For soccer players in the United States, the stadium in Doha has been a classroom, too

For soccer players in the United States, the stadium in Doha has been a classroom, too

Tim Ream talks about the defeat against the Netherlands.Photo by Marcel Van Dorst / Professional Shots

Immediately after the Dutch national team was eliminated (3-1), the Americans’ attention turned to the future, to the 2026 World Cup in their country. Yes, there could have been more against Orange, the experts and the general ideology, but in Qatar the young team has laid a solid foundation on which to build in the years to come.

About half an hour after the final whistle, the barefoot American football players returned to the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Captain Tyler Adams, visibly trembling, rested his head on his teammate’s shoulder. The disappointment was dealt with in silence. “We don’t want that feeling again,” said striker Christian Pulisic.

Then, in the TV studio of FOX Sports, it was about his missed chance in the third minute, when the Chelsea striker ran into Andries Noppert’s wards. What if? The American defenders’ personal fouls, naps on counterpunches, were highlighted. And how could it be that the United States has not been able to produce a real bomber in recent years? He looked like a good striker and the Netherlands could have been beaten.

valuable lesson

Elsewhere, a valuable lesson has been spoken of. For young Americans, just over 25, the Doha playground has been like a classroom. Aptitude, maturity and tactical prowess were on the list. Louis van Gaal was the principal of the school. Green Americans left the catacombs with their homework. “We now know that at this level it comes down to detail,” Adams said.

In Qatar, the United States presented itself as a new, vibrant team full of potential. In a group with England (0-0), Wales (1-1) and Iran (1-0), the Americans did not lose once. By surviving the group stage, many saw the tournament as a success, especially given the absence of the 2018 World Cup, the low point in men’s American soccer.

Qatar was a rehearsal, and judged by it New York times after shutdown. The real performance will follow in four years. Then the United States organizes the tournament along with Mexico and Canada. Americans will no longer be content with a place in the last sixteen. Getting to the quarter-finals, as they did in 2002, should be the goal at least.

“The expectations of players and fans are changing,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “Surviving the group stage no longer feels like a prize.” The Americans’ best players, Pulisic and Adams, for example, but also Weston McKinney, Younes Musa, Tim Weah and substitute Gio Reina, are expected to be at the peak of their football careers in four years’ time.

Half of the selections are played in major European competitions, and the rest will follow. “This group has huge potential,” said Turner. “You can’t avoid it.”

Berhalter’s contract expires

It remains to be seen if Greg Berhalter will also be the national coach of the Americans in 2026. His contract has expired, and few coaches have won two consecutive World Cup tournaments. It remains to be seen if he wants to continue on his own. “I will think about what will happen in the coming weeks,” Berhalter said.

And according to many analysts, he too was taught a lesson by Van Gaal. It was as if America had fallen into the trap of the cunning and patient orange. According to ESPN analyst Herculez Gomez, Van Gaal stole and ate lunch from Berhalter’s bag. In other words: the American coach let himself eat bread cheese.

On the other hand, Berhalter, once a footballer in the Netherlands, has received praise for reviving a terminally ill national team and forging close unity among the young squad.

An important secondary display of performance in Qatar: Berhalter’s team has sparked interest in US men’s soccer in recent weeks. In the land of world champions, dominant women, the team has been left with the old dirt of recent years due to missing out on the World Cup, in a far corner of the sporting scene.

Now football players are counting again. In many places in the country, in squares and pubs, the Final Eight against the Netherlands was watched en masse.

It will be a challenge for the young team to maintain interest. The Americans will play few important matches in the coming years. The Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Championship, is scheduled for next year, and in the Nations League the Americans will face the same opponents: Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and others.

Right now, Americans need motivating learning materials, as Holland has provided. “Can we beat the big countries?” Berhalter wondered out loud after the elimination. “I think we’re close. The American public can be hopeful.

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