By Alex Al-Kazzaz
Everything came down to just one game for the United States and Iran. The winner would win a golden ticket to the World Cup knockout stage while the loser would pack up and leave Qatar. For the United States, EVERYTHING they had worked for in the past four years was on the line. The USMNT had everything to lose and by the skin of their teeth, they survived.
The United States will play the Netherlands on Sunday. The USMNT is looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. They've come a long way since failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia four years ago. Since then the USMNT has won the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League and the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Now they're determined to make a deep run in the World Cup knockout stage.
Iran deserves a massive amount of credit for proving themselves as respectable and worthy opponents to the United States. Iran did everything they could to make things difficult for the Stars and Stripes. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the United States took everything Iran could throw at them and Iran could not respond. The United States did fight back and put Iran through misery as well and while Iran managed to stay on their feet, they could not overcome the obstacles.
The United States took the lead in the 38th minute when Christian Pulisic was able to put the ball in for a goal with an assist from Sergino Dest. Pulisic picked up an injury during that play and while he was able to briefly return to the game he was subbed out at the half and replaced by Brenden Aaronson. The USMNT would have held a 2-0 lead going into the half, but Tim Weah's goal was nullified due to offside.
Iran's defense was in full gear immediately. The Iranian goalkeeper made a total of four saves and the Iranian defense made a total of 16 clearances with 12 interceptions. Unfortunately, the attack managed to get one shot-on-target and they missed several golden opportunities to get on the scoreboard. The US defense made 20 clearances Perhaps it's safe to say that Iran was a little too unlucky. For the US, they could not capitalize on their opportunities, which has been a huge problem for them this entire tournament. For the most part, several decisions on manager Gregg Berhalter have been the team's biggest problem in this tournament, but overall, the USMNT has made mistakes as a team. And that needs to be fixed before Sunday.
Those nine minutes added in stoppage time were the most crucial for both teams. The USMNT had to go on full defensive mode because Iran was more than likely to apply excruciating pressure and the US had to find a way to prevent Iran from scoring at all costs. Between the 80th minute and the final whistle, at least twice, Iran called for a penalty only for the referee to declare that no foul occurred. Therefore, it's obvious that the United States won this game by merely surviving it.