The United States had never trailed in this tournament — with draws against Wales and England and the defeat of Iran in group play. But in the knockout stage — where teams must win or go home — none of that mattered.
Christian Pulisic had a golden opportunity to put the U.S. on the board early against the Netherlands. In the third minute, he was one-on-one with the towering Dutch goalkeeper but couldn't get it by the 6-foot-8 Andries Noppert.
It was the Netherlands that scored first. In the 10th minute, Memphis Depay powered a volley beyond the outstretched arms of U.S. keeper Matt Turner. The tenor of the game then changed. The Netherlands slowed the tempo and dropped players into the backfield to clog up the U.S. offense.
The U.S. deficit got even bigger when the Netherlands scored again — just moments before the end of the first half in stoppage time. In an almost carbon copy of the first goal, a Dutch pass across the goal box found the right foot of Daley Blind who booted it by Turner to double the Dutch lead to 2-0 at halftime.
Definitely a different feel from the U.S. group stage matches. At each one the crowds generated an intensity level that was off the charts. Especially the match against Iran where the din at kickoff made the crowd of 42,000 sound twice that size. But on Saturday at Khalifa International Stadium, the smaller crowd generated much less fan voltage.
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The U.S. started the second half with energy, intensity and several goal chances. And, in the 76th minute, the U.S. found a way to score. Pulisic sent a cross in front of the Dutch goal and it ricocheted off Haji Wright to sail into the net.
The momentum for the U.S. did not last long. In the 81st minute, Denzel Dumfries was left wide open in front of the U.S. goal and he powered the ball beyond Turner to make it 3-1.
The U.S. couldn't capitalize as the Dutch midfielders and defenders stifled the American offense — combined with the U.S. missed opportunities. "This is a difficult one to handle," said USA head coach Gregg Berhalter in a post-match interview on Fox. "We came up short today but not for lack of trying or lack of effort."
The Netherlands entered this match against the United States on its longest unbeaten streak at the World Cup. The Dutch had not lost their last 10 games (seven wins and three draws).
This was the fifth time the U.S. had made it into the round of 16 at the World Cup. They'd only won once before — beating Mexico in 2002 to advance to the quarterfinals (the U.S. made it to the semifinals of the inaugural World Cup in 1930 when only 13 teams competed).
The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup and defender Walker Zimmerman says their play this year moves the program forward and shows the potential. "This World Cup showed that attacking talent – showed that fight – a lot of American fans can look at and be proud of. The way that we played. The way that we went about our work. We'll be back bigger than ever."
The Netherlands will play Argentina in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Tom Goldman reported from Al Rayyan, Qatar, and Russell Lewis reported from Birmingham, Ala.
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