The United States Men’s National Team have reached the must-win phase of the 2022 World Cup. When they take the field against Iran tomorrow night at Al Thumama Stadium, they will know there’s only one result that matters: win.
Entering the final matchday of the group stage, the USMNT currently have 2 points in Group B, in 3rd place behind England and Iran. That makes the math very simple: only a win will be enough for the USMNT to qualify for the knockout stage. A draw or loss to Iran, and their 2022 World Cup is over.
So, with that very simple math, the USMNT can go for broke. They know that they need to score, something that hasn’t come easy for them in this tournament. Their lone goal by Tim Weah was in the 1st half of the match against Wales, and despite outplaying England for large stretches of the match on Friday night, they couldn’t get the ball in the net. They will need to do so against an Iranian team that has scored 2 goals in each of their matches thus far, once in a win and once in a loss.
With this match comes a bit of history that USMNT fans will want to avoid. Since 1950, the USMNT has played in 8 World Cups. They have lost 7 of their 8 group stage finales. The lone victory for the USMNT in the final match of the group stage: Landon Donovan’s 90+1 goal against Algeria in 2010. They will need to reverse that trend tomorrow.
Win. That’s all that should be on the mind of players, coaches, and fans alike. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1-0 or 10-9...if the USMNT wins, they get out of the group. If they don’t, their time at the World Cup ends.
D (0-0) - England - 2022 World Cup Group B
D (1-1) - Wales - 2022 World Cup Group B
D (0-0) - Saudi Arabia - Friendly
L (0-2) - Japan - Friendly
D (1-1) - El Salvador - Concacaf Nations League
W (2-0) - Wales - 2022 World Cup Group B
L (2-6) - England - 2022 World Cup Group B
W (1-0) - Nicaragua - Friendly
D (1-1) - Senegal - Friendly
W (1-0) - Uruguay - Friendly
What To Watch For
Be aggressive. The USMNT will need to score a goal, and it will help to score one early. They have to be aggressive on the attack and create several scoring chances to get goals.
Take shots. At times, the USMNT is too timid in the final attacking third, wanting to get the perfect shot and, in the process, not taking one at all. They need to put shots on goal, and they need to test the Iranian keeper often.
Keep the defense in front of the ball. Just because the focus will be on scoring goals doesn’t mean the defense can take the night off. They need to keep the ball in front of them and not let Iran take it the other way on the counterattack. Getting behind would be a huge blow to the morale of the team, and the defense will once again need to play a great match.
With it being the final match of the group stage, and with the focus being on the attack, this will give USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter a chance to tinker with his lineup. In the end, the prediction is that he goes with this lineup:
Matt Turner continues to start in goal, while Antonee Robinson, Tim Ream, and Walker Zimmerman continue to start on defense. DeAndre Yedlin starts in place of Sergiño Dest, who’s sitting on a yellow card, but expect Dest to play in this match at some point.
In the middle, Tyler Adams is our captain and defensive midfielder, and Weston McKennie continues to start even while on a yellow card. Brenden Aaronson starts in place of Yunus Musah to try and up the offensive creativity in the middle of the field.
Up front, Christian Pulisic will be on the left wing, but Gio Reyna finally gets the start on the right wing. At the 9, this could be the match where we finally see Jesus Ferreira get the start. Of course, Berhalter have several attacking options that can enter the field as substitutes based on how the match goes.
The USMNT need to get a win, and they do. It’s more heroics for this team as a late goal by Weston McKennie gives the USA a 1-0 victory and a trip to the Round of 16.