in the winter takes six months away from the long wait till the next one.
I hope that then will be talking about at least semifinal appearance as opposed to the USMNT just clearing the group stage.
You can listen to more of my take on the game on our podcast Monday Night Futbol which we will share here on CCS.
- < PREV Saints-Falcons set for kickoff December 18 at noon
- NEXT > Sharp's high-scoring week nets Lou Henson national honor, SLC Player of the Week award
2013 – Present…Head Soccer Coach, De La Salle High School 2007 – 2011…Head Soccer Coach, Archbishop Shaw High School 2004 – Present…Director of Coaching for Soccer Innovations of America 2006…Asst. Head Coach, St. Martin’s Girls Team 2006…ODP Louisiana Staff Coach 1986-2005…Brother Martin High School; Head coach 1986; 1994 -2004 State Champions 2000 2000 District 10 Div. I Coach of the…