USA defeats Iran 1-0: Notes from Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar
The USA lives to fight another day at the World Cup, defeating Iran. Christian Pulisic sent himself to the hospital getting the team's only goal. Notes from the stadium, quotes from the team.
Berhalter called tonight’s match the USA’s first knockout match of the tournament. The reality of the predicament was far worse. A draw would mean a loss. They entered the match in a deficit, desperately needing a goal to stay alive.
In the days preceding, much ado was made about how they would get them. Strikers have been temperamental, goals hard to come by.
According to Tim Ream, the goal they did get tonight was exactly how they planned it:
“We talked about it before the game. That exact play was how we were going to score. Credit to Serg, you know, seeing that he could hit the ball back across. Christian was told before the game: crush, crush that back post. And that's exactly what he did.”
They had the possession. They had the energy. They were pushing forward. They created chances. In the 38th minute, Christian Pulisic found the goal. Who else?
Jedi had it on the left wing. Pass back to Adams, ball to McKennie. McKennie spots Dest on the opposite side, sends the cross to find him. Dest heads the ball down to space for Pulisic. Pulisic, right foot to the back of the net, goal Captain America. 1-0 USA.
McKennie: “I thought it was a good goal, a good team goal. We knew that they would struggle with diagonal balls behind the backline. And that’s something we’ve been working on in the game before. It’s good to see that it helped out and that we executed it to plan.”
There was an immediate release of tension in the stadium, an eruption of energy on the field. Player to player, you could see the emotion of having done it, having gotten the goal. They were ready to get more.
Everyone, that is, except the hero of the goal himself. Pulisic was down, and he stayed there. He hobbled his way back onto the field after an expanse of time, clearly in pain, trying to fight through it.
Adams: “How many goals has he scored like that in his career? I mean, back post, arriving he's brilliant, the way that his timing is into the box and to get in front of that ball. You know, he'll do anything to for this team in order for us to win.”
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