The undefeated U.S. Men’s National Team will take on the Netherlands on Saturday with a shot at the World Cup quarterfinal on the line, which the Americans haven’t done in 20 years.
The U.S. has not exactly been the most dominant team in the World Cup, scoring only two goals in the three matches. The Americans tied with Wales and England and beat Iran in the decisive match on Monday to lift them to the knockout stage. Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic scored those goals.
The lack of scoring for the U.S. isn’t something that’s being swept under the rug. The Americans are going to need to come out with some goals to get past the Dutch, who have put five goals on the board in their three matches, including three from Cody Gakpo.
Alexi Lalas, who starred for the U.S. national team in 1994 and 1998, told Fox News Digital he understood how the lack of goal-scoring looks to those watching back home.
“I’ve dealt with this since I was a kid about soccer and scoring, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Lalas, who is covering the World Cup in Qatar for FOX Sports, said Thursday. “I know we want gratification and instant gratification and continual gratification as human beings, and certainly as American sports fans, I totally get that. What’s been interesting over the many years that I’ve been involved, all the way back in the previous century in the 1900s when I was running around, is to see how people that have come to the game have really kind of gravitated and embraced things that aren’t necessarily the ball going in the back of the net – and that’s the nuances the game has.
“Yes, the goal is the most important thing. It’s the hardest thing to do, and it is that incredible moment. I would love nothing more than to see this young American team not only beat the Netherlands but obviously score goals. Now, they have not scored a lot of goals. They don’t create a lot of chances. But things certainly can change. And I think they do have the talent to score goals. That goal-scoring position up top, now we’ve seen multiple players play that position, and the reason is with all of this talent and depth that we talk about, it’s the one void out there.”
He made it clear that in the future the U.S. is going to need a legitimate striker the squad can count on.
“So, if there are any boys or girls out there that have been watching this World Cup, and they can continually put the ball in the back of the net when it comes to the men’s team, the sooner the better they grow up, the better it’s going to be for our national team because we are in dire need of a No. 9, a striker, somebody that we can count on as a nation and count on a team to continually put the ball in the back of the net,” he added.
On the defensive side of the ball, goalkeeper Matt Turner has turned into a legitimate star. The only goal he’s allowed came on a Gareth Bale penalty – a rock that not even a brick wall may have been able to stop. Turner was playing baseball at a New Jersey high school before making the switch.
Lalas told Fox News Digital that Turner’s story was a “wonderful example” of a sport finding a person. He went from high school to the United Soccer League to Major League Soccer to becoming the goalkeeper for Arsenal during their Europa League run.
“I think we’re seeing more and more of that,” Lalas said of athletes taking the long road to soccer. “But I also think his participation in other sports may have helped (USMNT). And I know we live in the age of specialization, and I know that, the train has left for a lot of that, but I do feel, especially when it comes to America where we have a culture of multiple sports, that participating – and it doesn’t apply to just sports – but participating in as many different things at a young age can actually benefit you even if you want to specialize, even if you want to be an elite player. Look, soccer found him, and sports will find you.”
Lalas said that for the U.S. being the underdog could very likely benefit them in this match.
“The interesting thing about this game against the Netherlands for this particular U.S. national team is that we talk so much about their youth and inexperience, and what we’re going to find here is they’re actually going to go back in this much more traditional and, let’s be honest, comfortable position of being the underdog against the Netherlands,” Lalas said. “For decades, we have played that role really, really well, and we try to go grow out of that. But the reality is that on paper, the Netherlands are a better team.
“But this particular (USMNT) group, despite their age and their inexperience, I think they believe, and rightfully so, that they are as good, and in some cases, maybe better than this Netherlands team.”
Lalas made two predictions for the match – the U.S. wins and Pulisic plays at 100%.
“He’s a fighter. He’s really taken a step up in this tournament and really put that team on his shoulders,” he told Fox News Digital. “But kind of lived up to the expectation that we have for this incredibly talented individual.”
Coverage of the U.S.-Netherlands match begins Saturday on FOX at 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT.
Read the full article here