The U.S. men’s national team, which included only one player who had any World Cup experience coming into this tournament, faces the Netherlands on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. While many fans considered getting to the Round of 16 a success, the players don’t feel the same. They are ready to stay, saying the job isn’t done yet.
The USMNT — led by Christian Pulisic, who will return from injury — looks to advance to just its second quarterfinal appearance in 20 years and third overall. But Oranje stands in the way. Netherlands’ breakout star Cody Gakpo, 23, has found the back of the net in every game thus far.
MORE:Dutch soccer influenced USMNT because of coach Gregg Berhalter’s time in Netherlands
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For years, Christian Pulisic carried the burden of the USMNT’s failure to make it to the 2018 World Cup. Now, with a talented, young squad, that lift is a lot lighter.
“Honestly, this team helps me so much to take the pressure off of me,” Pulisic said Thursday. “A couple years ago there were times maybe I felt I needed to do more. But with these guys, I don’t feel that way at all, to be honest. I know they have my back.”
DOHA, QATAR — Al Khalifa is the one stadium that also has a track, which pushes the seats far back from the field. It’s definitely taking away some of the pre-game energy, though the USMNT fans made themselves heard when Christian Pulisic was introduced. Lots of US flags in the stands— or people wearing flag-like shirts — along with one England banner. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
— Nancy Armour
Christian Pulisic starts for the USMNT. Jesús Ferreira will see his first minutes of the tournament, while Josh Sargent is unavailable with an ankle injury. The USMNT will dress 25 players against the Dutch.
The Netherlands is currently dealing with a flu going around the team. Coach Louis van Gaal gave players the day off Thursday instead of running a typical 11-on-11 match.
He declined to elaborate on how many players are affected.
Contributing: Associated Press
DOHA, Qatar — Gregg Berhalter can admit now to being “totally unprepared” for professional soccer when he went to the Netherlands out of college.
He’d lay the ball off to someone’s wrong foot. And get yelled at. He had a teammate who wanted balls delivered with no spin, something Berhalter struggled to do. So he’d get yelled at. His passes weren’t always as crisp as they needed to be. So he’d get yelled at some more.
“There was a lot of details I was missing in college that I learned in Holland,” Berhalter said Friday.
And those lessons he learned then can be seen now in the U.S. men.
It’s fitting the USMNT’s path to the World Cup quarterfinals goes through the Netherlands, given the influence the Dutch game has had on this squad.
— Nancy Armour
Like several other World Cup teams at this tournament, the Netherlands is battling the flu. The bug ran through the U.S. squad last week.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal gave his team the day off on Thursday instead of running a typical 11-on-11 match.
“I gave them a day of rest,” Van Gaal said Friday. “With this group, they communicate that to me. I listen to my players.”
He declined to elaborate on how many players are affected, but by abandoning the typical training schedule Van Gaal created speculation that at least six players are ill.
“We are not going to elaborate on that,” he said. “But if it goes around in the group, it is worrying.”
Frenkie de Jong has said a scratchy throat disrupted his ability to communicate during a victory over Qatar, and Marten de Roon told reporters he had a cold earlier this week.
— Associated Press
Standout defense, Christian Pulisic and plenty of stamina are important factors for the USMNT during Saturday’s World Cup knockout game against the Netherlands.
USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour digs into what the U.S. must do to advance to its second quarter final appearance in 20 years.
Don’t miss a moment of the knockout rounds. Find the full schedule, add matches to your calendar and keep up to date with the latest tournament news.
The U.S. men have never won the World Cup. In fact they’ve only been to the quarterfinals of the competition twice before.
Meanwhile, reigning champion France attempt to do something only Italy and Brazil have done before — win back-to-back FIFA men’s World Cup trophies. But the path to victory won’t be easy with their increasing list of injuries.
Here’s who USA TODAY Network reporters think will come out champions (disclaimer: picks were made before the tournament started):
The USMNT is guaranteed at least $13 million in prize money from this World Cup, a figure that could rise to $17 million if they beat the Netherlands in Saturday’s round of 16 game. Thanks to the historic collective bargaining agreement reached in May between U.S. Soccer and its national teams, half that prize money will go to the U.S. women.
Signs say “yes.”
Pulisic says, “I’m doing everything in my power to be able to be out there on the field on Saturday.” The USMNT star was cleared to play Friday night, after he’d gone through training.
Pulisic came off at halftime against Iran with a pelvic contusion. He’d taken a knee to his pelvic bone in a full-speed collision with Iran’s goalkeeper after scoring in the 1-0 win that sent the USMNT into the knockout rounds of the World Cup.
Contributing: Nancy Armour
Time: Saturday, Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. ET
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium
How to watch: FOX and Telemundo or stream on fuboTV and Peacock (Spanish)
Story Credit: usatoday.com