The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in USMNT World Cup-Ending 3-1 Loss to Netherlands

The United States Men’s National Team got back to the World Cup in 2022 after an eight-year absence. That in itself is an excellent accomplishment. The team then recorded five points in the Group Stage (one win, two draws) to make the Knockout Stage, which is another incredible feat. However, that is where the country’s soccer dreams died. The USMNT was beaten handily by a Netherlands team who also missed out on the 2018 tournament.

In this heartbreaking loss, there were good moments, bad moments, and ugly moments for Gregg Berhalter’s bunch. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Matt Turner, and the rest of the USMNT’s World Cup exit.

The bad of the USMNT 3-1 loss to the Netherlands

We’ll start with the bad because there was a lot of it. The overall bad issue is that the Netherlands completely out-classed the USMNT in the Round of 16 and showed how far the American team has to go before they are ready to be a final eight or better side.

The U.S. dominated the ball, with 58% to 42% possession. However, the team was sloppy in the final third, seemingly without a plan when they got close to the Dutch goal. They also had eight shots on target to the Netherlands’ six, but that just goes to show that the USMNT players weren’t at all clinical in front of net.

Overall, the Netherlands’ goals perfectly illustrate the difference between the two teams.

On these goals, players on the wings sent passes into the box to the players who scored. And that’s the key word: passes.

They didn’t wildly fling crosses into the box like the U.S. did, hoping a teammate would get on the end of it. They were patient and surgical with their actions when in the U.S. end.

The other issue the USMNT’s poor performance in the offensive zone indicated is the complete lack of a potent striker. Jesus Ferreira was largely invisible in the first half, and when Haji Wright came in, he did get the goal, but the carom off his boot seemed almost accidental.

The U.S. now has four years before hosting the next World Cup. The players will get more patient and clinical with age around the box, so that’s a good thing. Developing a world-class American striker is a different story, and U.S. Soccer has four years to figure it out.

The ugly in America’s World Cup exit

DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Pulisic of USMNT applaud the fans after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Netherlands and USA at Khalifa International Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Pulisic | Richard Sellers/Getty Images

The ugly in this game was the play of full-backs Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson.

The pair had been bright spots throughout the 2022 World Cup, but they completely fell apart in this game.

Offensively, it’s noted above that the USMNT threw wild crosses into the box, and Dest and Robinson were two of the main culprits of that. After a taxing Iran match, it’s understandable they were tired, but if they are going to take the lazy way out, Gregg Berhalter has to get someone else in there.

However, it is defensively that they truly broke down.

On the Netherlands’ first goal, Robinson didn’t challenge the pass to Denzel Dumfries or close him down fast enough. That allowed Dumfries to pick out Memphis Depay for the first tally.

For the second goal, Robinson again let Dumfries get off a great pass into the box, and Dest completely fell asleep while ball-watching and let Daley Blind get in front of him for the easy goal. On the flip side for goal three, it was Robinson who completely lost track of Dumfries behind him, and Blind picked him out for the nail in the coffin.

Robinson (25) and Dest (22) will figure into the USMNT’s future plans for sure, but they need to tighten it up the next few years on both sides of the ball.

The good takeaways from the USMNT’s 2022 tournament

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There is a lot of good that came from the USMNT in the 2022 World Cup. First and foremost, the team qualified and got out of their group, which is great.

Additionally, the team was the second youngest in the entire tournament and, against Iran, fielded the youngest stating 11 in the 2022 World Cup. That means almost all of the major players — except 35-year-old defender Tim Ream — should be back for 2026 unless a better player beats them out.

The U.S. is hosting the bulk of the 2026 World Cup, including all of the Knockout Stage matches, so the USMNT will have a home-field advantage. Combine that with the group of 20-24-year-olds who will be squarely in their 24-28-year-old primes in 2026, and the future of the USMNT is so bright you’ve got to wear shades.

Even after the ugly ending to their World Cup in the desert.