Netherlands v USA: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
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It's a nervy Saturday! Time to see if the United States' adventure continues at 10 a.m. ET against a Dutch team that, while favored, is definitely beatable. Want to know how? Read on. I'm Mike Goodman and this is the Golazo Starting XI newsletter.

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⚽  The Forward Line

How the USMNT can pull off the upset

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There's one extremely important thing to understand about the Netherlands. They simply don't take enough shots to be one of the best teams in the world. They want to have the ball. They want to keep the ball. And they want to keep it some more. Then maybe they'll pass it around the attacking area before working it backward for a while. Then back to the front. And they'll keep doing that as long as the defense allows, waiting for a perfect moment to shoot a shot that might never come.

Let's explain that with some numbers. During the group stage of the World Cup, the Netherlands attempted the ninth-most passes of any team, while attempting the third-fewest long passes. Only Spain and Argentina played the ball long less than the Netherlands. Despite having all that possession and steadfastly playing short pass after short pass after short pass, they couldn't generate shots. Only six teams in the tournament took fewer shots in the group stage than the Netherlands.

The U.S., on the other hand, not only played fewer passes than the Netherlands, they played fewer passes than them in the attacking third of the field, but actually generated more shots than their Dutch counterparts 28 to 25. None of this means that the Netherlands are bad or worse than the United States. The best way to understand what the Netherlands are trying to do is to defend with the ball. And as we'll see when we get to the picks later on, if you believe in the U.S., then you'd stand to make a pretty penny from oddsmakers all over the world.

Think about Netherlands like a ground-and-pound NFL offense. If they have the ball, you can't score. So they want to have the ball. What keeps the Netherlands from being a terrific team though, is that they also have trouble scoring. If the U.S. can keep them from just passing the ball around and force them into turnovers, then they can get free to pour forward and take risks attacking the Netherlands net. They have to believe that the Dutch side won't exploit them if they get caught out of position from countering.

Is that enough to make the Americans the favorites? No. Is it enough to give them a path to victory? Absolutely.

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

Keys to the game

Make sure you check out Chuck Booth's keys to U.S. victory as he looks at how the Americans can win the midfield battle by pressuring the Dutch aggressively. He argues that the USMNT need to push the pace to take the game to the Netherlands. We all know the Dutch want to control the ball, so it's vital that Gregg Berhalter's side is deliberate with the ball to kill some of their possession. The plan is to go fast and hard when the Dutch have the ball, and pick their spots in possession.

Make sure to read the whole thing, but if there's one major thing to remember, it's this:

  • Booth: "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."

Let's get to some links:

💰  The Back Lines

Best bets

Let's pick some games! All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Netherlands vs. USA, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: USA (+330). We said it before and we'll say it again, emotional hedges are for the weak. Yes, the Dutch are the favorite, and yes, they deserve to be, but there's a real path for the Americans to win. One point to make is that it's better to bet on the Americans to win outright than it is to bet on them to advance, which includes extra time and potentially penalties. The U.S. doesn't have great depth, if they can't win in regulation then things get harder from there.
  • Netherlands vs. USA, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: Anytime scorer, Christian Pulisic (+400). He's cleared to play, he's the American's best player, he'll be on the left matched up against an attack-heavy wing back in Denzel Dumfries. Pulisic driving at the heart of an unsettled Dutch defense is exactly what the Americans need.