USMNT will look for first quarterfinal appearance in 20 years against the Netherlands on Saturday

By Official Florida FC

The U.S. men’s national team defeated Iran for the first time in program history Tuesday afternoon to advance to the Round of 16 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Christian Pulisic put his body on the line in the 38th minute to score the American’s only goal of the game.

The USMNT will play the Netherlands in the Round of 16 on Saturday morning. Kickoff is slated for 10 a.m. EST.

Here are three thoughts from the first three games of the World Cup.

Forward play in reverse

Josh Sargent has not scored for the USMNT in more than 1,100 days. Haji Wright has never scored a non-penalty for his country.

And those are the two men who have started at center forward for the USMNT at the World Cup.

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter said he named Wright to the team because his form in the Turkish Super Lig merited it.

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter following a CONCACAF Nations League win over Canada in November 2019.

There has always been a difference between performing for club and country and that has rarely been more evident than at the No. 9 position.

France won its two world championships without a center forward who scored often. But, there major differences between Stéphane Guivarc’h in 1998 and Olivier Giroud four years ago compared to what Josh Sargent and Haji Wright have done to lead the line for the Americans. First, the two French forwards were renowned for selfless running, pressing and passing that allowed the creative players behind them to flourish.

Secondly, the quality of the attacking midfielders the French had in both of those tournaments far exceeds anyone who has ever worn the USMNT kit. (Thierry Henry couldn’t get off the bench in the 1998 World Cup final and Patrick Viera was a late substitute!)

All of that means, that whoever leads the line for the USMNT must produce goals.

The only knockout match the USMNT has ever won at a World Cup, the 2-0 win over Mexico in 2002, was changed by an early goal from Brian McBride. Landon Donovan provided the finishing touch after McBride made a nuisance of himself for the previous hour.

Sargent and Wright have yet to do either.

Adams is the true Captain America

Tyler Adams is the youngest captain of the 32 nations at the men’s FIFA World Cup. The 23-year-old from New York state has been a colossus at the base of midfield putting out fires when fullbacks Serginio Dest and Jedi Robinson race forward.

His range has allowed both fullbacks to join the attack in the group stage matches against England and Iran than they did in the 1-1 result against Wales in the World Cup opener.

More importantly, he is a vocal leader on the pitch who is not afraid to bark a teammate who is not handling their defensive duties.

Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Thomas Dooley were in their 30s when they captained the USMNT at a World Cup. Claudio Reyna was the midfield metronome for the 2002 World Cup team and was the culprit in the middle of the park when the USMNT was eliminated in the 2006 group stage.

The point is, Adams’ leadership and his play has belied his years. Because he can win the ball at such a successful rate – he won possession eight times, four duels and drew two fouls against Iran – the misfiring attack has more runners as it attempts to find its shooting boots.

Cottagers in the penthouse

Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream have individually and collectively excelled in defense for the USMNT.

Entering the tournament, there were massive questions about who would join Walker Zimmerman in central defense.

Miles Robinson tore his Achilles in May. Chris Richards sustained an injury this fall. Aaron Long was less than stellar in tune-up matches. Ream, an every match starter for Fulham in the English Premier League, was called into the team and showed the understanding of the game and composure on the ball that has been lacking from the left center back.

Ream has started all three matches and deserves to have his name written in ink as a starter against the Netherlands on Saturday.

He is a defender who has played more than 400 times in English soccer, helped his club win promotion to the Premier League three times and played on multiple Gold Cup rosters has seen almost everything imaginable on the pitch. His performances at the World Cup have shown his experience has been invaluable.

Jedi Robinson also took the Bolton Wanderers to Fulham to USMNT route that propelled Ream to the starting XI. He is the only reliable left back for the USMNT.

In World Cup qualifying, Jedi occasionally allowed opponents to get behind him. That has not been the case at the World Cup. He has picked his spots well and his touch when in possession has greatly improved. The latter is important because that means he is not getting caught upfield as often as he was back in qualifying.