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Ruthless and clinical Dutch teach young Americans a World Cup lesson


DOHA, Qatar — The scene in the U.S. men’s national team locker room after Saturday’s World Cup loss to the Netherlands was funereal. The normally boisterous young American bunch was left stunned and speechless after a humbling 3-1 loss to the Dutch, and as much as

“The silence was deafening,” USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “Everyone’s disappointed. Everyone was in like a somber mood because we knew that we could compete in this game. And we did do that, but competing and losing doesn’t make us all feel better so it’s disappointing for sure.”

The disappointment the Americans felt wasn’t just about the end of their World Cup journey, but also about a performance that had far too many mistakes to survive. The USMNT was always going to need to be at their best to beat the Dutch, and despite the post-game talk about how well they feel they played, the Americans were simply not good enough.

Unlike their play in the group stage, the Americans didn’t defend well against the Dutch, blowing simple assignments left and right, and they didn’t take the chances that did come their way. Christian Pulisic’s third-minute chance was saved well, but that was the kind of golden chance the Americans were going to need to finish in order to make history. Tim Weah also had his chance to score before halftime, but saw it saved, and shortly after the Dutch scored the eventual winning goal.

Conversely, the Dutch were clinical with their chances. Memphis Depay made no mistake when Denzel Dumfries picked him out in the penalty area, as was Daley Blind, and a wide-open Dumfries for the final goal.

After the match, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter lamented the fact his team doesn’t have a Memphis Depay, a proven international striker with the top-tier pedigree. It was a harsh, yet honest and accurate statement, though it can also be said that the Americans don’t have a Louis Van Gaal either.

Berhalter had things he could be criticized for on Saturday, including the decision to start Jesus Ferreira rather than figuring out a way to get Gio Reyna into the starting lineup, but it was tough to point the blame at Berhalter’s tactical strategy for the breakdowns on the Netherlands goals. Failing to track runners on all three goals were individual defensive breakdowns, not a product of the USMNT game plan.

If Berhalter was to blame for those breakdowns it was because of how little he rotated his squad during the tournament, having nine players start all four matches. USMNT players were asked repeatedly after the match if fatigue played a part, and they all refused to concede that, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

Despite the defensive breakdowns, and the wasteful finishing on the precious few chances the Americans created, they were still in the game with a chance after Haji Wright’s fluke finish. Matt Turner’s second-half heroics and the relentlessness of the USMNT provided one final push, but the hope vanished as quickly as it materialized, with Denzel Dumfries capitalizing on a tired defense that inexplicably lost sight him despite him being the Dutch team’s most dangerous player on the night.

The Netherlands showed their quality, and no amount of possession or total shots changes the fact the Dutch were in control of the match for the majority of the night. The Americans had some stretches with the ball, but few of them ever felt truly dangerous, and more often than not it felt like the Dutch were letting the Americans lead while they waited for the inevitable moments to pounce.

Losing to the Dutch is nothing to be ashamed of for this young American team. The Netherlands is stacked with elite talent all over the field, and Van Gaal has them playing as a cohesive unit. They are also a team brimming with experience, and that combination of talent, experience and good coaching was always going to be difficult for the Americans to overcome, even on their best day.

As crushing as Saturday’s loss felt, it doesn’t erase what was overall a good World Cup showing for the youngest team to reach the knockout rounds. The Americans came into the tournament with plenty of expectations, and they delivered a set of performances that gave American soccer fans a reason to believe the future is bright, and this group labeled a Golden Generation just might be able to develop into something special.

“We didn’t qualify for the last World Cup and here we are in the round 16. We’ve definitely come a long way,” Pulisic said. “Right now, it’s just tough, it hurts after a tough loss like that, when we feel like we could have had more.”

The part that hurts, and the part that left USMNT players stunned and understandably shattered, is that they didn’t deliver their best when they needed it the most. A reality that will sting as they board their flights back home, and hopefully it is a reality that serves as fuel for this young group as it builds towards 2026, when the World Cup comes to the United States.


  1. I think it was Bora who said soccer is like chess, but the pieces can think. (Anyway, they should think.)

    When the US began the attack from the back, the Dutch covered our 4 defenders with 2 players and surrendered the space up the middle up to about 35 yards out. The US could not figure out what to do when the passing lane between the CBs and FBs was cutoff so the CBs exchanged passes perfectly unmolested and slowly carried the ball up the middle. Our FBs pinched in to get closer to the ball, but were still effectively covered by the forwards and our midfield moved more centrally as well. That ended up with the US having to control the ball centrally while facing 5 or 6 defenders in what was now a very congested space. That did not work! The players should have seen this and avoided the trap the Dutch set, they did not. It was very seldom that the US tried anything different except when they got the ball on a turnover.

    At half-time the coaching staff should have told the players to play more quickly. Make passes direct to the wings behind the Dutch defense before the Dutch could back up at a leisurely pace, reduce the space behind them and keep everything in front of their defense. Or, one fullback could have moved centrally for the express purpose of receiving a pass from a CB and kicking it out to the other FB who stayed wide. A change to a 352 could have made some sense as well. While the possibilities are endless.

    I saw no change in the 2nd half other than the sub that effectively simply exchanged one player in a tough spot for a different player in the same tough spot.

    • they were leggy from the beginning because they were run into the ground, but what were Berhalter’s options considering we had too many players coming back from injury before Qatar(McKennie, Dest, Gio, Luca, Jedi), or players simply not fully match fit because of a lack of club minutes for various reasons(CP, Weah, Gio, Zimmerman, Ferreira). Now, one can argue that Jesus and Zimmerman not be on the roster given how early they were bounced from the MLS playoffs, but I thought Zimm actually played well outside of the penalty. When we have quality depth on the bench and our starters are difference makers for their clubs is when will we start to see our NT take that next step. It’s crazy that we can’t find a competent ST, when we’ve seemingly always had a reliable one in past WC’s(except maybe 2014 via injury to Johansson and Jozy in Brasil), because every other position is a strength in our pool!

      • let’s be real, in 4 years Z will be over 30 and lucky to even make the next team. you will have miles and richards hopefully healthy. hopefully some other new blood. you will have a fairly old Z and CCV also around 30. i also think we need to rethink our wingback concept but that’s not happening with this coach. the one grand change he’s made to his system was how we handled the 6, from passing 6s to tyler adams. everything other than that is just selection and not rethinking his scheme. we did play other ways in group but when we defaulted back to his scheme for holland it was basically how it’s been played since adams won the job.

        personally i think the table and results tell you whether your ideas are working and it said to us “meh.” i am uncomfortable at the same coach in the same look with 99% of the same faces. people like the players but we didn’t get the results to justify that stasis, not as tactics, not as personnel.

      • “I thought Zimm actually played well outside of the penalty. ”

        I’m not sure his otherwise good play was enough to make up for that mistake. The nature of the World Cup is that one mistake can go a very long way.

        That penalty meant one point instead of three
        With three a draw vs. England means four points.
        Chances are this makes it possible that the result of the Iran game would not matter.

        Meaning Gregg would have had a game to rest his guys.

        If that happens who knows how the Holland game goes?

        This is all theoretical of course. Maybe Gregg still blows the rotational opportunity and the Netherlands game.

        But don’t underestimate how big a deal that mistake by Zimmerman was.

    • one of their coaches said we didn’t adjust. he seemed to consider that odd because he said feeling like you can just play your way is more of an elite thing. some took that as a compliment but i took it the opposite, as presumptuous.

      i did feel like we had some success late by simply throwing numbers up high but we also shipped another goal so it netted zero improvement. 2-0 became 3-1.

  2. we had our moments but they were generally high effort and courage and not system beauty or technical virtuosity. if the women ever looked this clunky or went out this early the coach would be gone. but that to me speaks to the difference between the teams on expectations. if the women don’t feel comfortable with tactics and style, the coach disappears. if the coach doesn’t win or at least put them in a semi or final, the coach disappears. you then have to fill those expectations with concrete work to make superior players and to come up with innovative or successful tactics.

    i still think buried beneath the claims to want to be better a chunk of the fanbase is content to just be a xerox of a xerox of a xerox of pep and go out whenever. they think of soccer in one-way, strictly offensive terms. they don’t like the physical part. we spent on into qualifying overcoming that layer of naivete. if we didn’t score more goals we wouldn’t win games.
    if we didn’t grow a pair defensively we weren’t even going to make it. i see we’re going to keep fighting this silly debate nonetheless. what about what you just witnessed screams that passing sideways is the way of the future, that we can improvise chances instead of put balls in dangerous spots to feet, or that the world cup can’t be every bit as physical as concacaf (but the fouls usually called — this is the real difference from playing away in costa rica or panama).

    people keep acting like world or european soccer is dramatically different than concacaf. i saw very little patty-cake soft soccer these weeks. and the few teams that did are gone. i know some of you folks believe this coach is preparing us for “beyond concacaf” but we just went 2 draws and a loss against europe which is roughly what we did against them in friendlies, save northern ireland. we gave him some time. he can’t beat a decent european team. he obviously oversold. you want to give him another 4 years? genius. i usually like to make different mistakes and not the same ones.

    last, one of the more concerning contradictions is the resistance of this ilk of fans to further evolution of the attack or tactics. this set of players and tactics obviously didn’t work. but that set of fans wants to tout the same names and save the coach. not sure how you really expect to get superior results in the same play and the same players. you have to break some eggs. my experience every soccer team i was with personnel change was the major factor in improved results, and to do that the lineup has to change, and friends get cut or demoted. you will like their replacements as much or more. get over it.

    • also, i think a bait and switch has occurred where we were sold on the idea of improved individual virtuosity on the ball -players who could do dazzling things and take people on and win world cup games – gio reyna — but then given keepaway passing instead as the “skill.” i see this BerhalterBall stuff as the opposite of “skill” and taking people on. if you can keep your wits about you, you pass the ball on long before anyone steps to you. it’s tentative in nature and most certainly not the improved individual swashbuckling we were sold.

      personally to me all this sideways passing isn’t scary or that useful. it’s so slow tempo and short distance defenders don’t have to run around. no defenders are committed and put behind the ball 90% of the time. it can be probing but we rarely put the probe in. it’s more like what a team does to milk clock and sit on a lead than create goals to get that lead, or come back from a deficit. in the later stages of the game i kept waiting for the urgency. this just never is urgent other than let’s whack in a cross.

      last, ironically, holland feasted on our lack of central foot skills. we didn’t prize or develop small space virtuosity and as such could be picked like a thanksgiving turkey. after all the calls for this to happen, at least part of this was the bait and switch. we thought we could pass it around all day and never have to be that skilled. after reaching a prior consensus our future competitiveness depended on precisely those foot skills in close quarters or chances to take people on. so, anyhow, call me when y’all start doing what you said you would. cause what i see — and i am amazed the actual soccer snobs don’t freak about it –is sidelining aaronson and reyna even when we were trying to thread needles.

    • i also hope this is the end of the “club form” rubbish at 9. for all the chatter about how our friendly wales draw was for starting “lletget,” we never quite solved that and arrived much the same place at the world cup where we again “drew wales,” both actually and metaphorically in terms of the overall event. as such we in praxis did the equivalent of going to a world cup with gomez and findley. we managed 1 lucky striker goal from his crew of “hot hands,” and we often struggled to find the 9 in the run of play. in fact, as i have often pointed out, our offense seems improvised to the point where it looks different depending who plays. ferreira it went positionless. sargent would flick balls on. this sounds cute but in practice means an attacker has no consistency in terms of what to expect. he looks up for sargent and sees ferreira run back 20 yards into the midfield. that’s not how systems and progressions usually work, or, if it is, it’s more planned. we just seem to make it up and it just happens on game day.

      side point on this, for all this emphasis on hot hands, we didn’t have the most goals in qualifying or group. either as a team or even individually. in quali canada had 3 attackers on the leaderboard before we had a 9. pulisic had more goals than our actual 9 in both quali and the world cup itself. to me this points to an obvious solution. but it also says if your best 9 gets 3 goals from qualifying. or your best 9 gets 1 goal in the finals. that maybe the “hot hand” stuff is gibberish and doesn’t work. personally i think it’s well duh obvious that, tactical changes of pace aside, i should basically know where i can find the 9 and what type ball to deliver him. the choice of 9 shouldn’t wildly vary game to game. the locations and service for those 9s shouldn’t wildly vary. i might have alternative tactical “packages” but the idea is some consistency of plays and players. when the dutch score goals that look like they have executed that play before — i assume they have, same play, same players, more than once. because they aren’t farting with their lineup based on who is rocking turkey that month. and they don’t have to think too hard through where to find the 9 and what to send him. this is common sense, coaching 101, identify your best 3-4 9s. drill the team around them. don’t change them and the service game to game. but i feel like mr. midtable is learning everything from scratch.

    • added point, was reading a soccer book the other day which spent a chapter discussing the portuguese (specifically sporting) winger pipeline — figo, ronaldo, nani, quaresma, etc. if you look at barcelona they churn out midfielders of a technical type that generally (give or take messi who endran the 18 year old rule) spain can then use. the US used to make keepers. for all the hot air emitted on changing US soccer, what type of player are we setting out to produce and what is their role within the NT. perhaps the answer is this is delegated to the select and academy teams who set out to do what they want.

      worth noting that what we arguably do seem to generally produce are positionless hybrid athletes. but our response tactically right now is to chain them up in a 433. except as i previously said, they haven’t been learning to be dribble and pass kings at la masia since age 5. we produced athletes who can play soccer. so play soccer athletically. if you want tiki taka start over age 5. but even then it’s like the sort of “we’re going to produce a new type of player” isn’t really happening. sporting in portugal supposedly encourages the kids to work on tricks and flicks, then liberates its wingers to take people on. to get more than one random product you have to set out to create a type on purpose — over and over — then systematically free them of usual select constraints. not sure how you can get that when we’re delegating development to dozens of teams each creating their own types.

      otherwise the tactics should match the center of gravity of the type of player we actually produce, which right now is generally athletic, fast, fairly skilled but not exceptionally so. do something with that.

  3. The real reason why the US lost was because of their poor markings in the first half. It wasn’t that we were dominated. That is nonsense; even down by two at the half, the US came inches of almost tying the game. This is not getting dominated. The US out possessed and outshot the Dutch and beat them in every statistic, except goal difference of course. The reason the US lost was because of their brain fart markings, which could have been due to Dest and Adams being totally fatigued and having played every game.

    Dest and Adams, were responsible for these goals. Robinson also did not help. They just did not have a good game. Also, the Pulisic miss in the first few minutes hurt. If he makes, that goal, the Dutch probably don’t even score in the first half. Saying that the US got outclassed is a stretch. The Dutch had to work their butts off for this win.

    This is the best game I have seen the Netherlands play in this tournament; unfortunately, it came against the US. I am not saying the Netherlands are not a better side on paper or should have not won; on paper they are the better side, except in the midfield in my opinion, but this is just my opinion. Of course, they should have won; they scored more goals. However, those brain fart makings opened up space for some easy goals to be score; they weren’t even difficult goals to convert. The US players just did not have a great game. One just has to wonder if the US could have won that first game vs Wales and could have rested some players in that England game. Maybe this would have made a difference or maybe not. Go USA love you guys.

    • Outpossessed does not matter in soccer. Anyone who played at a decent level knows this. Goals are what counts. This is precisely my concern with a certain breed of US fan is they seem content to trade unfrightening sideways passing for putting balls in the box to try and score. As a defender if you aren’t coming at me you’re not very concerning. I just stay goal side and awake and wait for you to actually try something. I think you lot overestimate how often world class defenses go to sleep. And the scoreline this weekend doesn’t look like “the best defense is possession.”

      As one commentator put it:
      “The Dutch were content to let the US have possession and then attack in transition once possession was gained. It had the effect of asking the US to do things they weren’t good at, namely breaking down an organized defense.”

      • “Outpossessed does not matter in soccer. Anyone who played at a decent level knows this.” Yes and no. I have played enough soccer and have enough knowledge, like most posters here, to know when it matters and when it doesn’t matter. It all depends, and I was just throwing out some statistics; that’s it. Of course, if a team has 80% possession but never scores, it’s a problem. If there is an elite defensive team, like the Old Italian sides or even the older Colombian sides in the 90’s, of course they are going to be confortable giving up possession and hitting you on the counter, because this is their strength. I am aware what the commentator said, and the commentator was correct about the tactics. The US has had trouble scoring multiple goals and the Dutch have a solid defense. However, the US still had its share of opportunities not only to take the lead in the first few minutes but to tie the game. Now, this is with the Dutch giving possession away. The US had some good opportunities and the Dutch goalkeeper made some key saves. Now, GB’s player selection and formations is another argument all together I wish not to link. I was just posting on this specific game with the players selected.

      • the Dutch put on a masterclass in counter attacking, that’s true, but all the same I agree with PeterP in tat we gave them those opportunities because we lost our marks, something we hadn’t done all tourney and for me it came down to fatigue. Those mistakes were things you learn early in soccer development, they were mentally and physically exhausted, which is not an excuse but part of the reason. PeterP is also right that if Pulisic scores that goal it would have opened up the game and maybe favored us more bc then the Dutch would have had to come out of their shell to get a goal back. This tourney was marred by what hampered us in NL, the GC and specifically wcq, which is not putting away clear goal scoring chances

      • Peter, the Dutch let us have the ball, swarmed the mids on the ball, and punished their turnovers. the strategy works and based on how many teams exercised it this tournament, remains current soccer. i get there was an interlude c. 2010 where possession teams walked all over their competition, but a lot of it was an unusual spanish development cycle out of barca earlier that decade. the teams of the day had gotten not just too defensive but kind of slow and static. a positionless passing team mopped the floor with them.

        our 433 is not positionless, it’s highly channeled, so you know where our players are. we don’t tend to do unpredictable things and we seem to view long switches or playing over the top or into space wide as sloppy or bad soccer or something. so you have players of predictable spatial orientations making predictable short passes. you can press us — and some teams have had success making our keeper and backs cough it up that way — but then we started licensing basic long clearances and kicks. so the press is less useful. but since we won’t literally dramatically change fields in attack — only in defense to clear — they can swarm the limited number of mids in our formation and freak them out. we for defensive reasons do not play our most technical mids. so you have sloppy mids tasked with completing passes under heavy pressure being swarmed. turnover city. rather than get the ball out of there and pass over the swarm, we as with many 433 baby barca clones felt like it was a manhood test and tried to pass through the pressure. they countered all day. notably they countered wide. they knew where the space was and used it all day.

        to be clear as someone who myself played a ton of 352 in select and college, the irony is that the ju jitsu of a 352 coming at you is right back behind the lone wings. they counter wide, you counter wide or over the top. right back into the space they cleared. the whole point to their formation is to put 8 people up the spine. no sane team goes up the spine. we apparently set out to prove an aesthetic point the other day, because we picked our hardest game to try to do the obvious thing the other team was set up to counter. let’s pass right through their midfield.

        i wish i could call it tactical failure but i think it was just perseveration. which if 2 teams are on the field is almost like a dare.

      • Imperative, the midfield does not have creativity because GB doesn’t give it much importance due to his system. He prefers the midfield to take the ball to wide areas and then press. This is why we hardly saw Gio at this world cup. I would have liked to see him inserted centrally.

    • I also don’t think you are connecting up your critique with GB’s system for some reason. He picked Jedi and Dest to push forward on the wings. He chose to overlook their defense. I have argued for more pure defenders to be chosen. He went with a risky choice. You then blame the players and not the coach for their play. To me when players have made similar mistakes before and the coach treats it as a trade off, that’s on the coach. It’s too predictable. It’s not like “Adams had a bad game.” It inheres in the player and tactic choice.

      • “I also don’t think you are connecting up your critique with GB’s system for some reason.” Even though, I think there is an issue here, Imperative, I just do not have enough time to write an essay about these connections. I believe I have done this in the past already; if not here, somewhere else. I write what’s on my mind like most people and get out. His system is limited and this was a problem, but he is the coach and he has the right to do what he thinks is correct, even if people do not agree with it. Anyway, the system is the system and each player still has their responsibility even if they are pushing up. I do agree that a different defensive posture might have been better, but you still need to be responsible for your markings.

      • Peter: what i am saying here is that if Dest and Robinson have unusual bad days or go off-instruction, that’s their fault. if they are selected for attacking qualities, their defensive issues traded off, and told to play high upfield, then they get abused on the counter, that is a tactical mistake instead of a bad player day. we made a choice to take a risk. that risk was exploited.

      • I know that the fullbacks have to put in a lot of work in GB system and that it has to take its toll, especially if one is starting 4 straight games.

  4. just want to say, agree disagree whatever…it’s nice to be able to hang here with all and discuss all of this after getting knocked out yesterday

    now back to our regularly scheduled programming below!

  5. Watching this France game and Descamps understands his players. Get Mbappe and his athletes in attack in open space so they can run at Polands defense. Berhalter wanted tiki taka when he should have gotten Pulisic, Tobinson, Dest, and Weah running in open space.

    • Kylian Mbappe is the best in the world. He now has 9 WC goals in two tournaments. Took Messi 5 WC’s to reach that. Christiano is on 8 WC goals in 5 WC’s.

      If France end up winning this tournament, Mbappe will be entering Pele status. And could conceivably catch O’ Fenomeno goal tally by next WC in 2026.

      • hey guys, in the group stage, we did not pressure until 25 minutes into the Iran game, then once we scored, we stopped. we got our guys into goal A LOT…that they didn’t finish is another thing

        re. clinical crosses…kind of, but just watch their 2 first goals and compare to the endline cutback pass from Weah to…no runner. That’s the difference…the weaksid runner into the top of the box. We had no one (should have been Jedi on Weah’s perfect ball) whereas the Dutch had the spacing, timing, and RUNNER. On Weah’s play, 3 Americans ran to the goal mouth, no one dropped into the space created by the the gola line runs; the Dutch pulled defenders with those same runs, then filled the space behind…2 goal. we did not…no goal

    • i think the high press and slow passing offense has the opposite effect of what we need. a lot of our talent is wide talent. we like you say need open space and the ability to get behind defenses. you don’t get that confronting the opponent their end, or slowly building forward. i also felt like yesterday we made the basic mistake of constantly trying to work the ball back and forth through the middle. we are not that technical with this selection and we played right into a team looking to pick off a pass and quickly counter down the wings.

      i also think holland was simply more clinical on the cross than we are. i keep saying we whack them in. you saw where they would hit it right to a head or feet for a shot. a team with precision crossing, tall targets, and good finishers…….should perhaps play a crossing offense. we couldn’t find anyone with crosses. not sure why we bothered other than taking the ball to the flag seemed to be the goal of our offense. which i was always taught was a sign of a lack of ideas. the idea is go to goal and create chances in front of the net. whacking balls vaguely to the 6 yard box isn’t really creating chances. then some of the players whacking crosses were being exploited our defensive end.

      • For me the MMA midfield shouldn’t be the main midfield going forward. We need a true attacking mid in there. I would say Reyna the most likely. I would put Adams and Musah as the two dm/cm’s behind. While I really like McKennie… Musah has a higher ceiling. That also allows that midfield to be rested. You could put McKennie in for either Adams or Musah. MMA midfield should be used when neutralizing the opposing team in midfield in second halves. Musah, McKennie, and Adams are all pretty similar. They aren’t going to break a defense down with their passing. Can they pass at times… sure, but Reyna has the more attacking mindset and ability to pass and dribble through a defense.

      • and if we play a true 10, or someone underneath the 9, I say Aaronson who does it for club pretty dang well

      • re “MMA,” the US needs to decide is it trying to defend in numbers and counter, or is it trying to attack and put up goals. 433 is a poor choice for defense. MMA is a poor choice for offense. if we want defense the formation needs to tilt back and the build needs to be faster and more direct and pragmatic. if we want offense we need to have more technical players out there with more sniper or pure skill capability.

        personally i think you only need one “M,” not 2. particularly if the goal is to be more attacking. as some are saying, this needed a 10 or a top of box shooting option. something where we could get cheaper easier goals and everything didn’t go wide then back in to a nonexistent 9. plus more technique would help play across tight spaces. we had sloppy athletic CMs trying to string passes through a bunch of hyenas. stupid.

        personally i favor defend in a 442 and counter wide, which we even did against england. i think our tactics yesterday are what teams do at the very end of a game not the start. i want them to sit back and give weah and the LF room to attack into. and personally i’d rather see musah wide, pulisic and reyna central — more skill in the middle — more speed wide. i don’t understand 30 pass builds as anything but showing off. my idea of a great goal is downfield in 3-4 passes — and that can be done on the ground if you’re literally switching sides with passes and not just slowly passing to the guy next to you.

      • beach: i have no idea why aaronson and reyna got used as little as they did. what amazes me is the snobs who push for him not being turned off by the fact that given a choice he makes the “arena” or “brazil klinsi” type choice to play defensive mids after selling how attacking we will be. as a defender my response is then same as it was to klinsi, which is 433 or 4321 is not a very defensive formation. conversely my tactical brain is like if you’re gonna play 433 put some actual skill out there to dribble circles around people. i like musah and mckennie but they are no one’s idea of a dutch soccer midfield. they are tanks and box crashers.

      • I agree 2tone,we should run out a 4-4-2 diamond with Tyler at the top, Musah and McKennie out wide and Gio underneath

    • I’d argue that we didn’t want to play Tika Taka soccer and haven’t for quite awhile. Van Gaal took away our quick outlets up the flanks by positioning his strikers between the ball and the fullbacks denying our usual outlets. Basically they covered our back four with two. Then man marked our midfield with their 4 midfielders. The US tried to combat that in two ways sliding the FBs inside and widening the 8s, also by dropping the forwards into space. Jedi and Dest did get onto the ball at times but were largely ineffective operating in the middle and with 3 CBs even when we pulled one out there were two more to cover. Without quick options up the wing we were left with Ream trying to dribble into spaces to get a passing angle or CMs running away from goal with only option to pass it back. Had we sat deep as France did I’m sure the Netherlands would have been happy to dice us up and control 60% of possession and just outscore us with better passing and finishing. Van Gaal I think surprised Berhalter by playing differently than they had but if the US had been more clinical in their passing and finishing the result could have been different. Once the Netherlands scored in the tenth minute it was going to be hard to draw them out. The US encouraged an early mistake if Pulisic finishes it does The Netherlands have to come out a bit more and leave the US with more space to operate on the flanks. We’ll never know.

      • i didn’t see what you did. i saw an opponent where if the wings showed backwards they could turn and run at a single wing in a 352 formation. in theory one of their 3 CBs can slide over but that then begins a potential cascade creating middle or weak side chances. when our wings showed to ball, got it, turned, took them on, we could get joy.

        the problem is this coach — as with many tiki taka advocates — adores really early passing to space with no one near you. more akin to keepaway. this encourages wings with a marker behind to do the lazy safe thing and play backwards, not the dangerous thing and turn and take someone on. so we spend a lot of our time in danger areas backpedalling right out of the space we just won, as that’s where the open uncontested passing spaces are.

        possession for possession’s sake is pointless unless you are sitting on a 2-0 lead with 10′ left. in a 0-0 or worse 0-1 or 0-2 game you have to start taking risks and going after people.

        now, to be real, i do believe in “playing it where they ain’t,” but as an advancement or switching strategy, not out of tentativeness. whatever happened to “switching fields?” why does every pass have to be a 5 yard pass to the next guy over? why can’t the ball simply skip over from RB to LB or from a guy stuck on the right side to our left winger? to me half the problem is endless 5 yard passes without a team technical enough to keep stringing them. and this tournament was loaded with teams not sitting back letting you pass, but spring loaded to counter first pass you miss. and we’re trying to string 20 short passes through contested space.

        if you noticed, wing play and long balls are coming back in style. a world cup or two ago maybe keepaway in a 433 was the big thing. the response is to either press high or swarm mids when they get the ball. our response to that should not be to perseverate. our response is take what the defense gives you. a 352 gives away wing space. and i thought we could have been more direct or long. ground passes to feet to wing players. or hoof it to the 9. but this offends some sort of stylistic desire. world cup don’t care about your style. world cup was double dog daring us to try and short pass through the middle and we finally took them up on it. which is why we are home.

        you play the teams that show up and the tactics they use. you are not running a practice walkthrough with one team. this other team was designed to make look silly teams that came out like we did. grow up. in that context we may not be able to play baby barca soccer. especially if we don’t have a bunch of la masia players — which we clearly don’t. most world cup tactics are realistic rather than aspirational or style driven.

      • hey JR, saw that too, and another option was over the top into the outer channels, and we got there too…….

        in general tho, exposed again vs. the Durch: US soccer lacks expression in weakside play both in attack, defense and transition…we are still too ball centric/side centric in our awareness and understanding. maybe that sounds too simple, but we got crushed on that and got smacked out, and I’m going to use the examples in that Dutch game to raise awareness with all the players and coaches I connect with! it’s like a mini clinic on what is needed in US soccer evolution imo

        literally, it’s the same stuff we’re teaching these kids in comp/high school that we got burned on…over and over in one game 😉

      • IV: That was the Dutch gamble right, can we force the two most dangerous players to have to move away from goal because that’s what we’re leaving them. But it’s not much of a gamble with a great player like Dumfries and a veteran like Blind on the other. As you said we hit it a few times especially on Pulisic’s side but the combination with Pulisic and Robinson or McKennie never came off, similar a few times with Aaronson and Reyna. Aaronson can’t be an 8 for NT they just shove him down gambling they won’t call it and if they do it’s a long from goal free kick.
        Beachbum: seemed Timber and Ake adjusted to that ball over the top pretty quick. Under Berhalter we almost abandon the middle third within 30 yards of goal so there they could adjust and sit wider. They also had to know Zimmerman can’t hit that ball so it could only come from Ream.

    • the age thing is less convincing when the players have a few years’ worth of a dozen or more caps and have been 3-4 years under this coach. this wasn’t julian green or landon straight in the world cup team almost. this was he got years to work with them and this is what happened.

      what are you expecting different next time? just that they age? i think they need new tutelage.

      you want really blunt we should never see that BerhalterBall system again. even if we see the coach. that system is useless. if what we will see is 4 more years of perseverating about that do not waste my time. it never worked and we saw yesterday that it plays into the hands of teams with current fashion tactics. we need to be playing something that will make our team look good and be innovative in 2026. not play something that was clever 2008-2014. based on how many times this cycle i saw yesterday’s tactics, that’s his comfort zone. it makes me uncomfortable.

      • it’s not less convincing of anything…just a statement of fact. like I said IV, we’ll see what comes of it, but to deny inexperience as a factor for this players in that game vs. the Dutch is not an accurate assessment imo

        re. the system, it worked in CONCACAF to get us qualified…what it was for. as much as you clearly cannot stand GB, he did say that qualifying from CONCACAF is different than playing in a World Cup…his tactics showed that.

        once CP missed and Depay didn’t, NO WAY the Dutch were coming out to play us…that you refuse to input that into your calculations mitigates some of your points I think. even in the Dutch counters, they sent how many? it was just like watching Carlo’s counters in the UCL final, tactically; they were not going to give up the counter with a 1 goal lead, no way. they were not going to get drawn out and unbalanced…sorry man, up 1 goal like that to a mature team led by Virgil? no way

      • beach: the dutch style can cut both ways. to score a goal they have to eventually come forward themselves. if you sit back as well, that becomes more of a 0-0 contest. we instead chose to not just try to possess, but to naively press forward on defense. we walked right into the bear trap. 3 times. we just played an england game where we sat back more on a team that likes to win the ball and fly downfield. in a 442. i don’t get how that didn’t get used here also other than the coach wanted to try His Way again, which we’d barely played this tournament.

        re “we played it in quali,” we also finished 3rd. our world cup progress when no one else from concacaf could get out of group suggests, as i have been saying, we had the best talent in the region. you should then ask yourself how the best team finishes 3rd. perhaps the clunky tactics and consistent selection errors? it’d be one thing if we “rolled” quali. we didn’t. we made it on a tiebreaker. we then scooted out of group in 2nd before losing badly. i don’t think we look polished or that dangerous. nor are the results there. i’m not into optimism. his default approach doesn’t work and arguably makes the team worse, not better. this is GM 101 for when to fire your coach. and i realize we made the round of 16 but his sales pitch was this was going to move us past the usual point.

        if he wants to continue i am sure he keeps his job, because we get complacent right at this point every time. i am also sure we will continue to have the same other conversation about wishing we could get past this point and wondering how. hint: if this coach had years with this team and this is what he got out of it, maybe that’s a place to start.

      • beach: i always hear a variant of this on schedule. play better teams get better. reality is brazil will sometimes schedule nicaragua or something. unless nicaragua learns something from it, so what. ditto anyone else they play good or bad. it’s not just the game. it’s learning and changing from it. americans IMO tend to not learn anything from big games as they make excuses for quality of opponent — justifying losing — as opposed to identify and fix why they lost — seeking victory next time.

        along those lines, if you want more out of the kids, you have to have the actual chops to teach it. the snobs don’t ever seem to have some lesson plan for next cycle he will teach. if the idea is they will teach the same players to be more technical, in 1 week windows, hahaha. you will not make us barcelona in a few weeks a year. if you want to be more barca select different players. or IMO change the tactics to suit the players you actually have in the pool, which is how most of the world operates. you pick tactics for horses. you don’t imagine you had a different horse and then abstract a race plan from a theoretical horse.

        i think he got thoroughly milked this cycle and can’t imagine a midtable crew/hammarby coach has endless teaching left to dispense. i think we need some selection changes and then someone needs to sit down with the AMs and wings and 9 and map out patterns of play leading to chances on goal. like i think this was so jacked we had an idea how to win the ball but were improvising for goals. which is why so few. you watch brazil and they know where each other will be and play balls to the run and not just whack balls in like some HS or college team hoping. but then instructing them what runs and passes to make to set up shots is precisely the sort of teaching i think we’re tapped out on. and, well, we hired a back as coach.

    • He isn’t wrong. But that will change. Netherlands are old and they don’t have a whole a lot young top talent coming through in their system.

    • The fact that we scared them enough for him to talk smack is actually high praise. You only say nice things about try-hard plucky opponents that really don’t have much actual quality, which is what we had always been up to this cycle.

      But no, we were menacing enough (and we genuinely were) that the Dutch – who are up there with the Germany/Spain/Brazil/Argentina/France/Italy/England’s of the world – now feel compelled to talk sh!t about us. Which means we aren’t plucky and cute to them anymore…and Memphis can talk, but he also knows the Dutch got outpossessed, overrun for long stretches of the game, and outshot, we were just young and kinda dumb and like a sly veteran duelist they were able to make us pay for that.

      It’s actually progress. I always told my teams if an opponent feared you enough to feel threatened by you, you’d know it because they’d start jawing at you instead of patting you on the head and telling you “good job, there, sport.”

      • “now feel compelled to talk sh!t about us.”

        I’m sure Depay would say shit about anyone. He’s not noted for being especially diplomatic and he’s Dutch. Very honest.

        You may be right about us frightening the Dutch.

        On the other hand Van Gaal has always been a pretty direct guy. If you want to know what he really thought of the USMNT just ask him. He’ll tell you.

        “‘In the first half we were dispossessed so much and it was not necessary,’ he said. ‘That’s simply not acceptable at a World Cup. If you play top-notch countries, you simply can’t make those mistakes.'”

        Since Holland got away with those mistakes against us, that means the USMNT is not top notch in Van Gaal’s view.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about what he said.
        First of all he’s right.
        Second of all he’s Dutch and the Dutch, in general, are brutally, brutally frank.

  6. Biggest thing US Soccer needs to do is get with Canada and Mexico to scrap the CONCACAF Nations League and then start a League of the Americas so we can get some real games in.

    • That would require CONMEBOL and FIFA to be on board. It’s not an easy thing to do. Also that’s a CONCACAF question. uS soccer can’t just do that without all of CONCACAF on board. I still think the best shot is to have a true Copa America every 4 years with 24 teams from South and North America, and Still
      Keep the Concacaf nations league.

      • Well, I think that’s where Canada and Mexico come in, who are pretty powerful within CONCACAF and in the same boat as us.

    • I truly believe North and South America need to come together on may things. Would love to see a club competition between both continents. Both continents need to come together to do something to continue to compete with Europe.

      • Travel is a big issue, just getting to Central America is a chore for US and Canada. Imagine going all the way to Uruguay or Chile.

    • as i said other article world cup may be expanding to 48 teams and as many as 16 groups. qualifying this time will see perhaps as many as 9 concacaf teams through, and something in that neighborhood going forward when we don’t host. that will change the nature of qualifying as well as the way that cycles will need to progress.

      personally i think we haven’t yet shown we have mastered our region where we should be talking smack like we need greater challenges. we played some out of region games and they generally went like the world cup did, mostly ties and losses to the good ones.

      maybe if qualifying won’t be the same going forward then we can bring back “hex” style league ball as the league of nations. i kind of agree the current idea is silly. 3 team groups. 1 real opponent. i don’t even like how UEFA does it with 4 teams.

      i don’t think you’re thinking about how 50-odd north american teams plus 10 south american teams where we actually get a bunch of south american teams in some group play. think about it. odds are like one south american team a group. it’s good soccer but it’s 10 teams to go around.

      side point: with US/MX/CAN all “idle” for qualifying we could probably put together some sort of common series where we play each other plus a common set of friendly opponents each window. or run ad hoc tournaments like we used to have in the 90s. we already routinely share friendly opponents with MX.

      side point 2: even if we’re hosting this needs to be more of a road show in preparation. this has gotten where maybe a window or two a year is abroad and we host all the regional events. this paints a misleading picture of our competitiveness and doesn’t make the team work enough through adversity. even if we will likely play cushy home games in the tournament. this team needs to have to dig out of a hole, play a man down, be a goal down, and try and do something with the night still. to me we’re coddled. part of the reason i am not joining the cheerleader chorus because we advanced. are we pushing for bigger things or not.


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