The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) isn’t packing its bags just yet in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The USMNT defeated Iran, 1-0, Tuesday to advance out of Group B and move onto the knockout stage. It’s the first victory for the Yanks in a World Cup match since June 16, 2014 and it came courtesy of the right foot of Captain America himself — Christian Pulisic. In one of the signature moments in the history of the USMNT, Pulisic’s goal in the 38th minute was enough to lift his team into the Round of 16.
It was right place, right time for Pulisic, who was on the receiving end of a perfectly-weighted ball off the head of right back Sergino Dest to smash it into the net.
Pulisic paid a price for the goal, heavily colliding with Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand. As thousands of Americans inside Al Thumama Stadium cheered and millions watching back home rejoiced, Pulisic stayed down for a few minutes after the goal, clearly shaken up. Play resumed without Pulisic as doctors examined him for injury before he trotted back onto the pitch for the closing minutes of the first half.
Christian Pulisic Injured for USMNT
USMNT coach Greg Berhalter subbed on Brenden Aaronson for Pulisic to start the final 45. The team later diagnosed the 24-year-old with an abdominal injury. At an average age of 24 years, 321 days, the youngest lineup to feature at this World Cup soldiered on with composure without its attacking ace.
“We wanted to control our own destiny,” USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie said after the match. “We’re a really close group of guys. We’re brothers. We love this kind of stuff, the pressure and excitement. We’re young, we have our own swagger and style. At the end it was a heart-sinking moment but we got it done.
“Obviously we’re very thankful [Pulisic] threw his body there. But we have 25 guys other than Christian who would do the same thing. Everybody is ready to give everything. It’s unfortunate he had to come out but the fact he’s throwing his body on the line tells you how close this team is.”
USMNT Coach Greg Berhalter Gets His Lineup Right
There were some tense moments in the waning moments of the match, but the USMNT’s defense held steady. Iran had just one shot on target, with Matt Turner pitching his second consecutive shutout in the World Cup. Berhalter’s gamble to pair Tim Ream and Cameron Carter-Vickers — who came into the match having never played alongside each other in the back — proved to be the correct decision.
“I’m proud. We showed what we can do, soccer-wise, in the first half. Second half we showed what we can determination-wise,” Berhalter said after the match, via The Athletic. “The guys ground it out. They gave every single ounce of energy and we’re undefeated going into the next round.”
The USMNT has yet to concede an open-field goal this World Cup, though a tall task awaits. With England finishing atop the group with seven points, the Americans will face Group A winner the Netherlands in the Round of 16. Louis van Gaal’s side is coming off a 2-0 victory over host country Qatar Tuesday.
The two nations will do battle this Saturday at 10 a.m. on FOX. With a win, the USMNT will advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.