After Captain America, Christian Pulisic, sacrificed body and soul to almost single-handedly will the United States into the knockout round of the 2022 World Cup, American soccer fans began to think that somehow, in this most surprising and unusually staged year, they might actually have had a chance to go where only one previous men’s national team had gone previously–the final eight.
After all, they had played the far superior English team to a scoreless draw, and Pulisic’s selfless goal helped knock off a very good Irani squad in a politically charged and emotional win earlier this week. And indeed, Pulisic played well against the Netherlands this morning, nearly opening the scoring early and eventually assisting on a 76th minute score.
But the Dutch are very, very good. And, as USA Today mournfully reported, despite the strides the U.S. seemed to take, the end result today was all too familiar.
A 3-1 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday eliminated the Americans in the round of 16, the same finish as the 2014, 2010 and 1994 squads. The USMNT has won just one knockout round game since returning to the World Cup in 1990 after a 40-year absence, when the 2002 team reached the quarterfinals.