DOMINIC KING: The American dream died yet again with World Cup defeat to Holland, but this is not the end of the road… by the time they host in 2026, this young team will be even stronger – and they are just a point away from to be brilliant
The American dream hadn’t come true yet again, and Christian Pulisic couldn’t contain his emotions, rolled up his shirt and buried his face.
It had been the ambition of this energetic and youthful USA squad to emulate – and possibly better – the class of 2002, which had reached the last eight in Japan and South Korea. Had Pulisic kept his cool in the second minute, they might have done it too.
Every second, every touch, every pass and every shot counts in a World Cup. One hiccup, one hesitation and it all comes crashing down, especially when the pressure is as intense as it is in the “win or go home” games that follow the group stages.
Christian Pulisic missed a huge chance in the opening minutes of the USA’s defeat by Holland
Pulisic was the hero against Iran, but the enigmatic forward was unable to repeat his heroics
Pulisic, the enigmatic Chelsea striker, had a glorious opportunity to shape the narrative in the USA’s favor in the second minute when he found himself on the touchline and all alone in Holland’s penalty area. A clean strike and he would have given his team the lead.
He had been the hero of the season against Iran – scoring the goal that saw his side qualify with England from Group B – but Pulisic was unable to repeat the feat, his shot bobbing up and Andries Noppert, Heerenveen’s goalkeeper, sticking out his left leg. save. It was a big moment.
You could tell it was on his mind at the final whistle as he began to crawl. Pulisic, whose season at Stamford Bridge has been pockmarked with inconsistency, opened up about it a couple of hours later. Being asked to visit the scene of a trauma was clearly painful.
Gio Reyna will be among the stars to reach the top when the 2026 World Cup arrives
Brenden Aaronson takes on Jurrien Timber during the Round of 16 in Doha, Qatar
“It hurts,” Pulisic sighed. “I thought I was way offside when it happened. He made a good save so of course it’s going to hurt for a while. We don’t want to feel that way again. It was an honor to represent our country, but right now it’s tough.’
Even more descriptive was Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner, who said: ‘We did something that wasn’t us. The silence in the dressing room is deafening. The mood is gloomy. Contesting a game of this nature and losing doesn’t make anyone feel better.’
However, this is not the end of the road for Gregg Berhalter’s side by any means and it will be fascinating to see how, when they co-host in the summer of 2026, this group will progress as they are just one top-flight away. from being a nice page.
Matt Turner (left) was honest in his post-match assessment, admitting the mood was “gloomy”
It is currently unclear whether Gregg Berhalter will continue to lead the US national team going forward
When they played England, Gareth Southgate’s team were surprised by how much the USA ran and how intense it was; they have some excellent talent, such as Leeds pair Brenden Aaronsen and Tyler Adams, to go with Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna.
A 3-1 defeat to Holland ends this journey in the Middle East, but you’d be in no rush to dismiss them in four years’ time.
Put another way, when they last hosted the World Cup in 1994, the USA won one of their four games. This squad will do better.
“It’s a different experience for all these guys,” Pulisic said. “We didn’t qualify for the last World Cup and here we are in the round of 16. There are certainly moments we can be very proud of. We don’t want to feel that way again and we want to put ourselves in a position to win tournaments like this.’