US achieved a lot in Qatar, but left everyone wanting more


Al Rayyan, Qatar — Greg Berhalter and his assistant coach weren’t sure what to say. It was half time on Saturday night. United States of america The men’s national team was trailing Netherlands By two goals. Their tournament life was in the swing, but the American players, having dominated so much of the opening 45 minutes, played the way they wanted to, with a heavily favored Dutch side fighting back even though they were on the losing side. Were.

What could Berhalter say to his players? Finally, he stepped into the room.

“Football can be cruel sometimes,” he said.

That’s true, especially at this level. It often seems silly to attach so much importance to the World Cup. four games? Even in the NFL, it’s one piece. And yet, in international football, it is everything.

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This group of American players captivated their country in all four of those games. He forced soccer into the public consciousness to places that those four sports rarely go. He made an impact in those four games and he did it in the best possible way: with energy and engagement and talent and a timelessness that made even the most casual fans feel like magic could happen.

This US team wasn’t just a bunch of athletes who could run fast and kick the ball hard. This was no coincidence. The American program has evolved, as have its fans. Everyone knows that Netherlands 3, USA 1 was not a defeat.

However, everyone also knows that making it past the round of 16 isn’t nearly enough. not anymore.

Berhalter said, “We set out with a goal to show the rest of the world how we can play football.” “I think we partially achieved that, even though we fell short of our goals.”

Berhalter wouldn’t say what those goals were. Nor the player, not out loud. Still, everyone knew: his first half against the Netherlands must have been as encouraging as everyone else was against the draw England or win IranIt was still a ride that made a stop feel short.

Did America deserve the quarterfinals? They didn’t. The Dutch were clinical in their finishing and the Americans were not very much. But there’s also no denying that America has shown more than once that it has the players to make it to the last eight of a tournament like this.

They have the ability to be dangerous against anyone.

“I think it’s probably the first time in a long time that people will say, ‘There’s something special about this team,'” the skipper said. Tyler Adams, “The potential is just potential but you can see that if we maximize it in the right way, something can happen out there.”

There are clear holes. This tournament highlighted how much America is missing a striker, someone who can seize a singular opportunity and turn a game upside down.

As Berhalter himself admitted, “We don’t have a memphis depe immediately.”

Although they have good players. they have a midfield for the future Yunus Musa And Weston McKenney Coming in his prime. they have wingers, with christian pulisic And timothy wow Showing how much damage they can cause. They have a leader in Adams, who is everything one could wish for in a captain. They have depth and level, to the point that it’s fair to wonder how much Giovanni Reyna either Branden Aaronson Had he played more than sat on the bench, things could have turned around for the US.

A young team like this will always make mistakes, and on Saturday, America paid the price every time. Pulisic, who scored the game-winner against Iran, fumbled a close-range opportunity just two minutes in that could have set the tone. Adams, who may have been the best American on the field in the first three games, mentally missed and did not track Memphis to the penalty area, giving him a perfect view of the first Dutch goal. sergino destinationSo excellent against the Iranians, got off and lost his mark on the second just before half time.

The goalkeeper said, “Everything that could have gone wrong on that play, went wrong.” matt turner Told.

The thing is, those moments were the exception. America was hardly perfect, but it imposed itself. They had more shots, more shots on target, more passes (by a wide margin). Dutch coach Louis van Gaal Called his team’s first half performance “unacceptable”. Berhalter said the US “dominated”, and it wasn’t by much.

Some would point to that and call it progress for America. To be able to unsettle a European power like England, as the Americans did in the group stage, and the chances they created in the knockout round against the Dutch, is certainly no small feat.

But this is a team with more ambition and a fanbase that wants the same. Whether it’s Berhalter or someone else who leads them, expectations have to be higher than the kind of progress that feels so unsatisfying.

Ultimately, what is that stabbing, jarring dagger of incompleteness. This tournament was definitely something special for the US: encouraging growth, the way it felt here and back at home. The way these players got a chance to live out their childhood fantasy together.

He ran He followed. They pressed and pushed and prodded. they fought together. They danced together. They worked together so that anyone who overlooked or ignored them would take notice.

These players have achieved a lot in four matches. But in four games, he did enough to make everyone believe there should have been more.

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