America’s hopes of advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 went up in smoke in a 3-1 defeat against the Netherlands — and the Yanks watching on at home weren’t happy.
The Dutch were in the driver’s seat from the outset and first half strikes to Memphis Depay and Daley Blind left no doubt about where this game was heading.
The USA did have a glimpse of hope when Haji Wright scored in the 76th minute but it lasted exactly five minutes as Denzel Dumfries was left unmarked and finished with ease to make it 3-1.
Depay opened proceedings in the 10th minute, completing an exceptional team goal that began deep in the Dutch defence and included seven of their players touching the ball in the lead-up.
It was rightly hailed as one of the goals of the tournament.
But there was immediate finger-pointing at US players who didn’t track back with a sense of urgency fitting for the occasion — and the Americans were accused of falling asleep again when Blind put the Dutch 2-0 up in first half injury time.
It was a painful lesson in finishing for the Americans.
Although the USA enjoyed long periods of possession in a bright first-half display, all too often a lack of composure in the final third let them down.
Instead it was the Dutch who calmly bided their time before carving open the Americans with forensic precision.
USA forward Christian Pulisic squandered a golden chance to put his team 1-0 up after only three minutes, when he found himself in space only to see a scuffed shot saved by Andries Noppert.
Buoyed by that early chance, the US remained on the front foot, attacking high up the field.
But on 10 minutes the Netherlands took the lead. Superb interplay in midfield saw the ball worked to Inter Milan’s Dumfries down the right.
Dumfries picked out Depay, who swept home the finish to cap a majestic 20-pass move that was in the best traditions of the Netherlands’ total footballing heritage.
Again the Americans advanced purposefully into Dutch territory through Pulisic, only for the Chelsea player to deliver a cross that fell behind his US teammates.
Tim Weah had the best American chance of the remainder of the half on 43 minutes, letting fly with a rasping shot that Noppert parried away.
But in first half stoppage time, the Netherlands delivered the hammer blow. Dumfries again found space down the right and drilled a cross to Blind, who had ghosted clear of Sergino Dest, for an emphatic low finish.
The Netherlands nearly extended their lead early in the second half when Dumfries’ low cross was prodded towards the US goal by defender Walker Zimmerman, forcing a smart save from Matt Turner.
USA coach Gregg Berhalter introduced Gio Reyna for the ineffective Jesus Ferreira in attack at halftime in an effort to provide a sharper cutting edge.
The Borussia Dortmund player made an instant impression after setting up a shot for Weston McKennie that sailed over the bar.
Berhalter brought on Haji Wright for McKennie midway through the second half and the move sparked a fleeting revival.
After seeing a goal-bound chance cleared at the near post on 75 minutes, Wright scored a minute later when his flick from Pulisic’s cross looped over Noppert into the Dutch net for 2-1.
Yet the American fightback was short-lived. In the 81st minute another Dutch attack pulled the USA defence out of position, and Blind calmly crossed to an unmarked Dumfries at the far post, who made it 3-1.
The result made a mockery of US president Joe Biden’s confident pre-match declaration.
“It’s called soccer,” Biden said in a video message. “Go USA. You guys are gonna do it.”
— with AFP