AL RAYYAN, Qatar — After riding a stout, organized defense to advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup, the United States men’s national team failed to bring the same sharpness to the round of 16 in a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands.
The US conceded just one goal, and none from open play, as they finished second in Group B behind England. But in Saturday’s first knockout game, each goal came at a crucial moment when it seemed like the US were building momentum and having the better of the play.
“In the past three games, I’d say we defended the moments really, really well,” US captain Tyler Adams said. “And today the three goals come from moments where we’re probably sleeping a little bit.”
The US starting lineup was the second youngest at the 2022 World Cup (25 years, 86 days) second only to the US XI that began the previous match against Iran (24 years, 321 days).
And, while that means there is plenty of room for encouragement looking ahead to the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States along with Canada and Mexico, Adams suggested it may have cost the team on this night.
“It’s exciting, the more time together the more growth we should have,” he told Fox.
“But having said that, we still need to develop individually to more mature players for moments like this so we can come out on top. Like I said, it comes down to the moments and today you can see a little bit more experienced team got the better of us.”
For the game’s first nine minutes, the US had the bulk of the possession and created perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the third minute when Christian Pulisic was denied from close range by goalkeeper Andries Noppert.
“It hurts, man. It hurts,” Pulisic said of the miss. “I thought I was way offside when it happened, but I still hit it and he made a good save. It’s going to hurt for a while.”
While that lack of cutting edge plagued the US throughout qualifying and in the first three games, the Netherlands showed what clinical finishing looks like.
It took until the 10th minute for the Dutch to make a real push into the Americans’ defensive third, but they did so on a beautiful passing sequence that saw Denzel Dumfries cut back a pass to the late-arriving Memphis Depay — who left behind Adams and was free in the box — for the opening goal.
“Their first attack was basically a goal and how long did it take them to generate an attack? We were clearly on top, clearly dominant,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said.
“We had a good moment, goal-scoring opportunity before that we didn’t score. It’s just moments that a player’s off a little bit here or there and it ends up in the back of the net. And when you play at this level, when you play this high quality, that’s what happens.”
The goal might have seemed like it came against the run of play, but it was exactly the type of moment Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal hoped to set up by sitting deep for most of the game.
Netherlands center-back Virgil van Dijk said they knew the US midfield was the strength of the team and purposely didn’t apply much pressure to the US backline in order to make things more difficult for the US midfield of Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie and Adams.
Ferreira said he was instructed to drop deeper than the US strikers — Josh Sargent (unavailable because of an ankle injury) and Haji Wright — did in their first three games to try to open space behind, but the plan didn’t work and Gio Reyna was subbed on at the half in his place.
Seconds before halftime, the Dutch scored off a throw-in on an similar sequence to the first. Dumfries, again, cut back a pass into the box and captain Daley Blind calmly finished.
The US got a chaotic, fluky goal back through Wright in the 71st minute, to which the Dutch also quickly answered in systemic fashion.