DOHA, Qatar – The devastating blow that hit the U.S. It was class and ruthlessness personified, clockwork orange from front to back to front. It crushed the American optimism that had swelled over two weeks in Qatar, and eventually sent the American team to their traditional exit.
This led to the Netherlands 3, US It led to sleepy shoulders and weak voices, the products of a very sudden end.
The Americans were up for the Dutch challenge, capable of trading jabs with a European heavyweight in what sometimes felt like an even fight. “We were right in the game,” a good-natured Christian Pulisic said later.
But they are lost in moments, in split seconds that separate have and have-not.
They recovered from a two-goal halftime deficit, and pulled a goal back with 15 minutes remaining. Haji Wright’s angry, unclear finish awakened 44,846 fans from a slumber, and momentarily rekindled dreams.
But Denzel Dumfries answered a few minutes later. The fighting back is not enough. In the end, Dutch quality was.
The Yanks were more confident and anxious, and were on top for the whole eight minutes. Then they are beaten while snoozing by soccer royalty. The Netherlands lulled them into a trance, then pounced with talent unlike any the US. it. Saw in the World Cup. Frankie de Jong played with them. Memphis Depay picked them out in midfield, then punished Taylor Adams and his midfield teammates for lagging.
“Those three goals came from moments where we probably slept a little bit,” Adams admitted.
On the stroke of half-time, Daley Blind scored the second, sneaking through a half-step-slow defence. And with that, even though there were 45 minutes left to play, a World Cup campaign that had offered so much hope seemed to end in disgrace.
“That was brutal. To give up that extra goal was brutal,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “There’s no real excuse for that. Everything that could go wrong in the game did.”
The US it. Had several notable chances and one glorious opportunity to write a different script. A ping-pong ball bounced to Pulisic all alone in the penalty area after just three minutes.
“I thought I was a lot off when it happened,” Pulisic said after the game, but he wasn’t. “I still hit it,” he said, but Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert made a good save.
When asked if he wanted the opportunity back, Pulisic said: “Of course, man. It hurts.”
A goal there would have changed the game. A goal changed the game six minutes later. The Dutch swung the ball side to side in their own defensive third, then pinged it in and out of midfield, with rhythmic movement and four consecutive one-touch passes that made Adams and Weston McKennie dizzy. Adams then lost track of Depay, who slotted home their first goal from open play against the US. it. All tournament.
But two more would come, with Dumfries the main threat down the Dutch right.
And it was the players who fueled so much optimism for the present and future, who made costly mistakes. Perhaps their legs have gone after three Herculean group-stage efforts. Maybe they were paralyzed from that moment. Perhaps the Dutch, the godfathers of so many of the tactics and styles that define modern football, are just one step ahead.
They, the Dutch, were also a well-drilled unit that did not lose under manager Louis van Gaal. They also have strikers who have played or will play in the world’s biggest clubs, while the US He was overwhelmed by the stage and stature of the opponent, and was replaced by the underused Gio Reyna at half-time.
But the defeat was not about individuals. Maybe it was about fatigue. It was mostly about a level that the Netherlands rose to, and that the U.S. it. Has not reached yet.
On paper, it leaves the USMNT exactly where it was in 2010 and 2014, with a single World Cup win and a Round of 16 exit. The optimistic expectation is that this was achieved with the youngest team in the tournament. This run was fueled by progressive soccer, and by a reformed youth development system that has only gotten better over the decade since it produced the team’s current stars.
The stars, meanwhile, will be in their prime when the men’s World Cup comes to home soil less than four years from now. Pulisic, McKennie and Adams will be 27. Tim Weah will be 26. Brenden Aaronson and Sergiño Dest will be 25. Reyna and Yunus Musah will be 23.
But that was then. Here and now, at the Khalifa, Adams Keel over, then fell to one knee, then sank in a crash, then on his butt, deflated, defeated.
As orange-clad players swung their arms at each other and jumped with freedom in the center circle, zombie-like stars of USA. it. Players performed the Doha air.
Minutes later, in the US it. Locker room, “The silence [was] Deaf, Turner said. “Everyone is disappointed, everyone is in a sad mood.”
“I think the future is bright. A lot of young guys and a lot to look forward to,” said Aaronson. “But, not really thinking about that right now.”
They met about this moment, lived in this moment. They listened to the “grandfather” of their group, Tim Ream, who preached to the young 20-somethings: “Treat each training session as if [it’s your] Last, each and every game as if [it’s your] last”.
He knew many of them would have more World Cups to chase. “But for me,” he said at age 35, “that’s not going to happen.”
As he stood motionless on the field, he met on his journey. As the 26th of 26 players in a post-match interview zone, he sounded with emotion. He was disappointed, just like the others.
But also grateful for the opportunity and for a group of relatives and children who fought for his name one by one.
“I tried to convey to the guys: You’re never guaranteed anything in this game,” he said. “I’ve seen them take that advice in the three weeks we’ve been together. So, yeah, I just hope they continue to do that.