US loses to Netherlands in round of 16

Illustration

Edward Segal

Illustration

Edward Segal, Sports Editor

Christian Pulisic made a promise that he would return for the match against the Netherlands. He was cleared to play after suffering a pelvic contusion during Tuesday’s game against Iran, when he flew in for the goal that moved the United States into the knockout stage.

Determined to fulfill his promise and then some, Pulisic immediately found a one-on-one opportunity to put the ball into the back of the net. After a Dutch clearance, U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams flipped the ball into the center of the box where Pulisic stood alone, but Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert saved Pulisic’s shot, extending his leg to deflect the ball away.

Seven minutes later, the U.S. allowed the Netherlands to go on the counterattack, and the Dutch converted on a cross as defender Denzel Dumfries found forward Memphis Depay at the top of the box for an easy goal.

The United States entered the game as one of four teams that never trailed in the group stage — the others being Morocco, England and the Netherlands. The U.S. was also the only team to do so while scoring fewer than four goals.

Once the Dutch scored in the 10th minute, the U.S. kept coming short of tying the game.

The Americans continued to find opportunities in the first half, but the Dutch struck again before the halftime whistle, doubling their lead off a cross from Dumfries to defender Daley Blind at the top of the box. This put the match out of reach for the U.S., as they had not scored more than one goal in any game in the tournament.

The United States has made the World Cup five out of seven times in the modern soccer era. Their only win at the stage of 16 since 1990 came in the 2002 World Cup, when the U.S. roster featured their current head coach, Gregg Berhalter, and midfielder Giovanni Reyna’s dad, Claudio Reyna.

This World Cup, the Americans have been able to hold for draws despite struggling to finish in the final third, largely due to their patience moving the ball and their solid recovery defense. But the Netherlands found a way to become the first team to score more than once against the U.S. in the tournament, which proved enough to get them to the next round.

The U.S. had a brilliant opportunity at the start of the second half. A mere 3 1/2 minutes in, they won a corner kick on a counterattack. Pulisic crossed the ball for midfielder Weston McKennie, who headed the ball toward the far post, where a falling Tim Ream tried kicking the ball past the goal line before Dutch forward Cody Gakpo cleared it.

The Americans continued to pressure over the next 20 minutes, but to no avail. The Dutch picked up momentum after the clock reached 70 and found opportunities to go up 3-0.

In the 71st minute, U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner made a diving save on a long shot from eight feet outside the penalty area, and recovered to make another save when a Dutch player tried to head the ball in off the rebound.

The U.S. regained possession and started getting desperate. They almost cut the lead in half off a turnover by Depay in the 74th minute. His backward pass gave U.S. forward Haji Wright the ball with only the keeper to beat, but Noppert came forward to force Wright toward the baseline. Wright fired toward the net, but a Dutch defender recovered just in time to clear the ball out of bounds for a U.S. corner.

On the ensuing corner, the ball exited the penalty area but the U.S. worked it back in. Pulisic dribbled the ball toward the baseline and centered it a tad behind Wright, who flipped it with his heel, curving the ball past the defenders and into the net.

The U.S. went on a counterattack as they looked to tie moments later, but Noppert came out again to kick the ball away after a through pass. Pulisic had another opportunity a minute later, but his left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area was too weak and the ball rolled into Noppert’s hands.

But in the 81st minute, the Dutch overcame the pressure as Blind crossed the ball to Dumfries, who was wide open at the far post. He curved the ball past Turner and sealed the match for the Netherlands.

Nine Dutch defenders swarmed the U.S. attacking half for the remaining 15 minutes, blocking nearly every shot the Americans took and giving the U.S. no clean opportunities. The Netherlands hung on to win 3-1, and will now play Argentina, who defeated Australia 2-1, in the quarterfinals.

This defeat marked 12 straight games in which the U.S. is winless against European teams at the World Cup.

Now that the young U.S. team has World Cup experience, they will prepare to kickoff a new era of World Cup soccer four years from now. As the last of the 2026 World Cup hosts heads for the exit — following Mexico and Canada, who lost in the group stage — the focus is on which team can cap off this era with a victory.