USA Set to Battle Dutch In Round of 16 at World Cup
What a nail biter huh? A bruising 38-minute goal from the one we call Captain America, (even though he's not the team captain) Christian Pulisic drove the US in to the knock-out stage of the World Cup, while suffering an injury in the process. Not to mention, surviving a vicious attacking onslaught from Iran through the 2nd half of the match. So what next for the US and how can we best take the game to the Netherlands this Saturday in Qatar at 9am?
Firstly, when heading into the match against the Netherlands it is of the utmost importance that we stay healthy. This game highlighted that fact brutally and featured 2 game changing injuries for the US. The first being Pulisic with an injury that has been confirmed as a pelvic contusion. The second injury was to standout forward on the day, Joshua Sargent, who seemed too hyper extend his knee or injure an ankle after a slide tackle. He was replaced but Haji Wright on the evening, but his hold-up-play and use as a target forward were sorely missed and it was plain to see upon his departure. Sargent was able to leave the field under his own strength. In addition, Pulisic did post socially after the game that he would be back for the knock-out match against the Dutch.
Secondly how should we line-up and why? Here we go...
The Netherlands loves to possess the ball and they have the weapons to do so as they finished top of their group. Cody Gakpo has been instrumental in the Dutch attack providing 3 goals across 3 games. Add to that the stout defending of Virgil Van Dyke and you've got an extremely assured Dutch side. However, despite winning the group the Netherlands struggled offensively against both Uruguay and Senegal. If the US can stifle the Dutch creativity from midfield (Frankie De Jong) they will have a good chance of marching on to the round of 8.
Depending on injuries, I believe our starting line-up should remain relatively unchanged from the Iran match. Carter-Vickers in defense added the extra steel we've been missing. While Dest and Robinson's wing play from deep has been instrumental in our scoring opportunities. One switch I might make would be to introduce Gio Reyna to the starting line-up. He offers a similar skill set to Christian Pulisic and makes defenders uncomfortable by driving at them with the ball. Getting the Dutch side off balanced will be key in this match.
I would also employ a more press-minded attack. Dutch defenders like Blind and de Ligt are NOT speed demons and need time on the ball to make good decisions/passes. A high-pressure approach against certain players like these may yield opportunities from mistakes. On the opposite end, I feel Carter-Vickers could put the muscle to Cody Gakpo and keep up with his dangerous darting runs through and behind the back line.
In the end I'm hoping to see the US team come out with a 4-3-3 consisting of stand-out keeper Matt Turner in goal, with a defense of Sergino Dest, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Timothy Ream, and Antonee Robinson. In midfield, it has to be the pivotal Weston McKennie, along with Captain Tyler Adams, and fellow youngster Yunus Musah. Forward line follows as Pulisic, Joshua Sargent, and Gio Reyna. Should Josh Sargent be injured, Timothy Weah would make for a good option instead. If we are getting pinned back, a pest of a player like Brenden Aaronson could provide break up play and high pressure up the pitch in place of Musah.