Following his team’s win against Iran that put them through to the World Cup knockout round, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter is enforcing a no-fear approach as they prepare to take on the Dutch, and whomever might or might not be waiting at the next steps.
Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over the Iranians was a nail-biting affair that saw the Americans come away from a dominant first half with only the narrowest of leads, then face increasing pressure over the final 45 minutes and nearly 10 minutes of added time, before finally hanging on for the crucial victory.
In his post-game comments to the German and American press, Berhalter was still clearly impacted by the events that just transpired as well as their significance, but did his best to sum up the overall experience.
“The end of the game was crazy,” he yielded, moments after walking off the field. “I think over these three games we have done well. We have only allowed one opposing goal, we are satisfied with our performance and now comes the Netherlands.”
“With this new injury time counting every second, it’s stressful,” the coach admitted, adding with a laugh, “I think I have less hair on my head now. We’ll take it, we’ll move on, and we’ll battle Holland.”
Similarly to the group-stage opener against Wales, the game was a tale of two halves, with the team managing to take a narrow lead in a dominant first 45 minutes, before conceding more ground to their opposition after the break. Unlike eight days before, they held on for the full duration, and took the crucial three points.
“In the first half, we showed what we can do soccer-wise,” he explained, further elaborating “We had a really good first half.”
“In the second half, we showed what can do determination-wise.”
“The guys grinded, they gave every single ounce of energy, and we are undefeated going into the next round.”
“It was hard,” he readily admitted regarding the task of holding onto the precarious lead as the second half wore on. “We were a little bit tired, we lost strength, and every second-ball went to the opposition.”
“In this part [of the game] we had to be mentally strong,” he assessed, finally beaming “the guys did it well.”
Looking at the team’s relevance in the overall tournament, the former defender was clear that they should not be intimidated by any opponent, even with a dangerous Dutch side awaiting on Saturday and the Argentinians the most likely opponent to face the winner of that game.
“We should have no fear,” he confidently stated. “We are a good team, and we can match up against any opponent.”
While the team escaped the first two games without any injuries or suspensions, they will have questions heading into Saturday afternoon’s matchup against the eighth-ranked Dutch team.
Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent were obviously hurting at the time of their substitutions, with the former possibly triggering a necessary reconfiguration of the attacking strategy against the European foes who are three-times runners-up of the World Cup.
Berhalter will lead the American squad into their Round of 16 game against 2010 finalists Netherlands on Saturday at 10am Eastern time, 4pm Central European time, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan.