USA gifts Dutch win in World Cup 2022

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal

The USA’s lack of a game plan and correct lineup gifted the Dutch the easiest of wins in the Round of 16 in Qatar’s World cup 2022, losing an eminently winnable match 3-1 with their best generation of home-grown talent in decades. Perhaps now the US Soccer Federation will consider getting a top coach a priority.

Having witnessed what his best lineup looked like in a win over Iran just a few days ago, USA coach Gregg Berhalter felt it best to experiment with Jesus Ferreira instead of Brendan Aaronson up front, returned to using the timid and ineffectual Walker Zimmerman instead of Cameron Carter-Vickers (who played a great game against Iran), and then failed to react to the only two Dutch strategic adjustments, attacking behind the forward progress of  Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson, and the man-on-man midfield press applied on the USA’s one relative strength, their midfield. Funny how Louis van Gaal, the Dutch coach, had a plan when playing a lesser team but the USA’s coaching staff seemed unable to have one themselves or react to the Dutch’s plan once it became obvious. In short, Berhalter was unable to optimize this golden opportunity.

The valiant young Yanks fought on despite the weight of their unnecessary and inexcusable Berhalter-fashioned impediments, but the Netherlands were a higher-level performer than the USA regularly meets, and the likes of Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong, Daley Blind, and Virgil van Dijk, not to mention Denzel Dumphries (two assists and the third goal) simply schooled the lost Americans.

The two first-half goals were scored because the USA simply do not have quality central defenders and are asking their wingbacks to move so far upfield that any quick attack on the wings exposes their defense. How Depay was left alone to slot home an obvious cross from close range is simply dumbfounding. That the nearly exact play, where a cross from the wing finds an opponent cutting into the middle of the box for another close-in shot and score took place in a single half is inexcusable. That the third goal was similarly obtained via the tactical innocence of the USA lineup is sad.

Though Dest bears some responsibility for the defensive breakdown the USA’s two central defenders could have reached their arms out and touched each other which tells you just how much of the penalty area they were defending—any attacker coming in from either wing would have been as open as Daly.

So, guess what happened after the USA bumbled the ball over the line for a score? Well, you see, Dumphries, who plays on the wing, was allowed to stand and wave his hands for a decade completely unmarked on the far side of the USA penalty box until Blind finally spotted him behind a clump of three American defenders, and calmly and methodically crossed the ball—seemingly unnoticed by that clump of three defenders—to the wide-open scorer of the Dutch team’s third goal. Holland—3—v—1—USA at the final whistle.

In between, of course, the USA had at least two chances to score but muffed them when the breakdown in the play was hardly an opponent’s fault because none was impeding the American’s progress, it was the USA player’s first touch that muffed the scoring opportunity. To add insult to injury, one need only think that the USA had a “set play coach” and yet never managed a single innovative, or for that matter, basic and effective set play. That itself is a testament to the level of coaching support the USA’s talented team has had all along.

In short, you cannot overcome a poor or nonexistent game plan and win at this level. You simply cannot miss open chances, like Pulisic’s in the early minutes of the match. The USA had eight shots on goal and one goal, and the Dutch had six and three. At the World Cup, you are in the deep end with the big boys, and it simply showed that the USA’s coach is not up to that level and several team players are likewise not ready for prime time. Too bad, because this team has many players who are and who could have done a lot better had their coaching support been better.

Photo: Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal, Shutterstock ID: 1844164570, by photoyh.


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