Following a draw against a country that can be walked across in a straight line and a country the United States has a special relationship with, the USMNT found itself needing a win against a country... that the USA decidedly does not have a special relationship with. The game would answer some questions: would Iran “just” play for a draw and turn the game into a Concacafy nightmare? Could the USA score its second goal of the World Cup? Did Gregg Berhalter score some sweet new kick drip bet on Black Friday? Who would come out on top of the matchup between two former MLS managers facing off in the World Cup?
The USA lined up making a not insignificant change as Cameron Carter-Vickers took over center back duties from Walker Zimmerman and Josh Sargent once again starting up top.
As for Iran, Team Melli lined up in a 4-4-1-1 as it seemed like they were set to rely on well organized blocks of four. That wouldn’t exactly be the case as they were not shy about going forward as the match started.
In the end the USA got the job done. The team was dangerous in the first half and a goal from Christian Pulisic before the half rewarded their efforts. Iran did not go down easy though and fought until the last minute. The game was fairly back and forth until the last half hour when Iran began throwing players forward to find an equalizer. In the end, an end that would see an awful lot of injury time added on, the USA won and took second in the group to advance to the Round of 16.
Gifs of things that were fun for about an hour and then agonizing for what seemed like an entire lifetime
The first half was awesome if you like exciting attacking soccer with some solid chances, good defense, a limited number of heart attacks, and AN AWESOME GOAL. While Iran could have gotten by with a draw, the most sure fire way for them to get through was with a win and both teams played with desire and belief to open the game. It was an intense opening to the match.
Christian Pulisic had the first big chance of the game but his effort sailed fairly harmlessly into the arms of Ali Beiranvand.
Not to be out done, Iran had a moment that looked somewhat concerning for USA fans as Mehdi Taremi played a ball to Sardar Azmoun that Tim Ream cleared perfectly and spared everyone watching at home a trip to the emergency room.
A few more chances came for the USA as Josh Sargent, whose onside status was perhaps dubious, sent a can of corn up toward Tim Weah. The American forward could have exhibited more patience, but leapt toward the ball and sent an underpowered header to goal that was easily saved. Sergino Dest also almost became the American Arjen Robben cutting in from the right, dancing past a few defneders and launching a shot on goal, but his effort was blocked in the box.
Finally, finally... FINALLY THE HERSHEY TIGER PUT HIS.... reproductive parts on the line for his country and put the USA ahead 1-0.
It would take Pulisic several minutes, but he walked past the stretcher that was being prepared for him and rejoined the fray to see out the half. In his absence Josh Sargent nearly found a second goal then just before the break Tim Weah was deemed half a leg offside so the teams went into the locker rooms at 1-0.
So. Close.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 29, 2022
An offside call rules out a potential second goal for the USMNT pic.twitter.com/mKGnvpQi0m
The second half began with Brenden Aaronson coming in for Pulisic who wasn’t healed from the elixir of orange slices and sports drink during the break. Sargent continued to threaten the Iran goal to begin the second 45.
Iran began pushing forward and creating chances of their own as they attacked with urgency needing a goal to go through. The Americans were never exactly on their heels, but Team Melli was making things difficult for the USA backline. In the 65th minute, Kellyn Acosta came in for Weston McKennie as Berhalter tried to get fresh legs in midfield.
The Americans would be forced into another change as Josh Sargent came down hard challenging for a long ball and was replaced by Haji Wright in the 75th minute. By that point, Iran was dominating possession and the USA was parking the bus and waiting to hit on the counter. Looking to protect the lone goal of the game, Berhalter changed tactics and brought in Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore for Tim Weah and Sergino Dest to try and see out the game in the 82nd minute.
While that change was 8 minutes from the end of regulation, when the 90th minute hit the official gave not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, not eight, he gave...
NINE MINUTE - NINE OF THEM - NINE - 540 SECONDS
for injury time in a half with zero goals and two injuries. In nine minutes it’s possible to cook three microwave burritos, it’s too much time for injuries in soccer. They were not nine fun minutes as Iran flung balls into the box hoping something good would happen. With one minute left Walker Zimmerman got to redeem his awful foul against Wales and saved the 1-0 victory with a goal line clearance.
Finally after almost 600 seconds of injury time the ref blew the final whistle and the USA emerged winners to go onto the Round of 16.