For the briefest of moments, like a comet that momentarily shows its beauty in a flash of light from out of the inky blue sky, the USA were on the edge of a comeback. The ball was propelled upwards into the atmosphere, following the gravitational line drawn into its trajectory by Isaac Newton, curving around the rest of the bodies in its vicinity, before crashing down into view of everyone into the back of the net. The ball had been hit off course by Wright’s right boot, an outrageous flick only he will know was done by accident or entirely on purpose, but the ball was sent up and away from anyone who wanted it and it nestled snugly into the corner. And so, for a brief moment, there was hope.
And then came Dumfries. The man who had been so determined all night to take the game away from the USA like a bully taking the nerd’s pocket money before coming back for his lunch and then his ice-cream. Dressed in orange, he patrolled the right side of the pitch like a warning sign, ‘do no approach’ scrawled across his chest and back. If he wasn’t defending like a warrior he was attacking like an angry God, taking everything the USA did personally and seeking revenge in the form of goals. If it were legal he would have taken the ball and burst it before ripping it into a thousand pieces and spreading them across the stadium, just so the USA couldn’t win. Fortunately, it was his talent that had to lead him to securing the victory, and consequently the early exit for the American side.
But even so, the USMNT can leave with their heads held high and their stars and stripes planted firmly in the moon’s surface, where Dumfries can’t reach. Winning against Iran and drawing against both England and Wales sealed a campaign in Qatar that many would have liked to have had the courage to predict; going unbeaten in the groups is something few teams had experienced and a defeat to the Netherlands is no embarrassment. Gregg Berhalter has not only selected a squad that is capable of competing, but he has carefully moulded it over time like a work of pottery, like a God moulding a universe, and he can look at it and see that it is good.
Dumfries, after getting two assists, scored the third goal in the Netherlands’ 3-1 win over the USA.JOHN SIBLEYREUTERS
Will Gregg Berhalter sign a new contract?
According to reports coming out of ESPN, Gregg Berhalter is in fact looking to sign a new contract with the US Soccer Federation after it expired when the USA were eliminated. He is apparently interested in working in European football, although the plan is to tie him down to a new deal as soon as possible to keep the project going with the USMNT. FOX Sports go further, saying that the players back the coach and that preliminary talks have begun over a renewal.
Reports that contradict the information provided by ESPN do exist, possibly highlighting either the lack of clarity on the situation or the delicate knife edge on which everything is balanced, but it would take a lot for Berhalter to step away from his creation that has so much to offer for the future.