The United States took on the Netherlands for their round of 16 match. The all-time record between the United States and The Netherlands is 1-4-0. They have not met in the world cup before. Their last match was back in 2015. That game ended in a 4-3 United States win.
I knew it was going to be an uphill battle for the United States. I thought it was winnable though. I thought it would be a strong defensive match. I knew there was no room for mistakes. I thought that the USA counter-attack was going to be the main point of interest in the match. The biggest drawback to this match was the kickoff time. I can’t wait until 2026 when all of the matches will be in North America.
Both teams started playing fast. It looked like neither team wanted to have the ball in their own end for too long. The Netherlands would score first. They scored in the 10′ minute. They put the ball into the middle of the box keeping it on the ground. It found an open Netherlands player who put it away. The Netherlands add to their lead in the 45+1′ minute. On a similar play to their first goal The ball was put in the middle of the box. The Netherlands player got just enough space to take a shot. Then the shot went in. The United States were getting plenty of chances but players were not getting open. That lead to turnovers or mistakes. The United States were also not connecting on passes. They would get the ball in a dangerous area and have nothing to show for it. The score was 2-0 Netherlands going into the second half.
The second half was more of the same. as the match went on the United States was slower to take the ball up the pitch. The United States would bring their deficit to within one goal. In the 76′ minute (how fitting) they would score. The Netherlands failed to control the ball after a USA corner kick. The turnover would result in a quick chance for the United States. The ball was put into the middle of the box and found the back of the net in a nifty move by Haji Wright.
The Netherlands would crush the United States’ hopes of a comeback with a goal in the 81′ minute. On that goal, the Netherlands crossed the ball into the opposite side of the box. It found a wide-open Netherlands player. With plenty of time and space, he found the back of the net. The final score was a 1-3 loss.
The thing that stood out to me the most was the lack of energy. As the game went on, it looked like the United States was taking the ball up the pitch slower and slower. Like there was no rush for the United States to create chances. This is something that is irritating about US Soccer as a whole because this is not a stand-alone incident. Down by multiple goals there is no reason not to move the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible. The lack of goal scoring and lack of creating quality chances caught up with the team in this match. I don’t know if these issues will ever be solved. The US Soccer Federation has a lot of issues. From the top down. I don’t see them being fixed. The USSF is money first and as long as they put money first they wont be able to develop world class soccer players. I mean that like the executives will take a pay raise over creating a meaningful youth development program. Things need to change. It isn’t an easy fix either. Just adding promotion and relegation to professional soccer in the United States wont fix issues the USSF has in their office. Adding promotion and relegation won’t fix youth development (yes it will give clubs more incentive to develop youth talent but that is more localized and on a nation wide scale). The United States has a huge problem with youth players wanting to play in Europe or leaving the states to play. I think that is largely a culture issue caused by the problems of youth development here in the United States.
The United States had the majority of the shots. They also had the majority of possession. It just goes back to the United States not creating enough high-quality chances.
I wish this could be a moment where we were proud of what our team accomplished. Instead, we sit here and discuss how we can do better and what we should do moving forward. North America is hosting the next world cup. As co-hosts with Canada and Mexico, we have automatically qualified for that. That tournament will also expand the number of teams. The question now is what will change? It will be a different team. However will the outcome be the same. Will it be another team that can’t find the back of the net? A lot can change in four years. A lot can also stay the same. I think the felling amongst US Soccer fans right now is not excitement for what is to come but just a feeling that we need to do better.