The United States men’s national team was eliminated by the Netherlands in the Round of 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Saturday. First half goals from Memphis Depay and Daley Blind served as goals for Greg Berhalter’s side as the Americans left Qatar with a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands after a respectable season in the group stage. The Netherlands will face the winners from Argentina and Australia in the quarter-finals on Friday.
This was a game that showed how much the USMNT needed to grow as they were exposed to Dutch counters. This was a US team that had not conceded a goal in open play during the group stage prior to Saturday. Denzel Dumfries dominated the wing with two assists and a goal to his name.
The Americans exited without Josh Sargent, who did not dress due to an ankle injury and missed his presence with a lack of movement and space on offense. From excessively speeding their passes to not tracking the Dutch counters, the USA calmed down to play the game set up by Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.
In the first goal for the Netherlands national team, Coady Gakpo made space for Depay to run past the USA midfield to finish off a chance created by Dumfries. Again before half-time, defender Sergino Dest was caught flat-footed for Blind to finish at full-back to the full-back goal that drove home the Dutch style of play. Changes came in the first half when Gio Reina came on for Jesus Ferreira but it wasn’t enough to get back into the game. Haji Wright pulled one back from a Dutch collapse before Dumfries capped off their excellent game with an 81st-minute goal to put things out of sight.
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Meanwhile, the United States will have to wait until 2026 when it will host the next World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico. Here are three points from the match:
1. Learning experience
The United States squandered their chances going into the match while the Dutch made it their few chances. Once again, Berhalter got his tactics to start the match right. Pulisic and Weah were flying out of the gate, just as it was probably written, but they couldn’t find the final ball into the box. From ill-advised shots to dribbling too much, the USA did exactly what the Netherlands wanted them to.
Chances were there as they put pressure on the Dutch, but the USA only managed to maintain that pressure for 15 minutes of each half. Then, when they were caught, Holland was flying onto the pitch unmarked, showing the tightrope that Dest and Robinson walked by cheating so much. The defense is based on full-back play, and the Dutch defenders advanced aggressively because they were able to continually fall behind.
American defenders will need to do a better job of their positioning going forward in matches like this, but you don’t know where your weak spots are until they’re exposed on the big stage.
2. The end of an era
We are four years and one day into Greg Berhalter’s term in charge of the USMNT. Is it time to move on and appoint a new manager for every important tournament that involves the Americans hosting the World Cup and not necessarily having to qualify through CONCACAF? The track record of coaches who have lasted more than one cycle isn’t exactly great.
Berhalter has done an important job getting the team back on the world stage, but it’s fair to wonder if he took the team as far as possible.
“When you think about this group, and how they’ve come together in the past three and a half years, it’s really cool to see,” Berhalter told Fox reporter Jenny Taft after the game. “It doesn’t often get a bond like that between teammates, staff and everybody. I’m really proud of this group, but I’m very disappointed in tonight’s result.”
The bonds forged between the squad are important as most of them have played together at youth levels. However, Bethalter’s substitutions did not allow the team to function at its best. Bringing Reyna on after half time but playing him in the false nine didn’t cause much danger as he had to move wide to affect the match.
Despite scoring what appeared to be a poor goal, Wright also struggled during the World Cup. His performance once again made us wonder what could have been with Jordan Bivoc and/or Riccardo Pepe in the squad. When your striker scores one goal in four games, it’s only fair to wonder what happened there. Berhalter has nailed calls on Turner at goalkeeper and Reim at centre-back, which have been crucial to their success, but questions remain about how this can become a quality team for 2026.
Given the talent at the U-20 level, some players just need a little more experience under their belts. Having a manager with a back-pocket Plan B to change games after half-time might have curtailed a bit more of this game.
3. Don’t underestimate the Dutch
Assuming the Netherlands play Argentina in the next round, this is another opportunity for Van Gaal to use his scheme against a team that likes to retain possession. With Memphis at the right time, it gives the Dutch more of a lead. Norbert was strong in goal as well, and this was the best performance from Dumfries during the World Cup. Keep it up and they could cause an upset in the next round. Gakpo didn’t even need to score against the USA, but his movement made room for everyone on the team.