How the USMNT Reached the World Cup Round of 16


The U.S. men’s national team has advanced.

Faced with a win-or-go-home scenario, the United States toughed out a 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup Round of 16.

The USMNT entered the third and final group stage matchday in third place behind second-place Iran, but the Americans catapulted their Group B counterparts thanks to a goal from Christian Pulisic and another stout defensive effort.

In three group stage games, the United States didn’t allow a single goal from open play. The only blemish on their record was a late penalty kick versus Wales.

An unbeaten U.S. side will now take on an unbeaten Netherlands team, which won Group A, in the Round of 16. But before the knockout stage showdown, here’s a look back at the USMNT’s run through the group stage.

Draw vs. Wales in opener

The World Cup got off to a thrilling start for the U.S.

In the 36th minute versus Wales, Tim Weah tallied the Americans’ first World Cup goal since July 1, 2014. The score featured a great feed from Pulisic and a clinical finish from Weah.

The USMNT maintained the 1-0 advantage for more than 40 minutes, but it wasn’t able to see out the victory. In the 80th minute, Wales was awarded a penalty kick following a reckless challenge from defender Walker Zimmerman on Gareth Bale. Bale then beat goalkeeper Matt Turner from the spot to level the match, which would end in a 1-1 draw.

After the match, some USMNT members said a crucial call was missed just before the game-tying PK. Manager Gregg Berhalter and defender Antonee Robinson both believed an out-of-bounds call in favor of the U.S. should have been made just moments before Zimmerman’s foul on Bale.

“Unless the replay shows differently, it was blatantly out of play,” Robinson said. “So it’s really disappointing.”

“I mean, I’m on the sideline, looking down the sideline, and I’m sure the ball went out of bounds,” Berhalter added. “I’m positive.”

Scoreless draw in showdown with England

The U.S. met England next in what was possibly the most anticipated matchup of the entire group stage. The showdown, however, ultimately failed to live up to the hype.

The two teams combined for just four shots on target (three from England, one from the U.S.) and zero goals in a mostly-uneventful scoreless draw.

In a development not many probably expected, though, the United States did look like the more impressive side against a European heavyweight.

Victory over Iran in must-win match

The Round of 16 won’t be the USMNT’s first must-win game.

After two draws, the U.S. entered its last group stage match needing a victory over Iran to advance in the tournament. Anything less, and the team would be leaving Qatar early. That means the Americans had to find a way to end their goalless drought, as they hadn’t scored since Weah’s 36th-minute goal in the opener.

Enter, Christian Pulisic.

In the 38th minute, the American star winger knocked home a cross from Sergino Dest to put the U.S. in front. Pulisic suffered an injury on the score after colliding with Iran’s goalkeeper and was subbed out of the game at halftime.

Unlike the Wales match, a Pulisic-less United States side successfully protected a 1-0 first-half lead this time around to punch its ticket to the World Cup knockout stage.

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