Reliving the USA’s wild 2022 World Cup

How Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, and the US Men’s team performed in their exciting 2022 FIFA World Cup run

After narrowly missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the US Men’s National Team was more than ready to return to the world’s biggest stage in Qatar. With coach Gregg Berhalter and Premier League star Christian Pulisic leading the way, the USA was sure to be in for an interesting experience.

In their first game, the US took on Wales who had veteran striker Gareth Bale at the helm. For most of the first half, the US played fast as they hustled around the field. Every opportunity to move the ball and attack was taken, but overdone passing led to plenty of open-shot moments being missed. Defenders Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie were penalized in quick succession with yellow cards. Meanwhile, Pulisic got guarded ferociously by Wales. In the 36th minute, he broke out into open space with right-wing Timothy Weah and after giving an amazing pass, Weah put in a fantastic goal to give the US a 1-0 lead.

However, the second half would be extremely competitive as the Welsh turned it up. Wales became more aggressive while the US tried to hold on defensively and fend off fatigue.  Captain Tyler Adams was impeccable, making several key tackles, passes, and stops to keep the midfield under control. In the 81st minute, Walker Zimmerman upended Bale on a challenge in the penalty box resulting in a yellow card. A minute later, Bale got the penalty kick just by goalkeeper Matt Turner’s fingertips to tie the game. A few minutes of back-and-forth later, the game was over with a 1-1 draw. Despite the questionable officiating, the game could have easily ended 1-0 USA if not for some minute mistakes.

Next up was England – a team that was heavily favored to win it all. To open the match, both teams were somewhat cautious. It was like watching two predators eye each other for weaknesses. Nine minutes in, superstar striker Harry Kane nearly scored what would have been a gut-punching goal but was denied by Zimmerman. A few minutes later, McKennie passed the ball to Haji Wright, who tried to head in a goal but missed. After a near miss by McKennie, Pulisic had a chance but lasered the ball off the crossbar in the 32nd minute. Right before halftime, Turner made an epic save to keep the score at 0-0 heading into the break.

Early in the second half, McKennie had another chance but shot it too high again. After 20 minutes of excellent defense led by the dynamic Adams, Turner made a couple more great saves to keep England scoreless. In extra time, England got a free kick in a dangerous spot but failed to score after a missed header by Kane. Minutes later, the final whistle blew resulting in yet another draw for the US, this time 0-0.

Despite tying, the Americans were in a prime position to advance to the round of 16 if they could defeat Iran in the final group-stage game. Of course, it was easier said than done.

Early on, the USA dominated possession but couldn’t get off any quality shots. In the 38th minute, Pulisic snuck in through two defenders and scored a ridiculous goal off a header pass by Dest. However, he suffered a pelvic contusion after getting kneed by Iran’s goalkeeper during the play. After a yellow card on Adams and a Weah goal that was denied due to an offsides call, the half ended with the US up 1-0.

In the second half, both sides got chances with Iran trying to equalize the score but falling short every time. In the final 15 minutes, Iran nearly scored several times. It all culminated with under 70 seconds left in extra time as Iran nearly scored the ball squeezed through Turner’s legs and slowly rolled towards the goal but Zimmerman fired the ball away right in the nick of time. Shortly after, the game was over and the Americans were headed to the round of 16.

Against the Netherlands, the sqaud had their work cut for them, but they were ready for the chance to make history. Pulisic nearly scored two minutes in but was stopped by 6-foot-8 goalkeeper Andries Noppert. Eight minutes later, Memphis Depay was left wide open in the penalty box and scored to put the Dutch up 1-0. Risky defensive passing and impatient decisions by the US riddled the first half. With minutes left in the first, the US got more aggressive but allowed the Netherlands to go on a counterattack that led to another wide-open goal, this time by Daley Blind.

To start the second half, the US pushed forward to try to tie up the game. Every legitimate chance they seemed to have was stifled by an elite defense led by superstar Virgil van Dijk. Turner made three big saves in the 70th and 71st minutes to keep the score at 2-0. 76 minutes in, defender DeAndre Yedlin bounced the ball off Haji Wright who scored an incredibly unusual goal. It was now anyone’s game. However, the Dutch stomped out any chance of a comeback as a wide-open Denzel Dumfries scored five minutes later to make it 3-1. 15 minutes later, the game was over and the USA’s World Cup run was finished.

Despite this year’s World Cup run being very exciting, unpredictable, and nothing short of wild, there was an overarching sense of disappointment. The US had failed to reach the quarterfinal again. One question will hang over this squad’s heads for quite some time: “what if?” What if Pulisic scores early against the Netherlands? What if they win all three group-stage games? What if Gio Reyna played more minutes? But despite the sadness and pain of getting eliminated, the upcoming 2026 World Cup has created an encouraging sense of hope. For the next four years, the players can get wiser, stronger, and smarter while US Soccer cultivates the next generation of superstars. Nothing motivates, educates, and resonates with athletes more than experience and this year’s lesson will prove to be vital in growing the sport of soccer in America.