Classy Netherlands knocks USA out of World Cup at last 16 stage


The USA were knocked out of the World Cup by the Netherlands in the last 16 as the young Americans were taught a lesson in clinical finishing.


Christian Pulisic missed a glorious chance early on and the Netherlands then surged ahead thanks to two flowing moves as Memphis Depay finished off a lovely 20-pass sequence and then Daley Blind scored almost a carbon copy to make it 2-0 right on half time.

[ MORE: Gregg Berhalter reacts – ‘We made some progress’ ]

Haji Wright made it 2-1 with 15 minutes to go but the Netherlands wrapped up the win moments later as the brilliant Denzel Dumfries finished off superbly for Louis van Gaal’s free-flowing and resolute side.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

The Netherlands will now face the winner of Argentina and Australia in the quarterfinals, while the USA will head home with their heads held high and valuable tournament experience in their back pocket.

Future is bright but USA have to make the most of it

There is no shame in losing to this Dutch side. They have class throughout their team and the likes of Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong, Virgil van Dijk and the excellent wing backs (Dumfries and Blind) were at ease in the last 16. This young U.S. side, the youngest side in the last 16, looked uneasy throughout and were sloppy on the ball and just couldn’t take their big chances. Christian Pulisic missed a huge chance early on and the Dutch took theirs. Their game plan was then to sit back and pick off the USA and that is what they did. The Netherlands’ experience and class shone through but this game, and this tournament, had plenty of positives for the USA.

They are a clinical striker away from making a deep run in 2026 and this young side will likely see seven or eight of the same starters on home soil as they had in Qatar. Whether or not Gregg Berhalter is the boss for this side is a discussion for another day (would a more attacking setup have made a difference? What about playing Reyna and Aaronson more? Should Haji Wright have started against the Dutch?) but this young core group of players can be added to carefully and the USA has to make the most of their 2022 experience and make one more step forward for 2026 so they can battle with the top 10 teams on the planet. They have to be more clinical and calm when their moment arrives. They exceeded expectations in Qatar but there’s still a feeling of what might have been. That’s a good thing. As long as you make the most of it next time around.

Stars of the show

Denzel Dumfries: Superb assist on the second goal and a fine finish for the third. Pushed forward often but also did his defensive work as he cleared off the line. What a display from the Inter Milan right wing-back.

Daley Blind: The other wing-back for the Netherlands had an incredible game as he scored and assist and kept Weah and Dest quiet down that flank. What a display from the veteran.

Netherlands vs USA
Graphic via

How to watch Netherlands vs USA live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday Dec. 3
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Gio Reyna is on half time.

Massive opportunity for Pulisic! He should have scored.

Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Netherlands are the fourth-best team in ELO Ratings and eighth in FIFA’s oft-debated rankings, while the Yanks are ranked 20th by ELO and 16th by FIFA.

So the big storyline is whether the favorites’ role affects the Dutch at all, having had that label against Ecuador, Senegal, and Qatar, and whether the Yanks can effectively channel their underdog energy again as they did against England.

The huge question, of course, is whether Christian Pulisic is 100%, 75%, or less following the pelvic contusion suffered against Iran. While Tim Weah’s been very good and fullbacks Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson splendid, Pulisic is no doubt the focus of defenders and the U.S. attack. It’s also worth watching whether Weston McKennie finally has a game-changing performance at this tournament, as the Juventus man has been getting back to full fitness all World Cup.

The Dutch have been thrilled by the performances of 23-year-old Cody Gakpo, who has scored in every game. The back line of Virgil vsn Dijk, Jurrien Timber, and Nathan Ake has been good, allowing just one goal, while Matthijs de Ligt started the first game in place of Timber and Stefan de Vrij looms on the bench. With Frenkie de Jong in the center of the park, this Dutch team is very strong even if it isn’t vintage Holland.

Netherlands vs USA all-time

The USMNT scored a memorable win over the Dutch in 2015 under Jurgen Klinsmann, trailing 1-0 and 3-1 before winning 4-3 with goals from Danny Williams and Bobby Wood in the 89th and 90th minutes to get the win. Gyasi Zardes and John Brooks also scored in the game.

The Dutch had won all four meetings before that and all five games were friendlies occurring between 1998 and 2015.

Netherlands vs USA, World Cup history

The Dutch have never faced the USA at a World Cup, and the home of Johan Cruyff certainly has a more illustrious tournament history.

The Netherlands, like the USMNT, missed the 2018 tournament. That absence came after finishing in third place in 2014 and losing the 2010 final to Spain. They’ve lost three finals in total, two in the mid 1970s, and haven’t lost a World Cup game outside of penalties since that 1-0 loss to Spain in 2010.

The USMNT’s best tournament finish concluded with the controversial loss to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals, but the Yanks have now reached the knockout rounds the last three times they participated in the World Cup. They’ve only won a knockout round match in 2002.

Netherlands quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong, Cody Gakpo

USA quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 16
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 9
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (3rd place)
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Key players: Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie

Couva to Qatar: Tracing the 1,631-day USMNT trek to the 2022 World Cup


Wednesday marked the 1,631st “morning after” the international embarrassment that was the USMNT’s 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago’s B-team in Couva, baffling and sloppy performance that conspired with a Panamanian ghost goal and a Honduras win to end the nation’s run as a quadrennial World Cup team.

It Is a sweet relief now that the “Qualified” banner is officially official, as Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team reclaims the men’s program’s place as a World Cup team.

[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]

So… How did we get here? It certainly wasn’t a clean run back to a top-three place in CONCACAF but it’s also going to end with a World Cup appearance and that was Mission #1. The Yanks had some embarrassments and bumps along the way in showing that they still had lessons to learn despite the audacious slap to the face in Trinidad and Tobago, but there were huge moments, too, as Berhalter made his bones as a master of rivals Mexico in multiple silverware-winning affairs.

Oct. 10, 2017 — T&T 1, USMNT 2

The “international embarrassment” had everyone laughing at Bruce Arena and his men, who essentially treated the game like a field trip to nowhere. Our 3 things learned could’ve been 1000 things, but the line that stands out from that post is here, still, in a quote from Arena:

“If we had qualified for the World Cup, there needed to be a number of changes for the World Cup roster.”

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, you should’ve brought those players to Couva, where Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley were two of the lone players to perform, Geoff Cameron was left on the bench, and Clint Dempsey struck the post coming off of it.

Oct. 13, 2017 — Bruce Arena quits

Bruce Arena is an American soccer legend and he’s proven it since his failure in Couva, leading New England to a stunning Supporters’ Shield, but perhaps he deserves credit for not saying any of the right things following the qualification and giving the fan base a proper outlet for its disappointment.

The man who said, “No excuses. We failed” in the minutes after the Yanks would eventually find some. Three days after the loss, Arena resigned and made sure everyone knew that he knew more than they knew when he took the job from Jurgen Klinsmann:

“When I took the job last November, I knew there was a great challenge ahead, probably more than most people could appreciate.”

The Trinidad loss was humiliating but hardly worse than getting smacked 2-0 by Costa Rica at home on Sept. 1 and drawing Honduras 1-1 a few days later. Arena’s men took five of the last 15 points available to them.

And credit to Arena for stepping down when he claimed blame. Sunil Gulati accepted blame but did not quit.

Subsequent interviews saw plenty of tea spilled by members of the team. By January, Arena had settled on blaming “the chemistry of the group” and claimed that there were “bad eggs” on the team, only going as far as to praise Michael Bradley and Tim Howard. Good eggs, those ones.

He also said everyone who questioned his decisions after the fact were “phonies” if they didn’t tell him before the game.

Oct. 24, 2017 — Dave Sarachan handed interim role

Claudio Reyna made some waves when he discussed getting less arrogance and more humility out of the USMNT and the federation got just that when they tabbed their interim USMNT coach.

U.S. Soccer veteran Dave Sarachan took the wheel while the Yanks found a new full-time boss (which would take a while).

Nov. 7, 2017 — First roster since Couva is young

Less than a handful of players called up for what would become a 1-1 draw with Portugal were in Couva and not too many more were in the player pool for qualifying as the USMNT fan base would get its first serious look at names like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adamas, and Josh Sargent.

When they hit the pitch a few weeks later, McKennie and Adams impressed in a big way.

Feb. 10, 2018  — USSF gets new president after Sunil Gulati relents

After USSF president Sunil Gulati announced he would not resign, people came out of the woodwork to challenge him for the presidency (including Eric Wynalda, Hope Solo, and someone quite familiar to those who spent their Premier League Mornings with us).

Gulati would stay involved in the successful bid to land hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup, and close ally Carlos Cordeiro beat out Kathy Carter, Wynalda, and Martino in a tight race for the job. HIs reign would not be a long one.

March 27, 2018 — Adams, Adams, Adams

The U.S. beats Paraguay 1-0 and that kid’s at it again. No, not Christian Pulisic, but Tyler Adams is looking like the realest of deals in red, white, and blue.

Look at this run:

June 6, 2018 — Earnie Stewart becomes first USMNT GM

Outcries over the hierarchy at Soccer House led to the creation of a general manager position, and few would’ve complained at the selection of a man with USMNT lineage and plenty of leadership experience on- and off-the-pitch.

Earnie Stewart got the gig.

Sept. 11, 2018 — Mexico rivalry renewed

The Yanks had played Brazil, England, and France since failing to make the World Cup, so how would they do against old rivals Mexico, even in a B-team scenario?

The question probably should’ve just been framed around whether that Adams kid was playing, it turns out. 1-0. Teenage dream.

Oct. 5, 2018 — The hiring process beings

Almost a year after Couva? Yeah, it took that long and, yeah, people were ornery about that.

Stewart reportedly had Jesse Marsch, Peter Vermes, Greg Vanney, Tab Ramos, Tata Martino, and Caleb Porter has options but hilariously our report notes that there might only be one interview and that Gregg Berhalter said, “No comment” when asked if he had been interviewed.

Nov. 20, 2018 — Sarachan manages last game

He handed 23 players their USMNT debuts and put out Starting XIs with an average age under 23. Remit, met.

Dec. 2, 2018 — Gregg Berhalter hired as USMNT boss

What did we say as Stewart announced the hiring of former USMNT player Gregg Berhalter as the next head coach of the program? It wasn’t glowing praise nor harsh criticism but “It could’ve been worse.”

Now, with Qatar in our sights but not always smooth sailing to get there, that feels pretty right.

Fall-Winter 2018-19 — European dreams come true

Giovanni Reyna signed with Borussia Dortmund’s academy while Christian Pulisic’s status was blowing up on the Black and Yellow’s first team.

Sergino Dest signed his pro deal with Ajax, Josh Sargent kept shining at Werder Bremen, and Weston McKennie was becoming a real part of Schalke while Zack Steffen signed for Man City.

Richard Ledezma landed with PSV. Tim Weah went on loan to Celtic.

Some guy named Pulisic announced he’d be off to Chelsea in the summer.

Dec. 20, 2018 — Berhalter calls up first roster, MLS based

January camps are the worst, so it was welcome to really care about one as a new USMNT head coach picked 27 players who’ve caught his eye.

The ex-Columbus Crew coach had Michael Bradley come to camp. but the new faces were plenty and most of them have since washed out of the pool.

But Aaron Long entered that camp with two caps, Walker Zimmerman with four, Reggie Cannon with two, Cristian Roldan with five, and Sebastian Lleget with five. Those players now have 23, 27, 24, 31, and 33. Big list.

March 12, 2019 — Full-strength squad

Friendlies against Ecuador and Chile would give the USMNT fan base its first look at Berhalter choosing his team from amongst a full pool.

Well, kind of. Antonee Robinson, Timothy Weah, and Josh Sargent were still figuring to get the U-23s to the Olympics and there was a U-20 World Cup squad to consider as well.

A lot of MLS guys get the call, too, as for every Pulisic or Adams there’s a Daniel Lovitz or Paul Arriola. The MLS-Europe mix is still yet to tilt toward the latter, and the Yanks are going to the World Cup. Some will tell you those are correlational.

Summer 2019 — Gio Reyna leads U-17 World Cup qualification U-20s stun France at World Cup, but federation tumult amid CEO hiring

A five-goal U-17 World Cup qualification tournament from Claudio’s kid was just the latest sign that there’s legit hope that his career would one day leave Claudio better known as Gio’s dad.

And Sebastian Soto scored twice in a stunning win for the U.S. U-20s as they shocked France 3-2 at the U-20 World Cup.

With a Gold Cup about to arrive, there was another Berhalter in the news as Gregg’s brother Jay appeared close to becoming the new CEO in a move that would’ve gone over like an ice-cold cup of broken glass (fair or foul).

That reportedly spurred a wave of negative posts on an employment review site that revealed tumult and accusations of a ‘toxic environment’ at Soccer House.

July 7, 2019 — Tata > Gregg for first trophy

Thanks goodness Mexico’s title-game prowess against the United States would be flipped by Berhalter, but Memo Ochoa gave his coach the first laugh in what’s become a red-hot rivalry again.

Aug. 12, 2019 — Stewart promoted, new GM search begins

Cordeiro announces that Stewart was to become the federation’s sporting director, with Kate Markgraf hired to become the women’s general manager and a men’s search underway that would yield Brian McBride.

Oct. 15, 2019 — Canada announces itself

The Canadians threatened to stop the USMNT from reaching the CONCACAF Nations League Final, raising questions about American squad selection, tactics, and mentality in a 2-0 loss north of the border.

The loss was joined by angst out of Atlanta after United’s Darren Eales tore into the national team for training Miles Robinson in frigid weather after an unused sub appearance.

Oct. 28, 2019 — Dest commits for a huge Berhalter’s off-field win

Any lagging vibes were lifted when Sergino Dest’s looooooong “Will he or won’t he?” ended with a “He will.”

Dest chose the USMNT for his national team future despite heavy recruitment from the Netherlands’ Ronald Koeman, a move hailed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and a precursor to the coach — and his players — successful recruitment of Yunus Musah.

Nov. 2019 — Berhalter sees job questioned but Stewart backs boss, USMNT responds with beatdown

It had been less than two years on the job without too many losses, but the Canada loss had pointed questions aimed at Stewart when it came to Berhalter.

Stewart more or less laughed them off, and then the Yanks laughed Canada out of the proverbial gym despite a distinct lack of Christian Pulisic.

Berhalter opted for Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes over Josh Sargent and Tyler Boyd, and it was a masterstroke as John Herdman’s team looked surprised by the industry and pressing of the Yanks in a 4-1 Florida beatdown.

March 12, 2020 — Cordeiro resigns over ‘unacceptable’ gender comments in equal pay lawsuit

Jay Berhalter had stepped down for personal reasons as the CEO hiring process dragged on, but that was nothing compared to a bombshell report that showed the U.S. Soccer legal team used belittling legal arguments against women in their equal pay battle against the USWNT.

Cordeiro would have to eventually resign as sponsors, Major League Soccer, and even his vice president lambasted the stance.

March 2020 — Parlow Cone elevated, Wilson hired

Cindy Parlow Cone became USSF president and she’s since been re-elected. Things have been fairly smooth despite a pandemic, which says something.

Soccer United Marketing veteran Will Wilson is hired within two weeks as the fed’s new CEO.

April 2020 — Olympics, Nations League, Gold Cup postponed

You might’ve not heard but this virus starting to run laps around the world and there was pretty much nothing going on for a bit, as the USMNT’s World Cup preparation — and everything else in the world — was thrown for a loop.

June 3, 2020 — McKennie seizes spotlight

Adams and Pulisic had long claimed the spotlight for young USMNT players, but it was Weston McKennie who was front-and-center when the Bundesliga became the first major league to return to action during the pandemic.

Yet it wasn’t all about performances on the field, where it must be said McKennie played exceptional for Schalke and was soon on the radar of Juventus. As the world was aghast by the killing of George Floyd, McKennie rallied big names from around the soccer world including Christian Pulisic and Antonio Rudiger for a video exclaiming “enough is enough” when it comes to racism and police brutality.

Aug. 13, 2020 — Adams sends Leipzig to Champions League semi

Yup. Stud status, official.

Nov. 2020 — USMNT returns to field

As if enough eyes weren’t on the USMNT program when it came to restoring its World Cup status, it was the first time the Yanks would take the field since the George Floyd killing. They knew their place.

Berhalter liked the team’s edge but finishing remained an issue against Wales.

March 29, 2021 — Olympic qualifying failure (again)

Yes, it’s the U-23s and yes, it was mostly players who would be described as MLS prospects or amongst MLS’ second tier but… man.

June 4, 2021 — Pefok’s late heroics save CNL bacon

A CONCACAF Nations League Final almost didn’t materialize due to a — say it with us — lack of finish, but Jordan Pefok came off the bench to deliver a 1-0 semifinal win over Honduras.

June 7, 2021 — One of the most memorable matches in USMNT history

Here’s where it swung for so many USMNT doubters, even those who thought Berhalter could hold them back.

The Yanks proved that no one was going to hold them back, not even a Mexico team who had repeatedly had them their number for years.

Relive that incredible extra-time affair here, as Ethan Horvath and Christian Pulisic were the unexpected and expected stars of an ALL-TIMER.

Aug. 2, 2021 — And another one (trophy and win over Mexico

They went and did it again.

Berhalter used a completely different roster — and a 19-save tournament from Matt Turner — to outfox Tata Martino once again in what sent hopes for World Cup qualifying into orbit.

USA 1-0 Mexico. Miles Robinson in the 117th minute.

How much would they win the group by?

Don’t get ahead of yourselves (Obviously, we did).

Sept. 2021 — Banana skins, oil slicks, and forgetting how to score in Shock-tagonal start

Christian Pulisic wasn’t there but few would’ve seen the United States men’s national team starting its most important World Cup qualifying cycle in years by looking like it didn’t know the stakes.

Excuse makers could hang their hats on inexperience and “being away is hard” even if the scoreless draw against El Salvador came against a team that was 2W-4D-7L heading into its final qualifier.

But the 1-1 draw against Canada in Nashville? Was this team’s entitlement back despite Couva? Sitting on this for a month wouldn’t be fun If they didn’t beat Honduras.

And guess what? It wasn’t pretty. The Yanks needed a late surge and some Ricardo Pepi magic to come away with a 4-1 win and a respectable five out of nine points to start the Octagonal.

October 2021 — Six points sandwiched around slop

Ricardo Pepi got himself on the radar with his Honduran heroics, but he was inspiring talk about the long-lost replacement for Jozy Altidore after leading the Yanks to a win over Jamaica.

It felt the USMNT had found its footing and would not look back, but if the El Salvador draw was a disappointment and head-scratcher, a 1-0 loss in Panama was the sort of performance that makes people mad.

But if the U.S. has proven anything during this uneven but successful World Cup qualifying run, It’s that it will respond to failure but probably not before making you think it might not. Costa Rica took a lead in Ohio, but Sergino Dest and Timothy Weah had other ideas.

They might clinch before March, we dreamed. Foolishly.

November 2021 — The Man in the Mirror beats Mexico, gets beat up in Jamaica

Oh, Christian Pulisic. No one etches the words of doubters on his psyche and turns them into rocket fuel like you.

Pulisic had words (on his shirt) for Memo Ochoa and led the Yanks to a second-half surge past Mexico and the driver’s seat for the group.

That win would leave any USMNT fan prepared to be happy with a point in Jamaica, and they got just that as the Reggae Boyz were more concerned with fouling Pulisic before Michail Antonio boosted a point for the hosts.

Jan-Feb 2022 — Salvadoran snooze still a win but prefaces Canada setback

Antonee Robinson’s emergence as the side’s easy first-choice left back was in focus after the Fulham man blasted the sleeping Yanks to a slim win over El Salvador.

That wasn’t a wake-up call, though, as the U.S. went to Canada and looked like a hibernating bear. John Herdman’s Canadians seized control of the table and wouldn’t look back, the Americans a little embarrassed in Hamilton.

They came out plenty hungry against Honduras and refused to let Groundhog Day have them at their worst “Phil… Phil Connors?” to make sure the World Cup was still a probability.

March 2022 — Berhalter saves best for last, bossing Mexico but failing to score, clobbering Panama, avoiding calamity in Costa Rica (?)

This writer personally was thrilled to watch the USMNT be the clearly superior side at Azteca but missed chances and a frustrating final 10 minutes of subs and tactical adjustments from Berhalter means we’ll never know if that goal could’ve come… though the points was welcome.

And the goals came three days later in a tactical masterclass that saw Christian Pulisic score thrice in a 5-1 defeat of Panama. All they’d have to do is go to Costa Rica and not lose by six, something they’d avoided since 1979.

Bring on Friday’s draw.

Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now


There’s reason to be worried about the United States men’s national team and the 2022 World Cup following the latest round of player call-ups from Gregg Berhalter.

That’s not because this roster in itself is inherently bad, or that Berhalter’s choices are a singular terrible moment that signals the downfall of his tenure.

And it’s also not because this unit will not qualify for Qatar. They probably will. It’s worth discussing whether they should be entering this window without qualification in the bag, yes, but this is more of a big-picture discussion.

[ MORE: Best XI for qualifiers | USMNT World Cup qual. schedule]

Most people would agree that the age of the USMNT roster and an analysis of the player pool means the side is likely to be at the peak of its powers heading into the 2026 World Cup, but that doesn’t mean the Yanks can’t do real damage at this winter’s World Cup with a halfway decent draw. Talking about how darn young your team is compared to historical version of it is only impressive if you aren’t leaving older players behind out of principles or stats (Just ask Frank Lampard how good it was to play the youth of Chelsea when Thomas Tuchel put the vets back out there and won the European Cup).

Look at the philosophy behind, construction of, and performance by Berhalter’s unit and it’s very difficult to imagine he’s going to make an unbiased selection of the best group of players for a World Cup, adopt the appropriate mentality for a growing power in the sport, and humbly appreciate whichever international opponent stands between him and USSF immortality.

By far the least of the problems caused by the uncertainty of Berhalter’s plan for the program is our USMNT Player Pool Power Rankings, for there is now a “Top 25 USMNT players in the world” and a “Top 25 USMNT players to Gregg Berhalter” that are very different. The key word is the modifier: Very. Every national team manager is going to have a preference or three — Ask any MLS fan about Jurgen Klinsmann and Benny Feilhaber — but Berhalter’s got a bunch than are more than hunch than punch.

The prevalence of advanced stats now makes it possible to compare players from different leagues. If we accept that the top five leagues in Europe are, while a different animal in style, largely superior to MLS.

John Brooks as an example

Let’s start here: Even without explicit acknowledgment or even much innuendo, we have to operate in a mindset that Gregg Berhalter sees John Brooks’ personality or reputation inside of the team as reason to keep him out of the squad. His omission in the Fall felt appropriate given form and both coach and player handled the issue with class, so it seems like the veteran back “got it.”

But Brooks is healthy and playing well for Wolfsburg now. Of backs to play more than 15 league matches, he’s

  • 18th In clearances
  • 11th in aerial duels won percentage
  • 18th in ground duels won percentage
  • 37th In interceptions
  • ninth in accurate long balls per game
  • 18th in clearances
  • 20th in passes attempted
  •  not made an error that’s led to an opposition shot
  • is 25th in SofaScore rating.

Regardless, even a dipped-in-form Brooks is superior to most of the backs of the pool, so whether it’s just a clash of strong personalities or a story we won’t get for a long time, let’s try to accept that Berhalter knows what he’s leaving home and hope that somehow the trade-off is worth it.

As an exercise and with expectation but without pre-judgment, I’ve used the site and its collection of StatsBomb data to put Brooks and the four called-up USMNT pool center backs into the same comparison.

With the caveat that we used the 2021 MLS seasons of James Sands, Miles Robinson, and Walker Zimmerman instead of Sands’ rarely-used start at Rangers and three-match sample sizes for the latter, here’s how Brooks and Erik Palmer-Brown stack up alongside the aforementioned trio. We’ve excluded Aaron Long as he returns from a long-term injury.

Current USMNT CBs stat leaders in club play, per 90 minutes

Passes attempted: Robinson, 59.9 (Brooks 2nd, 59.6)

Passes completed: Robinson, 51.5 (Brooks 3rd, 50.5)

Pass percentage: Sands, 90 (Brooks 3rd, 84.7)

Pass progression distance: Brooks, 410.5 yards (Robinson 2nd, 364.9)

Tackle percentage: Palmer-Brown, 73.7 (Brooks 3rd, 54.3)

Pressure percentage: Palmer-Brown, 38.8 (Brooks 2nd, 38.6)

Shots blocked: Brooks, 1.94 (Robinson 2nd, 1.84)

Tackles+interceptions: Brooks, 4.22 (Palmer-Brown 2nd, 4.18)

Clearances: Zimmerman, 5.9 (Brooks 2nd, 5.5)

Distance progressed: Robinson, 290 (Brooks 2nd, 243.7)

Aerial duels won %: Zimmerman, 76.7 (Brooks 5th, 65.3)

Yep. Brooks leads in some huge categories lauded by Berhalter and is only worse than 3-of-5 in aerial duels won (which is, actually, stunning). And it’s encouraging to see the deeper numbers/analytics explain the Erik Palmer-Brown call-up, a long-time promising defender who is probably not meriting a ton of eyeballs at Troyes.

That’s not to say that he’s a beast among beasts and destined for the very upper reaches of the Bundesliga, which was once a thing. But he’s a strong player who is going to have a strong selection of very good teams from which to choose his next club this summer, and it wouldn’t be surprising if sometime soon we read a hit-piece on why he’s out of the national team fray right now, or learn that he said, “Don’t call me up if I’m not starting.”

I have zero proof of either, which are concocted in a logical lab, but I just can’t calculate another explanation.

Two Big Worries

Presuming the Yanks qualify for Qatar — because if they don’t (and they won’t), U.S. Soccer House should be the most dramatically and peacefully overturned apple cart in sports history — there are two huge worries for U.S. men’s national team fans.

1) The omitted XI

Realistically, in how many meaningful international should an argument be able to be made that a program the stature of the United States men’s national team has 11 healthy players that could defeat any group of XI chosen from the called-up squad.

So, let’s be true here, who wins this matchup?

Called up XI

Sean Johnson, Reggie Cannon, Aaron Long, James Sands, DeAndre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta, Luca de la Torre, Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola, Jordan Morris, Jesus Ferreira.

Healthy and uncalled XI

Brad Guzan, John Brooks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, Joe Scally, Julian Green, Frankie Amaya, Paxton Pomykal, Sebastian Lletget, Djordje Mihailovic, Josh Sargent

Guzan, Amaya, Pomykal, and Ream probably shouldn’t be a part of the discussion and Green and Greuther Furth have struggled, but could you make an argument for calling the others up over the “Called up XI” members (which includes Johnson, Acosta, and Yedlin who are easy to explain as members of the roster but we needed to hit 11)?

We thinks so.

2) Know-it-all arrogance limits USMNT’s ceiling

But really, it just feels at times like Berhalter is one of those managers who believes he’s operating on a higher plane, one that a writer or a player or most of his peers could not possibly understand with their non-galaxy brains. And that’s combined with a stubborn streak that’s made him walk from proverbial beach sand into chest-deep ocean waters, shift back and forth in his stance until he’s ankle-deep, and just hope he’s read the waves right.

And maybe that hope isn’t even coming from Berhalter, but from USMNT fans who are looking at one of the less than 20 World Cups they get to see in their lifetime (until Gianni Infantino starts staging them monthly, at least). Hope is powerful and never dies, paraphrasing the famous quote from “Shawnshank Redemption,” and to be staring down the next World Cup with varying hopeful pleas — one that Berhalter won’t mess up the next week or the players will overcome the nonsense and another that he won’t bungle the World Cup once in Qatar — is a tremendously disappointing vibe.

One Big Asterisk*

Let’s also celebrate the incredible depth of the United States men’s national team, which barely registered blips with Julian Araujo choosing Mexico for his national future and Tyler Boyd not being on the radar after starring right away following a switch from New Zealand to the USMNT.

There was a time that either of those would’ve dominated all of our conversations — remember Jonathan Gonzalez and Gedion Zelalem — but are now just met with mild exhalations and groans.

Not only are MLS academies churning out top players in Major League Soccer as well as a bevy of exports to Europe, but here’s a list of players not even mentioned above or in the player pool rankings below:

Nicholas Gioacchini, Montpellier
Konrad de la Fuente, Marseille
Mark McKenzie, Genk
Justin Che, Hoffenheim
Henry Kessler, New England
Matt Miazga, Alaves
Bryan Reynolds, AS Roma
Sam Vines, Antwerp
Shaq Moore, Tenerife
Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew
Jackson Yueill, San Jose
Matthew Hoppe, Mallorca
Jonathan Lewis, Colorado

Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now

Before we go any further with this list, here’s a reminder of how we sort the talent with some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Konrad de la Fuente is a better long-term prospect than Gyasi Zardes, but the Columbus Crew forward is currently better prepared for the stage than the Marseille youngster.
  • Finally, if you’re breaking a tie between players… ask which you’d be more upset to hear was unavailable for a USMNT camp.

Here we go

Players with an * were unavailable for this month’s qualifiers, # went unselected, last ranking In parentheses

1.  Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (1)
2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (2)
3. Weston McKennie*, Juventus (3)
4. Timothy Weah, Lille (4)
5. Yunus Musah, Valencia (5)
6. Antonee Robinson, Fulham (6)
7. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (13)
8. John Brooks# , Wolfsburg (18)
9. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (9)
10. Chris Richards*, Hoffenheim (11)
11. Walker Zimmerman, Nashville (7)
12. Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys (16)
13. Sergino Dest*, Barcelona (8)
14. Joe Scally#, Borussia Monchengladbach (15)
15. Brenden Aaronson, Red Bull Salzburg (12)
16. Zack Steffen, Manchester City (10)
17. Kellyn Acosta, Colorado Rapids (22)
18. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (20)
19. Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg (17)
20. Gianluca Busio, Venezia (19)
21. Ethan Horvath, Nottingham Forest (NR)
22. Erik Palmer-Brown, Troyes (NR)
23. Cameron Carter-Vickers#, Celtic (NR)
24. Matt Turner*, New England Revolution, loan from Arsenal (21)
25. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders (NR)

Tyler Adams, Chris Richards leave USMNT with injuries

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Gregg Berhalter has called 28 players into the upcoming camp ahead of the USMNT’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras at the end of January and start of February.

[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule, standings ]

The USMNT sits 2nd in CONCACAF after eight games, a single point behind leaders Canada ahead of the two sides’ showdown in the second game of the upcoming window. Mexico and Panama are a point behind the USMNT in 3rd and 4th, respectively.

UPDATE: Midfield lynchpin Tyler Adams and center back Chris Richards have departed USMNT camp after picking up injuries in the Yanks’ 2-0 defeat to Canada on Sunday. Adams suffered a hamstring injury and was subbed out after 69 minutes, while Richards hurt his ankle in the final few minutes of regular time. Berhalter did not announce any additions to the squad as a result of the departures.

Notably, stars Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Timothy Weah, Brenden Aaronson, Yunus Musah and Sergiño Dest are among the 28 players called up, while Giovani Reyna remains unavailable as he recovers from the hamstring injury he picked up on international duty in September.

[ VIDEO: USMNT forward Josh Sargent scores first Premier League goal ]

Check out the full USMNT roster below, along with the upcoming schedule and links to PST’s coverage of the first eight games of World Cup qualifying…

USMNT roster – 2022 World Cup qualifying

Goalkeepers (4): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 26/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 13/0)

Defenders (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 15/2), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 1/0), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 6/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 19/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 15/3), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 23/2)

Midfielders (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 45/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 22/1), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 28/8), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 11/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 30/0)

Forwards (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 15/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 42/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 40/10), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg/GER; 7/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 42/17), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 18/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 66/14)

USMNT humiliated in defeat at Canada: What went wrong?


The USMNT were beaten humiliated by Canada in World Cup qualifying as most of their issues were ruthlessly exposed.

Canada did a job on the USMNT. Plain and simple. It was the way the USMNT lost this game which will hurt most. The lack of fight was humiliating for all U.S. fans watching.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Reaction ]

Canada scored early and late and let the USMNT have the ball in-between, but Gregg Berhalter’s side did very little with it despite the head coach saying he was ‘pleased with the performance’ and thought his side dominated. Hmmm.

Below we look at what went wrong for the USMNT in their first defeat against Canada in World Cup qualifying since 1980.

Should U.S. fans be worried? Are these long-term issues?

No number nine, focal point

Gyasi Zardes was thrown in up top and although he is a regular scapegoat for the USMNT fanbase, this isn’t really his fault. There is a severe lack of central striking options for Berhalter to choose from, especially in this window. Ricardo Pepi was hardly used after his recent move to Augsburg. Then who else is there? Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok were both left out of this squad, and Jesus Ferreira isn’t really a central striker.

The way Berhalter’s teams like to play is with a Zardes-type player up top. But the USMNT don’t have that focal point and Zardes isn’t able to provide the movement and clinical finishing needed to dominate CONCACAF World Cup qualifying or go far at a World Cup. Berhalter’s number one priority must be to find the right person to play centrally up top and that will get the best out of Pulisic, Aaronson and others in the attacking midfield roles underneath whoever it is.

Lack of ‘savvy’ and experience

This one is simple. Nine of the USMNT’s starting 11 were 24 years old or younger. Matt Turner and Gyasi Zardes the two outliers. It showed. Canada aren’t exactly an old team, but their more experienced heads have an impact on their younger stars. You can clearly see it. Canada have a blend of youth and experience. The USMNT doesn’t. And it has a big impact in games, and big situations, like this.

Canada did the dirty things well from start to finish. They fouled to break up counters. They pushed and shoved. They scraped for every ball. They like doing that. Canada also played without their star player Alphonso Davies, and best midfielder Stephen Eustaquio. Given those absentees and a long midweek trip they knew their limitations for this game, they had a plan and executed it perfectly. That did to the USMNT what the USMNT used to do to others.

This USMNT side doesn’t like a scrap and they certainly weren’t up for this battle.

Gregg Berhalter said Canada couldn’t match the USMNT’s physicality. The opposite was true. All of the USMNT’s luxury players lost their individual battles and played right into Canada’s hands. This was a naive display from a young, inexperienced USMNT side. Hopefully this bad experience teaches them a lot.

USMNT have to find Pulisic’s best position

He started out on the left but didn’t manage to get on the ball much and was hacked at several times throughout the game. He was pushed inside for the final 20 minutes but still couldn’t get on the ball. The USMNT have to find a way to get Pulisic on the ball in the correct areas. So many times they won the ball back in good spots and gave it to him, but he played backwards or was too sluggish on the dribble and he looked frustrated throughout.

Pulisic is lacking in confidence and wants to play in his correct position at Chelsea, which is left wing. But for the USMNT it may be better to play him just off a central striker so he can play in a free role as a pure No. 10. He needs to be given the freedom to do what he does best. Right now he’s not really adding anything to the USMNT.

Center back shuffle causing harm

Miles Robinson and Chris Richards got caught out by Matt Turner’s poor goal kick for Canada’s first goal and that summed up the USMNT’s struggles at center back. Canada exposed that ruthlessly as Cyle Larin and Jonathan David smelt blood whenever they could combine and got Robinson and Richards on the back-foot. Walker Zimmerman would have started but suffered a knock, so that was a blow.

Moving forward it is all about trying to find the right partner for Zimmerman, who wasn’t even called up by the USMNT in October. That shows how many issues Berhalter is having to find his first-choice center back pairing. At this point, surely John Brooks deserves a chance. Maybe even Cameron Carter-Vickers? Sorting out a starting central striker and two center backs is key for the USMNT in 2022. The rest of the team looks okay, but those key areas are causing problems throughout their team.

Arrogance setting in?

This last issue is maybe a little harsh on a young team still learning, but there was a sense of arrogance about the USMNT display at Canada.

They just didn’t seem to want it as much as Canada did. They were outmuscled too often and played too many loose passes. There was a lack of hunger similar to watching a Premier League side playing away at a third-tier team in the FA Cup. A whiff in the air that the USMNT didn’t want to be there, in the cold in Canada.

But this was the USMNT’s biggest game of World Cup qualifying against the team who are top of the table. If they can’t get up for this game, is there a bigger problem than we thought? Don’t panic. With four games to go in qualifying, the USMNT should still easily qualify for the World Cup if they win their two home games and pick up a point on the road.

But Berhalter (who did himself no favors with the tone of his post-game press conference) must make sure his team stay focused and hungry as the hunt to finish in the top three will now go into the final round of qualifiers in March. Nobody wants to finish in fourth, but that is now a possibility for the USMNT when it shouldn’t be. We are about to see what this young USMNT side is really made of.

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