They really did it- sure, it was a bit more stressful than perhaps it should have been, but the United States Men’s National Team has advanced through their group, and dare I say, they were the better team in all three of their matches. The Netherlands, on the other hand, topped their group, but looked pretty shaky in the process. Both teams have shown World-class strengths, and glaring weaknesses, making for an intriguing and open matchup. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for a positively enormous match for American soccer as we know it.
USA Vs. Netherlands Odds
It’s worth noting, as we transition into the knockout stage, that while there could be an overtime period, the three-way moneyline still exists, and refers to the outcome after regulation. For this match, that line is set at an even +100 for a Dutch win in regulation, +330 for the USA, and then +230 for a draw that would mean overtime. For goalscoring, under 2.5 is a solid favorite at -170
USA Vs. Netherlands Prediction & Pick
Throughout the group stage, the United States struggled with their finishing. Over their three games, they have created 2.6 xG and 5 big chances, but walked away with just two goals. That being said, the midfield and defense have both been excellent; the back line and goalkeeper Matt Turner have allowed just one goal on a penalty, none from open play, and the midfield has done a great job of grabbing and retaining possession, holding the ball up in the attacking third or at least the opponent’s half more often than not. There have been moments of danger for sure, but this match will provide a new challenge, as they get set to face one of the top defenses in international football.
That would be the Dutch back five, anchored by Liverpool superstar Virgil van Dijk, captaining the team in his first-ever World Cup. The Oranje have also allowed just one goal, and their strong defensive play allowed the team to win and draw in two games where they were beaten, in one case, quite badly, in the xG and chance-creation battles. The star for the team has been Cody Gakpo, who has scored the opener in each contest so far, two of which proved to be important match-winning goals. One of the biggest questions for this team entering the tournament was just who might be scoring the goals, so whether or not Gakpo keeps his excellent form against the USA will be an enormous deciding factor.
This is a really tough one to pick inside of 90 minutes, and I honestly don’t think it will be decided within that time frame. I think the American midfield should honestly be able to outclass their counterparts on the other side, other than Frenkie de Jong, and keep the Dutch from possessing the ball long enough to create many chances. On the other hand, I don’t have the faintest idea how the USA forwards are supposed to have enough chances to break down van Dijk and company when they struggled so mightily against far lesser back lines; what I’m saying is I’m on the under, as well as the draw within 90 minutes.
If you’re keen on betting on a team to advance, I think that it’s such an evenly matched contest that the underdog side could be really solid value. That being said, in a 120-minute battle, I’d be wary of betting on a US side that has had real issues as soon as they’ve been forced to turn to their bench. Based on how the American subs have been managed so far (which is poorly), I think I have to pick the Dutch to move on, but if coach Berhalter finally leverages the likes of Gio Reyna and Jesus Ferreira, all bets are off and I’d be far from surprised to see a big late American triumph.
USA Forwards vs. Dutch Defenders
I’ve already touched on this a bit, but the attacking players for the United States have had some serious shortcomings thus far, namely in the arena of turning good possession and buildup into good shots and goals. Christian Pulisic has had a great effort in each of the past two games, one of which of course ended up as one of the most famous goals in US history, and Tim Weah had a lovely finish for the goal against Wales, but that’s been about it. The center-forward position specifically has been an issue, as a rotating group of mostly Josh Sargent and Haji Wright has not been able to contribute in any meaningful way. Then factor in the facts that Pulisic is recovering what looked like a nasty shot to the genitals, and that Sargent is also dealing with a knock, and a weak position group looks even more troubling. I’ll get back to this point later, but whether or not the usual players are healthy, the likes of Gio Reyna and Jesus Ferreira, both of whom have been criminally underused thus far, could be instrumental in getting this attack going.
I’ve alluded to this as well, but it’s no secret that the Dutch defense is the lifeblood of their squad. The central defense group is made up of van Dijk and fellow Prem star Nathan Aké, as well as one of now-Bayern man Matthijs de Ligt or Jurrien Timber of Ajax. They’ve been flanked by the fullback duo of Ajax veteran Daley Blind and speedy Inter right-back Denzel Dumfries, who has been pretty free to venture up the pitch due to the shape of the Dutch 5-man back line. This is a pretty steady group, who have done really well putting out the threat of what could have been overwhelming opposing attacks. The Senegal game comes to mind, in which the back line and keeper Andries Noppert put in a great shift to keep the clean sheet despite the team overall getting outplayed for much of the match. The only question here is the role of de Ligt, who once was considered one of the very best defenders in the World, but has fallen out of form. Will he play, and if so, will he be able to replicate his best performances in the biggest moments?
The Midfield Battle
I said it throughout the group stage, and since it played out so nicely, I’ll keep on saying it; this is the battle that the US can and if they want to keep advancing, absolutely must win. This is without a doubt the strongest position group on the team, and thoroughly outclassed all three opposing midfields in the group stage. Captain Tyler Adams has been absolutely extraordinary, and Yunus Musah has been one of the more lively full-time players on the pitch as well. The only real question mark going forward is Weston McKennie, although not in regards to his play which has been reliably and predictably excellent. It’s simply his fitness; he’s coming back from a spell of injury, and hasn’t been able to get to the end of matches. The team has routinely taken on a different character after his exits, and not in a good way; it’ll be a serious problem if he exits around the 70th minute again, and the team is forced to endure the end of not only regulation but overtime as well without their Juventus star.
The Dutch midfield does have star power that the Americans don’t, in the form of Barca’s crown jewel, Frenkie de Jong. He’s scored one, assisted another, stayed on the pitch the whole group stage until the 86th minute of a very much already-decided final match, and has been FotMob’s man of the match in all three contests as well. He’s going to be the best player on the pitch, the only question is if he can outclass a high-flying American midfield all by himself. For instance, against Senegal, his midfield partners were Cody Gakpo and Steven Berghuis, both of whom are more realistically attacking options than true midfielders like de Jong or his USA counterparts. He’s also been paired with Atalanta players Teun Koopmeiners and Marten de Roon, both of whom are solid and more traditional midfielders, but are no better than the English players who were completely overrun by Adams and McKennie. It’ll be interesting to see just how Louis van Gaal lines up his midfield, and then in turn how those players perform.
The Bench Battle
A bit of an unorthodox one, as this isn’t really a position group per se, but it could be an enormous factor in a game that could very well go the distance, and thus merits at least a quick discussion. On the Dutch side, it’s a bit of a moving target, as there’s been a solid bit of rotation, but Ajax man Steven Berguis has been on the bench twice, and is a versatile option who can contribute in either one of attack or midfield. Steven Bergwijn, also now of Ajax, is a bit more sporadically used attacker who could be called on for a late spark, and yet another teammate Davy Klaassen could be brought on for midfield support. Memphis Depay has been either playing short starts or coming off the bench in his return from injury; if he’s left out of the XI, he could be a huge boost off of the bench for a team often in need of a striker. As I mentioned earlier, it’s reasonable to expect one of de Ligt and Timber to be in the lineup, and the other to be on the bench; the player in the latter role could be an important contributor in protecting an advantage in the waning moments of either regulation or extra time.
To me, the subs for the USA has been one of the biggest mysteries of the whole tournament. Personally, I see Dortmund’s Gio Reyna as one of the most unique attacking options the team has, so few American players in this era have the big-game experience he does, and he’s simply more talented than essentially anyone else on the roster- yet he’s only seen about 10 minutes of game time so far. It’s also a bit of a head-scratcher figuring out how the likes of Haji Wright and Josh Sargent keep flipping over and over before we even get a chance to see Jesus Ferreira even once- I have truly no idea what it’ll take for the FC Dallas man to get his shot, since he hasn’t so far with the striker position being so unproductive. Lastly, one of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Walker Zimmerman will start, and the other will not; whoever is out of the XI could be an invaluable pair of fresh legs in the waning moments of the match if their side is clinging onto another late lead.