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Well, that was less than ideal. The United States were eliminated from the World Cup on Saturday. We're here to walk you through what happened, and what comes next. I'm Mike Goodman and the World Cup still rolls on. This is the Golazo Starting XI newsletter.

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⚽  The Forward Line

USMNT go home with heads held high

The 3-1 score was lopsided. But the game itself wasn't. In the cold, hard late of day, the story of the match really comes down to the fact that Christian Pulisic had a great chance to put the Americans up early on, and he missed it. Minutes later, Memphis Depay had the chance to do the same for the Netherlands, and he did not. A look at the stats over the course of the match show an American team throwing punches as well as taking them in a back-and-forth affair that was decided by relatively fine margins. At least by the measure of expected goals, the United States played the Dutch even.

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That doesn't mean this side shouldn't take lessons from losing here. Despite playing well enough that on another day they might have won, the Americans still didn't play as well as they could have. Tyler Adams was slow to track Memphis Depay for his opening goal, and Sergino Dest was flat-footed on Daley Blind's finish that put the Netherlands up two. They can and should do better.

This was clearly a gassed team, exhausted by playing its fourth match in a week and a half, with very little rotation. The U.S. had to play that way because they needed to get results in every match they played. The Dutch took care of business early, and were able to rest and rotate players. It showed. The biggest advantage the Netherlands had was not the players on the pitch on Saturday, but the comparatively fewer minutes those player logged.

So, while the Pulisic miss is a tantalizing what-if, there's another, possibly even more important unknown to ponder. What if the United States hadn't blown their lead against Wales. What if, instead of playing three 90-minute matches in the group stage where the tension and stakes were ratcheted up to 11, they had taken care of business early and had fresher legs to go up against a Netherlands, who were happy to make them chase the ball. 

As the U.S. continue to grow as a soccer nation, we'll find over the coming decades that sometimes, once the knockout stages begin, you just lose to other good teams. There's no way around it. What you can control are those moments earlier on. Taking care of business against weaker sides gives you the best chance to thrive later in the tournament. And on Saturday, that's the lesson America learned the hard way. 

🔗  Midfield Link Play

More USA analysis

In the days to come, there will be plenty of questions for the USMNT to answer. What's the best way forward for 2026? Should Gregg Berhalter stay on as manager for another cycle? Will Weston McKennie remain in Serie A or will Juventus sell him to the Premier League? Will a strong World Cup mean more minutes for Christian Pulisic? But for now, there's just a disappointing loss to grapple with and some more great World Cup action to numb the pain.

Let's get to some links:

💰  The Back Lines

Best bets

One pick for Sunday's late game! All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

  • England vs. Senegal, Sunday, 2 p.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: Under 2.5 goals (-145). I don't believe the England scoring hype, but I do believe the England hype. This is a strong unit, especially now with Kyle Walker returning in defense. They don't give up chances, and they take the few good ones they create for themselves. It's true they've been on a hot streak, but all those goals have come mostly from the kind of strong form in finishing that's unlikely to be predictive of itself. Which is to say bet on England to play like England always do, which is very good, but doesn't involve finishing a raft of unlikely chances.