The United States received major fitness boosts as the entire team was in training Friday in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup round of 16 clash against the Netherlands on Saturday. Christian Pulisic has already been cleared to be available following a pelvic contusion and Josh Sargent also seems ready to go after suffering an ankle injury. It'll be interesting to see if Weston McKennie has more than 60 minutes in him, but having the major players ready is music to Gregg Berhalter's ears as the on Saturday.
Sergino Dest will be critical in a match against his birth nation as his performances helped the United States keep back-to-back shutouts and he also assisted Pulisic's winner against Iran. While he'll need to be ready to go for the USMNT to pull out a victory, what else will need to happen for the United States to win the match?
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Let's break it all down, but first, here's my predicted lineup:
Predicted lineup: Matt Turner; Dest, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson; Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams, McKennie; Timothy Weah, Sargent, Pulisic
1. Pressure often
The Americans must unsettle them and win the midfield battle if they want any chance of pulling off the upset. Take the England game as an example. of Adams, Musah and McKennie is one of the best groups in the World Cup. In possession, the Dutch keep the ball on the ground and they're prone to coughing it up with 30 dispossessions in three games.
Berhalter and the USMNT have used different midfield configurations to unsettle the opposition and they'll be expected to add a fourth to throwinto disarray. The Netherlands are prone to making bad decisions with the ball under pressure, especially when the wing backs are in possession. Pressing plays to the advantage of this youthful United States side. The defense has already proven that when the front six drives forward, it can maintain its positioning despite being left on an island a bit vulnerable to a counterattack.
Moving to the defense ...
2. Push the pace
The Dutch like to control the tempo, which is why I think that Cameron Carter-Vickers will start the match again. More comfortable on the ball than Walker Zimmerman, Carter-Vickers can help the USMNT up the tempo in the match. We already know that Dest and Antonee Robinson live in the attacking third, so having center backs that can find them will be important.
Even Turner has been comfortable with the ball on his feet pushing forward as his training with Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal is beginning to show in his game. If the United States can dictate the tempo, good things -- like scoring early -- could come. And if that happens, they can then lock things down again by bringing in Zimmerman on late.
If things go wrong, you run the risk of being overwhelmed defensively. But at this stage, the USMNT are playing with house money and will need to take risks. They may not have the depth to go toe-to-toe with the Netherlands for 120 minutes, so coming out of the blocks quickly will make a big difference in winning the match. Knowing that the ball will stay on the ground, the U.S. will have the recovery speed to make last ditch tackles if needed.
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3. Slow the game down in attack
Seven shots on target and two goals. That's all the USMNT attack has done this tournament. Only seven teams have fewer shots on frame than the Americans. But the issue for the USMNT is that they are either pushing too quickly and not realizing that they have time for the extra pass or dribbling too much instead of passing. The wingers Weah and Pulisic in particular have been especially guilty of this. They've been the only ones to find the back of the net, which is a positive sign, but the potential is there for them to produce more by looking for the extra pass instead of driving directly at goal.
Facing Virgil van Dijk in defense, the team will have to pull him into bad spots because the rest of the back line is error prone for the Netherlands. As the lights get brighter, this can be hard to do for a young team but trusting your teammates to finish chances is key.