Alvin Jones, Staff Writer
Christian Pulisic (left) dribbles with Denzel Dumfries (right). Photo//Mohammad Karamali/Getty/Defodi Images
It has been an intense tournament for the USMNT, the tournament's second youngest team. On Saturday, the Americans faced their biggest challenge. The Netherlands, going into the game with an 18-game undefeated streak, were loaded with talent. Early tournament standout Cody Gakpo had three goals in the group stage. Midfielder Frankie De Jong and the ever-reliable Virgil Van Djik in defense have helped establish the Dutch as one of the tournament's favorites.
The game started with an early chance from Christian Pulisic. Pulisic got played through on goal by capitan Tyler Adams, but he could not put the ball past keeper Andries Noppert, playing his first game of the tournament. Noppert made a brilliant save to deny the American #10.
The Dutch struck first via Barcelona striker Memphis. After a string of passes, Denzel Dumfries cut the ball back to a wide-open, unmarked Memphis. Memphis finished low past Matt Turner for the opener.
The Americans held possession for most of the game, but failed to find a decent chance. A 42nd minute longshot from Tim Weah was the only real opportunity. Before half-time, the Dutch struck another blow. Daley Blind scored from another Dumfries cutback. Blind finished with composure, and the Americans limped into the locker room 2-0 down and needing a spark.
The second half saw renewed pressure from the Americans. The USMNT found a string of solid chances, aided by the arrival of Gio Reyna, Haji Wright, and Brendan Aaronson to the game.
A 48th minute corner found Tim Ream, who had a shot cleared off the line by Dumfries. Wright found his way past Noppert but had his shot cleared off the line.
The Americans found a lifeline via an unusual goal from Wright in the 76th minute. A cross from Pulisic deflected off Wright’s heel and floated into the net. The ball traveled from Wright’s position in front of the six-yard box into the top left hand corner.
Hope, excitement, and optimism for the US was soon crushed by an efficient goal from the Dutch. A cross by Blind found Dumfries at the back post unmarked by Robinson and Ream, game over. With two assists, a crucial goal-line clearance, and a goal, Dumfries easily won man of the match.
The Dutch, who have never won the World Cup, are clear favorites to win. They will play Messi and Argentina in the Quarterfinal for a place in the Semi.
For the Americans, a sign of how wide the gap in quality is between themselves and the top of the world. Still, this tournament showed signs of promise for the US.
A bevy of young players: Dest, Arronson, Pulisic, Adams, Turner, Robinson and many others have the potential to be great players for the US. The Americans will qualify for and co-host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico. The long road to 2026 begins now.