Iran 0-1 United States: Chase Lead for 38 Minutes. Hold Lead For Eternity. Progress.


The last time the United States needed a win to progress from the World Cup group stage, Landon Donovan left it until late with perhaps the most dramatic goal in their World Cup history against Algeria in 2010. It was a 38th-minute strike this time around, which was welcome to those whose blood pressure prefers to hold a lead rather than chase one With it, the U.S. are onto their third straight round of 16 at World Cups for which they’ve qualified, and Group A winners the Netherlands are waiting for the teams’ first World Cup meeting. Coach Gregg Berhalter went back to the formation the U.S. used against Wales with a 4-3-3 and Josh Sargent up top, and frankly, that hasn’t mattered with the No. 9 position continuing to be ineffective from a goalscoring perspective. Regardless of formation, the U.S. midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah – and regardless of which sides McKennie and Musah are on – has been good enough to keep this thing going for another match. Birthday boy Musah and Timothy Weah were perhaps the most active U.S. players in the first 30 minutes with the attack coming most frequently up the right side (40.9% with 23.2 up the middle and 35.9 on the left). In the 28th minute, Weah had his fourth touch in the Iran box and elected to go with a header with the ball coming down to him when letting it drop for a volley would have given him a better chance, but it kept coming. And when their attack is coming up the right, it’s inevitable that it’ll also involve Sergiño Dest, who had the most touches in that period and completed his first 26 passes, including 10 in the attacking third. The most important of those was No. 26 itself after McKennie – playing on the left side of the midfield three against Iran – pinged a ball into the box to the right back, who headed a one-time pass to Christian Pulisic for the finish inside the six-yard box in the 38th minute.

Weah even thought he had a second in first-half stoppage time, but it was disallowed for offside.

The half ended with the U.S. managing 16 touches in the opposition box, which is their second-highest first-half total in a World Cup match on record. They also managed three shots on target after totalling two in their first two matches. But it could have been better if they’d been able to get on the end of more than just one of their 15 open-play crosses in those opening 45 minutes.

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