The key U.S. talking points you may have missed at the World Cup…

The U.S. men’s national team’s dramatic 1-0 victory over Iran on Tuesday will likely go down as one of the most memorable in their history: a must-win game, an intense atmosphere, a white-collar period and, finally, relief.

We looked at the big picture of what a win would mean for the World Cup here in Qatar and for the team that is set to grow together ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which will largely be played on home soil.

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There were many pieces for Iran’s victory that, looking back, were very important in the way the game was played. Walker Zimmermann’s excellent performance as a substitute, Cameron Carter-Vickers’ first good start in this entire World Cup campaign, including qualifiers, in central defense, Sergino Deste’s continued good play, and the USA’s inability to take full advantage once again Aggressive self. .

There were also some controversial decisions by head coach Greg Berhalter that caused the US to become more defensive in the second half. But overall, the coach has had very good matches…

Berhalter’s bold move in central defense paid off

Berhalter made a significant change to his starting line-up on Tuesday, dropping Zimmerman and placing Carter-Vickers alongside Tim Ream in central defense.

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Zimmerman has been one of America’s most consistent players since October, when he was called up and inserted into the lineup after Ream and his center back John Brooks withdrew from that qualifying window.

He captained the United States in their final qualifying game in March and then in their second-to-last game before the World Cup in September. As expected, he then started the first two games here in Qatar.


Cameron Carter-Vickers battles for the ball against Iran (Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

For the most part, he played well but had a few shaky moments, including a costly penalty conceded against Wales and a couple of misplaced passes and giveaways against England.

It was still surprising to see Zimmerman benched for such an important game. Berhalter said he felt Carter-Vickers’ extensive experience playing against low blocks in the Scottish Premier League with champions Celtic would help the U.S. distribute its game against an Iran team it thought would sit deep. He was right. Carter-Vickers put in a solid shift and looked comfortable.

Berhalter said it was difficult to know Zimmerman was benched, but they talked about the important role he could play down the stretch.

“We already talked to him about the five-team plan,” Berhalter said. And we said that winning aerial duels was very important to him – he did.

Indeed, he did. Zimmerman came on for eight minutes out of 90 and was superb in the middle of the back five, dominating the air and heading the ball towards the goal after a 98th minute clash between goalkeeper Matt Turner and the Iran national football team forward. , significantly out of line. Mehdi Tarimi

Zimmerman said after the game that he was naturally sad since Berhalter told him Monday he wouldn’t start, but he quickly changed his approach to being a teammate as much as he could while focusing on what he was doing. He might have to concentrate. Do it on the bench to help America finish the game.

This type of mindset is critical in a competitive environment. It’s natural for players to get frustrated when they’re not on the field, especially players like Zimmerman who have been with the same team for a long time, but being able to contribute positively from a reserve role can still make a difference. . His performance did not go unnoticed by his colleagues.

Left-back Anthony Robinson said: “Obviously he played well in the first game, but he conceded a penalty, then he came back to England, had a really good game and kept a clean sheet.”

After that, he’d be frustrated not to start, but he’d come on and I just remember seeing him jumping and getting three or four headers in a row and thinking, you know, this is somebody. who does not think about himself This is someone who gives his all and puts his body on the line for the team.

“That’s what got us through – the main feeling is that everyone is giving their all for the team.”

Along with Turner, fullbacks Robinson and Dest and midfielders Tyler Adams, Younes Moses and Weston McKenney, the center backs once again had a high defensive performance.

The United States have defended well throughout the tournament, with two clean sheets and conceding just one penalty to Gareth Bale.

According to, they’ve allowed just 2.3 expected goals in the group stage — the third-fewest of the eight teams that had played all three group games as of Wednesday morning. This number is also less than 10 of the 24 teams that played only twice. It has been effective.


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Dest continues to stare

Coming into the World Cup, there was no doubting Hand’s talent, but there were questions about whether he would play with enough discipline to make the most of his considerable gifts.

For club and country, Dest has a penchant for freelancing. The right-back, on loan from Barcelona at AC Milan, is a skilled striker but can sometimes get a little too enamored with that part of the game, struggling to dribble or neglect his defensive responsibilities, in a way that can His team will finish.

None of these have appeared in Qatar. Dest has been solid defensively, doing a good job organizing and connecting with his other defenders and getting key challenges.

“He was incredible,” goalkeeper Turner said after the win against Iran. Free flow, up and down the ground. And what I’ve noticed most about him is that he always seems to come up defensively in the big moments. He tracks runners in the box really, really well.

Dest has also contributed heavily to the attack, teaming up with McKennie and Timothy Weah to control the right flank against England before being involved in a number of occasions on Tuesday.

His most notable appearance was with Gol. Hand made a great move behind Iran’s defense line. McKenney played a lovely ball over the top to Dest in the end zone. Instead of heading the ball towards goal, he cleverly tipped it towards Christian Pulisic at the far post, allowing the winger to curl home the opportunity from a few meters out for what turned out to be the winner that sealed qualification for the knockout stages. to hide

The goal came through different players, but remarkably, it was a carbon copy of the one scored by the United States at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

It was a move that the United States clearly worked on before the Iran game. Time and again they have drilled it, drawn Iran to one side of the pitch, then dropped the ball to a midfielder who has enough time to lift his head and hit a diagonal ball to the advancing full-back on the opposite side.

We talked about it before the game. exactly that accurate Reem said: “How was the game when we wanted to score a goal?” He respected Serg, because he could hit the ball in front of him. And Christian was told before the game. “Cut off that back post”. That’s exactly what he did and it happened. Great layout, perfect, perfect.”


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Chances should be used in the attack

America was in a very good position against Iran. like the AthletesThe Americans worked very well on the left wing, with wide rotations between Pulisic, McKenney and Robinson, unbalancing Iran, Ahmed Waleed said in his tactical breakdown on Wednesday.

Those turnovers helped create space for McKenney to find Dest in the goal.


Weh was one of the attacking players guilty of missing a good chance (Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Despite all that, the US still struggled after reaching the final third. This has been a common theme throughout their World Cup campaign. They have been able to control the flow of the game well, but have largely struggled to convert their pressure into chances and goals.

Some of this is understandable – it’s difficult for almost any team to score at the World Cup. However, some of that has been due to poor decision-making and execution in the most important areas of the field. We saw it again against Iran.

The misfires began in the second minute when Pulisic missed the chance to play Josh Sargent in the box, instead dribbling and losing the ball after a long run forward.

There was another poor decision in the 19th minute when McKenney didn’t see and failed to play a relatively easy ball that left Pulisic one-on-one with the keeper. Weah had a situation that should have been much more dangerous in the 28th minute, with a weak header on goal when he had the chance to get the ball down and shoot.

The U.S. made all the right choices five minutes later, but Weah missed the target completely from 12 yards out. He and Sargent didn’t even manage to shoot during the two-on-two break they had in the first half.

It came just before a great combination between Weh, Moussa and McKenney, with Moussa struggling to dribble instead of a simple square pass that would have put Weh in the box.

Not counting Weh’s disallowed offside goal, that’s six different moments in the first half alone where the U.S. was in a great position to attack, but failed due to poor choices, poor execution, or a combination of the two. use.

No team is going to finish every solid offensive move, but if the U.S. had been a little more efficient against Iran, it would have been a much, much less worrisome evening.

If they want to make a run at the knockouts, they need to be more clinical.


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(Top photo: Doug Zimmerman/ISI Photos/Getty Images)


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