(East Los Angeles, CA) [From The Editor’s Desk]: All systems pointed to the countdown and “Go Time” as the 2022 World Cup’s pivotal Group B’s match between the U.S. and Iran was preparing to launch itself into the stratosphere of fan approval, excitement, and sheer pandimonium that’s only witnessed once every four years. With so much at stake for our Team USA, much has been made of the fact there was the eight year drought of not participating in the World Cup, but that was clearly broken by this selection of players and new Head Coach, Gregg Berhalter. Here are a few more storylines to consider as the Tournament moves on.
It was a chance to at last, in this era and decade, establish our country’s respectability on the World’s Soccer Stage of Top International Countries. Also, most of our Nation would very closely be watching Team USA in this critical match-up, expecting a victory and a place in the Round of 16 for those teams that qualified. To close this perspective on our place in the World’s elite soccer/futból, program comprehensively speaking, it lifts the status of our American-based professional soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS), to an even higher standard, with the likes of Argentina’s Lionel Messi now thinking of becoming the latest internationally acclaimed European soccer player to hopefully sign a contract to play a season on American soil in 2023.
And with all of the predictions having been made by experts, the legal betting lines opened up all over the globe, and the millions of fans watching with baited breath on each team’s attack strategies and shots on goal, FIFA’s 2022 World Cup-Qatar began its final round of Pool play this week.
[Match Preview]: The Al Thumama Stadium was sold out with 44,000 fans, the majority of them Iranians, but extremely large contingents of Americans were also certainly present, dressed up in vivid and wild outfits depicting the Red, White, and Blue. Together, both fan-bases could be seen and heard unleashing their highly supportive emotions in cheering their team on to a victory.
[1st Half]: Team USA’s Head Coach Gregg Berhalter made a logistical line-up change to his squad for this match. It was #20/Cameron Carter-Vickers who was inserted as a defender. The match was played tightly and aggressively from the opening whistle. Teams were sprinting, hustling, tackling and jostling all over the pitch trying to gain an advantage, even if it were a physical or a psychological ploy. The match produced more offense by Team USA compared to the conservative attack strategy of the Iranians. Then, at minute (38:00), the Americans suddenly capitalized on a break and went into sharp attack mode. They rode the combination of these two assists, the first from #8/Weston McKennie, then it went on to #2/Sergiño Dest, and ultimately his “header-pass” that was perfectly timed and made to the oncoming #10/Christian Pulisic, who connected with it directly in front of the goal, and simply lowered his head to drive the ball past the unsuspecting goalie.
However, with that magnificent, what would become the game-winning goal, Pulisic paid the price of sustaining an injury to his groin area, when he strongly collided with Iran’s goalkeeper at the goal-line front of the netting. He spent several minutes laying on the pitch writhing in obvious pain, while the Medical Team addressed his situation. Needless to say, the American fans erupted into enormous cheers and roars of approval with U-S-A!!!…USA!!! that heard in loud rhythmic chanting and echoing throughout the Stadium.
Coach Berhalter then took a big risk and decided that the team play on with just 10, until Pulisic, along with his Coach and Medical Team decided whether he felt strong enough to finish the match. He subsequently shook things off and then re-entered the fray for several more minutes until he was subbed out by #11/Brenden Aaronson at the 45th minute. The rest of the “Stoppage” time period for both squads, packed no big punches or displayed careless penalties that tilted the advantage to any extreme degree.
[HalfTime Score]: USA 1 Iran 0
[2nd Half]: The period began with the same levels of unbridled intensity that a game of this type allows and displays during the World Cup’s competition. Team USA played vigorously and cautiously to protect its slim lead. They were hunting for more goals to gain some insurance into the latter stages of the match, just in case. But, the Iranians played a persistent and focused attack on trying to tie the match. They certainly did not look or appear to be intimidated, knowing full well that the draw would send them forward to the next round of 16, while at the same time, eliminating their opponent.
And, for the entire period, the teams went back and forth. Team USA for the final 20 minutes of the match went into a pure defensive posture, all the while being conscious of committing any devastating fouls that could have resulted in a penalty kick. Pulisic did not re-enter the match and Coach Berhalter made his “fresh legs” substitutions at the 77th minute, when he inserted #19/Haji Wright for #24/Josh Sargent, and then at minute (82:00), he subbed in #18/Shaq Moore for #2/Sergiño Dest and #3/Walker Zimmerman for #21/Tim Weah. Midfielder #23/Kellyn Acosta (os Angeles Football Club) also saw valuable “match-time” when he entered at minute (65:00) for McKennie.
The lead Referee added 9 minutes of “Stoppage” time and those minutes seemed to go by agonizingly slow for Team USA, as even the FOX announcers were very caught up in expressing their own emotions in hopes that the Team would claim the “must-win” match. When the final whistled sounded, more thunderous cheering and fan appreciation rained down on the squad as they took their time to show their respect, while reciprocating with their thankfulness, and fulfillment of its victory to the crowd.
[Full-Time Score]: USA 1 Iran 0
[Post-Match Update on Pulisic]: The update on Pulisic is that the doctors who treated him at the hospital he was taken to for an examination, concluded that it was a pelvic contusion. He has been listed as “day-to-day,” but he told his teammates that he would be ready to go on Saturday against the Netherlands in the start of the World Cup’s “knock-out” phase.
[Next Up]: The Netherlands, Saturday December 3rd. To watch, go to FOX. Kick-off is set for 7:00 AM | PT