Recap: USMNT advance to Round of 16 with win over Iran

It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Landon Donovan’s last-minute winner against Algeria, but in a must-win match against Iran on Tuesday, Christian Pulisic did his best impression. The Chelsea winger thumped home a cross to give the United States Men’s National Team a 1-0 lead, earning them a second-place finish in Group B and a Round of 16 matchup with the Netherlands on Saturday.

The XI

Head coach Gregg Berhalter made two changes to the side that drew England on Black Friday, bringing Josh Sargent back into the squad to lead the line, and surprisingly dropping defender Walker Zimmerman in place of Cameron Carter-Vickers.

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On the pitch

As expected, the US dominated possession, but were surprisingly able to find space through Iran’s packed defense. After creating a number of half chances in the first half, the Yanks finally found the breakthrough via Christian Pulisic, who was able to volley home Sergiño Dest’s headed cross, albeit at great personal cost.

Pulisic managed to grind out the last final minutes of the half, but was taken off at the break and sent to the hospital for what was later described by the team as “pelvic contusions”. I don’t want to google “pelvic contusions”, but I saw what happened, and that’s the level of commitment you need to win at a World Cup.

The US thought they’d found a second just before the break, but Timothy Weah’s expert finish was called back for a hairline offside decision. After the half, Iran began to throw more and more crosses in the box, but the Yanks were still able to control the match until the final minutes.

Berhalter brought Zimmerman on, and for the final 20 minutes the US back three headed cross after cross clear, absorbing pressure and bending, but not breaking. While it made for a heart-in-mouth ending to the match, it proved to be enough to earn the win and punch their ticket to the knockout round.

The big picture

This tweet from Jamie does a great job at laying it all out:

With an absurdly young lineup, the US advanced from a difficult group and were the better team in all but a few minutes of their three games. They allowed just one goal, and it came from the penalty spot. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective enough to pass the minimum requirement for a successful tournament.

With a Round of 16 matchup against a talented but beatable Netherlands team looming, it’s hard not to be excited about this team going forward.

The USMNT will take on Netherlands on Saturday at 9 am CT. The match can be watched on FOX.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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