Christian Pulisic Leads USMNT To The Brink Of Advancing To Third Quarterfinal In FIFA World Cup History

Christian Pulisic of the United States activated US World Cup
DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 1: Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic of the USMNT talks to the media at Al-Gharafa SC Stadium in advance of World Cup action December 1, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

Christian Pulisic, the face of U.S. soccer, and the man who scored the only goal in the win over Iran in group play has been cleared to take the pitch in Saturday’s round-of-16 match against the Netherlands. With news that the flu is going around the Dutch team, this could be the break team USA needs to advance to only their third quarterfinal in World Cup history.

Christian Pulisic, The Face Of US Soccer Cleared For World Cup Match

According to reports, several players on the Netherlands have been battling the flu over the last few days. Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal said all 26 players went through training on Friday, but he is worried about it spreading.

“We are not going to elaborate on that,” van Gaal said. “But if it goes around in the group, it is worrying.”

Van Gaal isn’t concerned with being unable to field a team. For that he said, 15 of the 26 players would have to be really ill, and that isn’t the case.

Regardless, Saturday’s match has the potential to be the biggest in U.S. Soccer’s World Cup history. Since the start of the tournament in 1930 the US has only advanced to the quarterfinals twice. And really it’s only once because the first time, 1930 when they advanced to the semifinals, the World Cup only fielded 13 teams.

The last time the USMNT advanced beyond the round-of-16 in the tournament’s current form was in Korea Japan 2002. The U.S. fell to Germany 1-0.

Biggest Match In US World Cup History?

This year and really this era of U.S. soccer seems to present something different.

More players on the USMNT play for the top soccer clubs in Europe than ever before. Pulisic plays for Chelsea F.C. of the Premier League, and the U.S. midfield which has been outstanding through the group stage, also represent the top clubs in the world.

Weston McKennie plays for Juventus F.C. of the Italian Serie A league. Tyler Adams plays for Leeds United of the Premier League, and Yunus Musah plays for Valencia of Spain’s La Liga.

The Netherlands Are No. 8 In The World 

The Netherlands are the eighth-ranked team in the world, and team USA will have a tough time penetrating their stout defense. The Dutch defense is led by Virgil van Dijk, arguably the best defender in the world.

Team USA will have to be very disciplined on the backline to stop the Dutch attack led by young emerging star Cody Gakpo, who scored three goals in group play, and midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

If regulation ends in a draw and the match has to be decided on penalties, the USMNT needs to be aware that van Gaal is unafraid of making unorthodox decisions. He substituted his starting goalie in the 2014 World Cup on penalties against Costa Rica and it paid off.

“It’s a matter of thinking logically and since you are allowed to select three keepers, then you ought to select one on the grounds that he’s saved loads of penalties,” van Gaal told FIFA recently, reflecting on that moment. “I also don’t want keepers taking a gamble. If the ball is going left and he is going right, I get very angry. In my opinion, you need to react. That’s what I built on.”

It all goes down Saturday at Khalifa International Stadium. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. EST.