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USMNT at the World Cup: 3 things we learned from the group stage

The USMNT defeated Iran Tuesday at the World Cup and advanced to the round of 16. Here’s what we learned from their three group stage games.

You can exhale now.

Despite a frantic final minutes, the USMNT defeated Iran at the World Cup on Tuesday, finishing second in Group B and advancing to the knockout stage. The Americans faced a do-or-die scenario, needing a win in order to advance to the round of 16. England won the group and also advanced.

The 1-0 victory capped off what has been an emotional roller-coaster of a World Cup for the Americans so far. As a result of the win, the United States now faces the Netherlands, winners of Group A, on Saturday in the round of 16.

The undefeated United States spent most of the game with the ball and initiated wave after wave of scoring chances, especially in the first half. After the break, the USMNT managed to maintain possession for long stretches while also trying to defend their slim lead.

Here’s what we learned from the USMNT’s three group stage matches:

World Cup: Tyler Adams one of the tournament’s best midfielders

Team captain Tyler Adams has shown he’s one of the best holding midfielders at this World Cup. Without Adams’ leadership on and off the field, this team wouldn’t have gotten this far in Qatar.

When Adams isn’t winning tackles and forcing other teams to turn over the ball, he’s launching long balls up the field and helping to generate some attack. He’s played every minute of the USMNT’s three matches and will remain pivotal in the knockout stage.

Adams was the best player on the field against England and has been able to adapt regardless of whether coach Gregg Berhalter uses a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2. In that case, Adams had to cover more of the field alone and he’s done so brilliantly.

World Cup: Christian Pulisic the poacher for USMNT

The team had spent the last three games whipping in passes from the wings courtesy of Serginho Dest, but there wasn’t anyone in the penalty box to put it in.

That changed against Iran when Christian Pulisic lived up to his billing as a fine striker and put his body on the line to put the ball into the net. He was injured on the play and forced to leave at halftime.

Pulisic had also been involved in the USMNT’s first goal at this World Cup against Wales, assisting on Tim Weah’s strike. The key now is to get Pulisic back in the lineup against the Netherlands.

World Cup: Gregg Berhalter’s poor sub management

One could argue the United States could have finished first in the group with nine points from three wins given how they’ve played. Instead, they had to settle for second.

The team dominated Wales in the opening half, for much of the England game and even more versus Iran. All they could muster was two draws, forcing the Americans to have to win against Iran.

Goals didn’t come against England, but Berhalter could have inserted fresh strikers earlier in the match. Instead, he left Weah longer than he should have. At the same time, he subbed in Gio Reyna way too late after not even playing him against Wales.

The Americans will need to take all they have learned from the group stage and use it in the knockout round. There is no room for error now. The round of 16 beckons. Lose or go home. The Americans are still in Qatar, proving they are now among the best 16 nations at this World Cup.

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