The United States produced an ugly but gritty performance when it mattered most, downing Iran 1-0 in their final group-stage match to secure a place in the World Cup knockout stage.
Christian Pulisic's career-defining goal saw the United States through, but it came at a huge cost, as the 23-year-old star was injured on the play and substituted off at halftime.
Still, the U.S. steered the ship to safety, and will now take on the Netherlands in the Round of 16, with Pulisic's status to be determined.
Gregg Berhalter knew coming in that this game would be a slugfest, and it was exactly that. The U.S. head man produced a game plan that maximized the U.S. chances and minimized Iran's threat. Here's an overview of how each U.S. player performed.
USMNT player ratings vs Iran in World Cup
Gregg Berhalter made just two changes to the starting eleven that he deployed against Wales, bringing Josh Sargent back into the attack for Haji Wright and also swapping Walker Zimmerman for Cameron Carter-Vickers at the back. Both changes had a positive effect in their own way, and helped the U.S. to execute the gameplan they were hoping for.
GK — Matt Turner: 8
While he didn't need to make any spectacular saves, Matt Turner was simply sensational in this game. He was on hand to come off his line when needed, and Turner excelled most with his distribution. The Arsenal man delivered 23 of 28 passes successfully, including seven of his 12 long balls, which are spectacular numbers for a goalkeeper. He also won his only ground duel of the game.
Turner's shot-stopping will surely be tested against the Netherlands, but today, he did his job almost perfectly. The only slip came very late when the ball squirted through his legs in the lengthy added-time saga, but the slow-roller was cleared before it could cross the line.
Matt Turner appreciation post 🙏 pic.twitter.com/YtAUb8D4Zc— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) November 29, 2022
LB — Antonee Robinson: 6
This was not Jedi's best game, but he did what he needed to for the U.S. to advance. Amidst 70 touches, Robinson led the team in possession lost with 72, many of which came on heavy touches. He completed 28 of his 37 passes, which isn't quite sharp enough, especially in a game against a defensive opponent.
Still, Robinson did well to press high and pin Iran back on the left flank, winning both his aerial duels and completing both his take-ons. He was extremely high up the field throughout the match, which helped to put pressure on Iran.
CB — Tim Ream: 9
The 35-year-old Tim Ream has not put a foot wrong this entire tournament, and he put forth another exceptional performance here today. He actually had a very low volume of defensive actions, which is a good sign, as he was not beaten once all match.
Ream's best moment came in the 20th minute when his essential interception kept Mehdi Taremi from receiving the ball through on goal. He completed 54 of his 59 passes and lost possession just six times in 67 touches. To cap things off, Ream was accurate on five of his six long-balls, adding to a stellar defensive performance with great possessional distribution.November 29, 2022
CB — Cameron Carter-Vickers: 7
Based on Walker Zimmerman's shaky two games to start the group stage, there was no faulting Gregg Berhalter for the change in defense, and Carter-Vickers justified the selection well. CCV could have been better in the air, where he won just half of his eight aerial duels and was beaten on mis-timed jumps a few times in dangerous areas, but otherwise, he did quite well when the U.S. was under siege in key moments.
With 66 touches, Carter-Vickers was 51 of 59 passing, including four of five going long, and lost possession eight times. The U.S. will absolutely take it.
RB — Sergino Dest: 7
Sergino Dest was a consistent threat down the right flank throughout his 82-minute performance, and while there were times he could have made better decisions in the final third, he was overall a menace for Iran to deal with, cutting inside and creating chances for himself and others.
Like Robinson, Dest was expensive in possession, losing the ball 21 times in 74 touches, but that was partly by design from Berhalter, so it can be partially forgiven. He was not accurate on any of his four crosses, a part of his game which needs to improve as he continues to develop, but he completed a few dribbles and had a few good looks on goal. Dest always leaves acres of space in behind, but in this match against a bunkered opponent, that's always a good trade-off.
DM — Tyler Adams: 9*
Tyler Adams was the unquestioned Man of the Match against Iran, as the captain put forth yet another stellar performance. Throughout his 90 minutes with the armband, Adams was stunning in a box-to-box role, both with his distribution and his defensive output.
With 84 touches, Adams completed 62 of 69 passes, including seven of eight long balls, while losing possession just eight times. He completed six of his nine ground duels, including one dribble and three tackles. He also drew a necessary yellow card stopping an Iran counter during the short period where the U.S. was down to 10 men with Pulisic off the field injured, showing his ability to understand the situation well.
At just 23 years old, Adams is going to be an essential part of this team for a very, very long time.
CM — Weston McKennie: 6
Clearly still not fully fit, McKennie came off his spectacular performance against England and put in another good shift with a few critical moments, but the wear and tear of this tournament may be taking its toll on a player who came into the World Cup already with a few bumps and bruises.
McKennie looked a bit lost early on, but reigned it in and played a key role. He delivered an absolutely spectacular switched ball for Sergino Dest to unlock the Iran defense on the Pulisic goal, for which he gets the ol' hockey assist. McKennie's possessional numbers aren't great, losing the ball 11 times in 42 touches, but he was key when it mattered, and was spent by the time he came out with 25 minutes to go.
CM — Yunus Musah: 8
This game would not have achieved the same result without the play of Yunus Musah, who at just 19 years old has proven how essential he is to this squad. His progressional play is so necessary for what the U.S. is looking to do under Berhalter. While he still occasionally makes rookie mistakes, it's important to remember how young he is, and how over-developed he is at that age, and understand there will be some moments to criticize.
On the whole, Musah has become a brilliant player already. With 73 touches, he was 44 of 49 passing and lost the ball just 15 times, which is an extremely acceptable number for the pressure he faced in midfield as the player charged with progressing the ball forward. He completed six of his 14 ground duels, which can be improved — mostly on the dribble — but his four tackles were necessary and he held high volume in the attacking half of the field.
LW — Tim Weah: 7
While Weah missed a few key chances and failed to produce the cutting-edge delivery the U.S. would have hoped to get an all-important second goal, he was still very good on the wing, displaying a physical presence and an ability to help keep the ball out of dangerous areas. With that in mind, he never let the moment get too big, or let his emotions get the best of him amidst a number of physical battles.
The entire attack could have done better on their chances to break, Weah included, but his off-ball movement is fantastic, and his passing does well to bring teammates into the attack.
"I always say it's us against the world. Cause no one believed that the U.S. could play good football. We're just here trying to show the world." 😤
RW — Christian Pulisic: 9
I mean, what can you say? Pulisic has been sensational this whole tournament, and he delivered the moment the U.S. needed, at the cost of his own health. It's entirely possible that Pulisic plays no further part in this World Cup, and U.S. fans should appreciate the sacrifice he made to lunge in fearlessly to bury that chance knowing the towering Alireza Beiranvand was looming.
It's a shame that his tournament may very well end like this, and that remains to be seen, but either way, he delivered a top-class moment that fans will remember for the rest of their lives. While it wasn't as dramatic as Donovan vs. Algeria, it's still just as important. And fans will also remember his valiant attempt to gut out the rest of the half so his teammates wouldn't have to weather a good amount of time down a man.November 29, 2022
For the rest of his 45-minute performance, Pulisic was quite good as well. He delivered two key passes on 28 touches, winning three of his four ground duels, including one of two duel attempts. He was a real factor in the final third, just like he's been all tournament. What a player, what a moment.
CF — Josh Sargent: 7
Just like he was against Wales, Sargent was used less for his goal threat and more for his ability to spring attacking possessions with either his hold-up play or his off-ball movement. Through his 77 minutes of action, he only had 34 touches, but he completed 18 of 20 passes, navigated his only dribble attempt, produced one key pass, and was overall solid in the buildup.
Sargent didn't have as many chances on goal as he'd probably like, which has been a theme for U.S. attackers in this tournament, but at least today he was a contributor.
HC — Gregg Berhalter: 8
While Berhalter still needs to figure out a few things — such as how to get more attacking threat from the striker position and how to sort out the trend of a second-half slump — he once again produced a tactical plan that threatened Iran, and then managed the game through the final 20 minutes to perfection.
With the exception of bringing on Shaq Moore again for Sergino Dest, which has now been a substitution that has flopped twice, Berhalter nailed his changes — some forced and others tactical. Gio Reyna again did not play in this match, but to be fair, this game did not call for the injection of energy that Gio brings, and instead required physicality, grit, and defensive contribution as the second half wore on.
Oh, and he busted out the behind-the-back pass for the first time this World Cup. Bonus points!November 29, 2022