2022 Men's World Cup: 6 Takeaways from the USMNT's Win vs. Iran
The United States men's national team punched their ticket to the round of 16 with a scrappy 1-0 win against Iran.
What was a must-win against a well-drilled Iran side, the USMNT took care of business through Christian Pulisic's goal in the 38th minute.
The U.S. then managed to hold on to that lead for the next 52 minutes.
Though Iran fought hard for an equalizer, a tactical switch to a back five helped the Stars and Stripes see the game through.
Here are six takeaways from the USMNT's win vs. Iran.
Wide Channels Were the Main Attacking Threat
The wide channels were the USMNT's main offensive threat throughout the match.
Iran were plugging up the middle of the field and forcing the U.S. out wide. The Americans took advantage of that tactical wrinkle and started attacking through their fullbacks.
Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest were integral to the offensive progression.
Dest in particular had a phenomenal game. His passing, dribbling and eye for passes into the final third kept Iran on the back of their heels.
Opta Analyst US @OptaAnalystUS
Sergiño Dest completed 27 of 28 first-half passes, including his first 26, and No. 26 was the most important on a headed assist to Christian Pulisic.<br><br>He was also tied with Tyler Adams for the team lead in touches (53) as the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USMNT?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USMNT</a> attacked up the right. <a href="https://t.co/hJpulPTByb">pic.twitter.com/hJpulPTByb</a>
Robinson also had another outstanding game as well. The work rate he gives on the left flank gives the forward line freedom to roam without the worry of leaving space behind.
He ended the match with 70 touches, 60 percent accuracy on his long balls, nine recoveries and three clearances.
Pulisic Injury Concern Looms Large
The Americans' biggest concern heading into their round-of-16 match against the Netherlands is the status of Christian Pulisic.
During his goal, he received a nasty knock to the abdomen that took him several beats to shake off.
It didn't look pretty.
Though Pulisic finished the first half through willpower, he was subbed off at the half.
After the match, Pulisic was confident he'd be fit for Saturday:
If the 24-year-old can't play against the Netherlands, there are two fantastic options off the bench to replace him.
Brenden Aaronson or Giovanni Reyna could fit his role well. Each would bring a unique playing style to that left-wing position.
Pulisic loves to find space in between defenders and charge at goal. Aaronson and Reyna are more than capable of doing the same.
Iran's High Line Worked in the USMNT's Favor
Iran came into this game with a clear game plan: play a high line and break on the counter.
The high line was no problem for the U.S., as Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah played with speed and physicality.
Weah and Sargent specifically excelled.
Both players are fast, but, in Sargent's case, his hold-up play was a big reason the U.S. won second balls off the ground.
There were also moments when Weah used his pace to beat the Iranian high line:
The Americans were unlucky not to have scored more goals against Iran's slack defending.
Starting CCV Was the Right Choice
Knowing that the U.S. would have more possession against counter-attacking Iran, Gregg Berhalter dropped Walker Zimmerman in favor of Cameron Carter-Vickers.
The 24-year-old showed why he was picked. His physicality, toughness and ball-playing abilities complemented Tim Ream well.
There were several moments in the game when Iran got behind the U.S. defense, but Carter-Vickers was quick to every ball and snuffed out almost every offensive threat.
He ended the game having completed 86.4 percent of his passes and 80.0 percent of his long balls with four clearances and four recoveries.
With a performance like that, Berhalter will surely question whether he'll start Carter-Vickers on Saturday or return to Zimmerman.
Berhalter's Decision to Make Tyler Adams Captain Was Genius
Tyler Adams is the man who makes the USMNT midfield tick.
Berhalter's giving the 23-year-old the captaincy was a stroke of genius.
Adams was a standout player for the U.S. during the group stage. His performance against Iran showed that he should be the first name on the team sheet.
His relentless pressing, recoveries and vocal leadership guided the USMNT to victory.
As they head into the knockout stage, Adams' leadership will be needed more than ever.
The Americans are one of the youngest squads in the tournament, so it's important for them to have a level-headed leader who can be calm during moments of pressure.
Luckily for the USMNT, they have that in Adams.
USA Will Have Its Hands Full vs. the Netherlands
They did it.
The USMNT made it to the round of 16. Now, how do they get past the Netherlands?
It will be tricky.
The Dutch only let in one goal during the group stage and scored five on their way to topping Group A.
Cody Gakpo is also in good form and will prove hard for the U.S. to defend.
Fabrizio Romano @FabrizioRomano
Three World Cup games, three goals. Cody Gakpo, literally flying. ⭐️🇳🇱 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Qatar2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Qatar2022</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/QatarWorldCup2022?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#QatarWorldCup2022</a> <a href="https://t.co/Eeb0FHuqwm">pic.twitter.com/Eeb0FHuqwm</a>
If the U.S. wants any chance at beating the Netherlands, they may need to play direct. The Netherlands normally line up in a 3-4-1-2, which gives them defensive stability and offensive flexibility.
They push their forward line and midfield up the field and use triangular passing patterns to overload the opponent's 18-yard box.
That off-the-ball movement that the Dutch excel at could be tough to defend.
But if the U.S. keeps it tight in defense, and springs forward for counter-attacks, they could find a way to catch the Netherlands on their back foot.