Christian Pulisic scored the biggest USA goal in 12 years as the USA advanced
Because it was an all-or-nothing game, when winning was everything and anything else was failure. Pulisic, the superstar figurehead of this young USA team, saw that equation, liked it, and decided to go with the “winning” option.
He also paid for it. All Greg Berhalter’s Americans showed heroic spirit and fierce determination at Al Thumama Stadium, but Pulisic put his body on the line in the most devil-may-care way to secure the only goal of the game.
In the 38th minute, near the end of a first half that brought little but frustration in the face of Iran’s relentless dedication to total defence, Weston McKenney Received the ball in midfield and came right back Sargino Dest Fast forward to the side. McKenney’s floated ball was headed across the face of Dest’s goal and Pulisic won a leg race to head it home from a few yards out.
Then … crunch. The 24-year-old American is already a Champions League winner Chelsea And was seemingly destined for the top since he first broke into the national team squad as a teenager, clashing fiercely with Iran’s goalkeeper. Alireza Bairanvand And lie in the air on the turf for a few minutes.
He fought on until halftime, but did not reappear after the break, having been substituted Brendan Aaronson. He was taken to hospital with an abdominal injury for a scan. He’s done enough, if you consider “enough” to be the most immediately important goal by an American man in 12 years.
They then clashed with March, USA, in a round of 16 The Netherlands Saturday, a matchup where they will be a big underdog. Don’t write them off though, and don’t underestimate the emotional boost gained from this, a win in a game that has become rife with political undertones in days gone by.
Just before the break they could have put the contest out of Iran’s reach with a pair of breakaways, where one Josh Sgt And Timothy Weah Fails to connect and another where Weah puts the ball into the net, but is ruled offside.
Suddenly, the task at hand has changed, for both parties. Iran could no longer sit back and hold on, and pushed men forward as they sought the equalizer they needed to send their country into the knockout rounds for the first time in history.
In the 52nd minute, Saman Ghoddos had a header from six yards but Dest steered it over the bar under pressure on his shoulder.
Perhaps seeing the folly of Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz’s over-cautious tactics, the Americans were not sitting on the lead despite Iran’s proven effectiveness on the break through fast forwards. Mahdi Taremi And Sardar Azmoun ready to push
It was a different Iran now, no longer with 10 players behind the ball as a defensive wall. Throw-ins and free-kicks will no longer take forever.
There were also new priorities for the Americans. Berhalter made a surprise appearance when his team was announced, introducing the defender Cameron Carter-Vickers For his first action in the tournament and relegation Walker Zimmerman Not on the bench, perhaps, because of any defensive deficiencies Zimmerman has been great as well Team Ram 0-0 against EnglandBut because of the potential threat from set pieces.
Now, Carter-Vickers had to do his part to fend off the attack, as the striker stepped up on goal, leaving out Mehdi Taremi.
Iran, however, created opportunities. The lively Ghoddos in midfield received the ball unmarked in the area, but curled his shot wide. Matt Turnertimes of
Turner, barely needed in the first half as possession fell exclusively to the Americans, gradually became busier. Earlier, as he belted out the pre-game anthem, emotion plastered across his face, he rubbed the flag on his chest.
Towards the end, his face contorted again, this time in defiance, later Morteza Pouraliganji Headed wide from the free-kick across the face of the goal.
This, the nerve-wracking final moment, was the part American fans had not prepared themselves for. With so much talk about the need to score goals in the build-up, one part was lost, their need to resist.
DeAndre Yedlin and Josh Sargent hug Iran’s Saeed Izatolahi after the match. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Now, that was paramount. Turner, always calm, was commanding in the box, one of his finer moments when he collected a through pass knowing he would take a boot from Taremi.
No pain, no gain. Same for him. Same for Pulisic. The price of victory. And so much better than the pain of failure.
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