The USMNT had only given up one goal heading into their Round of 16 match against the Netherlands.
In their three group stage matches, the Americans were often the better team with their finishing abilities the focal point as to why they needed to wait until the final matchday to qualify. But the feeling was good prior to their first knockout match.
Those feelings were boosted after Christian Pulisic had the first opportunity of the game just minutes into the match. But those hopes were quickly dashed after Memphis Depay broke the deadlock in the 10th minute, capping off a quality team goal from the Dutch.
A simple cutback into the box was enough to see the USMNT trail for the first time in this World Cup. The goal seemed to come as a shock as it took them a while to get back in the game. Little by little, however, the USMNT started creating dangerous attacks and despite failing to score, it looked like heading into the break only down a goal wasn’t a bad result.
But in a nearly identical scoring play, Daley Blind doubled the Netherlands’ lead after Denzel Dumfries cut the ball back inside the box where Blind shot the ball past a statuesque Matt Turner. Yet again, the US defense was caught out way too easily.
The goal came from a throw-in and Sergiño Dest was late in reacting on the back side. By the time he did, it was far too late.
The USMNT managed to cut the lead down to one courtesy of Haji Wright after the ball took a weird ricochet and went agonizingly into the side of the net.
US hopes didn’t last long as Dumfries scored the third Dutch goal around 5 minutes later in another poor defensive display.
Blind delivered a cross from the left to a completely unmarked Dumfries on the back side and no US defender saw fit to mark him. It cost them once again. The Inter Milan right back was a menace for the US the entire game, finishing with the clincher and two assists.
“This is a difficult one to handle,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It is such a good group of guys, it is such a close group of guys, and we came up short today but not for a lack of trying, not for a lack of effort. The guys poured everything they had into this game and unfortunately we lost it.”
It was a lack of concentration that did in the USMNT. Those mistakes were mistakes they had not made throughout the group stage. They picked the worst time to lose focus and it’s the reason why they’re out of the World Cup.
Sure, the finishing was lacking but the same could be said for the Netherlands. If the US could have scored a couple in the second half, then the Dutch could have scored twice as much. Especially with the way the US defense performed.
The saving grace is that the USMNT is a young team. But with many of their players playing in Europe, some of those mistakes cannot happen and age cannot be used as an excuse. This experience should serve as learning moment, however, with nothing left to do now but assess what went right and wrong and prepare for the World Cup in 2026.