Berhalter believes 'American spirit' will win over World Cup viewers as United States advance

By Sports Desk November 29, 2022

Gregg Berhalter believes his United States team will capture the imagination of viewers at home after drawing on the "American spirit" to reach the World Cup's last 16 at Iran's expense.

Christian Pulisic's close-range finish fired the USA to a 1-0 win over Iran at the Al Thumama Stadium on Tuesday, ensuring the Stars and Stripes leapfrogged their opponents to finish second in Group B, behind England.

Pulisic was forced out of the contest after colliding with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beyranvand as he scored the goal, but that blow was not enough to dampen Berhalter's spirits.

With the 2026 tournament taking place across the USA, Mexico and Canada, much of the talk around Berhalter's team has focused on their ability to win over new fans at home, and the head coach believes his men have done just that.

"I'm sure there was a bunch of people back home watching, and I think the US reporters have talked about defining this group, and it starts to take shape on these performances," Berhalter said.

"You see how unified this group is, how much energy they put into every game, and along the way there was some good soccer. 

"That's the American spirit, and I think people will appreciate that at home.

"There's no need to project how far this team can go. It's great to be in this knockout format, we will relish it, and we'll stick together and enjoy the experience. 

"The end of the game is really what I'm most proud of, to hang on in there, to get the win and not buckle. This is the first time in 92 years we've had two shutouts at a World Cup."

Having reached the round of 16 in each of their last three World Cup participations (2010, 2014 and 2022), the USA will take on the Netherlands at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.

Chelsea attacker Pulisic has been involved in both of the USA's goals at this year's tournament (one goal, one assist), and only Landon Donovan in 2010 (three goals) has ever contributed to more for the team at a single World Cup.

Pulisic's recovery will undoubtedly be a key talking point in the build-up to Saturday's game, but Berhalter was unwilling to speculate on his condition.

"He was taken off due to injury," Berhalter said. "He was taken to hospital as a precaution. It was a blow to his abdomen, an abdominal injury. 

"We FaceTimed him after the game from the locker room, we got to see him and he's in good spirits.

"The goal was something we'd been taking about for a while, to get the team to shift over to one side. 

"That's the special quality Christian has, as soon as the ball is wide, he goes in with intensity, he crashes the box and makes it very difficult with his change of pace."

The USA have only reached the World Cup's quarter-finals on one previous occasion (in 2002), but Berhalter says they are not content with their achievements to date.

"It's a great opportunity, but we're not going into it thinking it's an honour. We deserve to be in the position we're in, we don't want to go home," he said. 

"Now it's about how we recover and prepare to play against this Dutch team, who have a very clear idea and are very well coached. We have to come up with a way to beat them."

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