Brad Friedel believes USA's loss to Holland will be a building block to the team's growth


I think the US team will have woken up on Sunday morning a little bit shocked that they are out of the World Cup. 

I think they genuinely thought they had a chance going into the game and they thought they could have beaten Holland. I said myself that I liked our chances, in my previous column.

The reason I say shocked is not because Holland didn’t deserve to win, or that the game didn’t reflect a 3-1 scoreline. I say shocked because I think the US players will have realized just how good some of these European teams and players are at managing games.

What I thought was really smart by Holland coach Louis van Gaal was that he let our center backs, Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman, have the ball. Holland controlled the game without the ball and dictated who we passed to. 

Brad Friedel believes USA's loss to Holland will be a building block to the team's growth

Brad Friedel believes USA’s loss to Holland will be a building block to the team’s growth 

USA lost 3-1 to Holland on Saturday and crashed out the tournament in the last-16 in Qatar

USA lost 3-1 to Holland on Saturday and crashed out the tournament in the last-16 in Qatar

It was tough lesson for the USA to take - they had reasons to be optimistic before the game

It was tough lesson for the USA to take – they had reasons to be optimistic before the game

Ream and Zimerman were allowed to bring the ball into the midfield and as along as they were not passing to Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah or Christian Pulisic, they could pass to whoever they want. Holland man-marked those players and were physical with Christian, seeing how he was shaping up after his injury. You call it brutal tactics or smart tactics depending on which camp you’re in.

I think it would also have been a realization for the US that athleticism alone isn’t enough. Yes we are good, we can compete but we have to get better. How do we do that? That’s what I would be thinking, anyway. 

I never felt like we had the upper hand in the game. I also never felt we were getting battered by any stretch of the imagination and we had chances to get it back to 2-2 but I never felt like we were going to win. 

The US has a young team and the core group will stay together – most of this US team has another World Cup in them apart from maybe Ream, who is 35, so this is a really good building block towards 2026 where the US will have a home advantage.

And it’s my view that this group should stay together with coach Gregg Berhalter. People are going to question whether he stays or goes, it happens after the end of an international tournament.

As a US fan and someone who wants the programme to do well I’m happy with him to stay. I am a big fan of continuity and I thought overall in the World Cup we performed well. I don’t see any reason to change. We never know what might happen, he might get a great offer from somewhere else and go or the federation might have other ideas, but my opinion is we should keep him.

And if Gregg does remain in the post, he has two questions in the next two years – which of his core group does he want to keep and where can he make additions? There’s always people that develop and people where the form drops.

It felt like, for the Holland game, Gregg and his staff saw something in the Dutch side where a high pressing game – and I like high pressing normally – would be where they thought they would have success and limit the service to Gakpo and Depay. But it is tough in humid conditions to do that all the time.

Then again, things could easily have been so different in the first few minutes alone. 

Christian Pulisic missed a great chance to put the USA ahead in the early minutes vs Holland

Christian Pulisic missed a great chance to put the USA ahead in the early minutes vs Holland

The Dutch team marked a number of key USA players out of the game with a solid display

The Dutch team marked a number of key USA players out of the game with a solid display

Louis van Gaal (right), the Holland coach, got his tactical setup spot on to face the USA

Louis van Gaal (right), the Holland coach, got his tactical setup spot on to face the USA 

If Holland goalkeeper Andries Noppert doesn’t make the save off Pulisic we could say ‘the tactics are brilliant, what a start’. But the first Holland goal was over 20 passes and we were spread wide out across the field. You could just see the legs, the energy zap out of them.

But look, as everyone has seen at this tournament, the US team is a young side that is going to grow significantly ahead of the 2026 tournament. This is a real good building block towards 2026.

In just under four years, these players will have been playing a lot more high level soccer in Europe and the MLS gets better and better and better every year. We have to find a No 9 to really put away some games for us and score goals. You can’t always count on midfielders or wingers for the goals.

But the US future is bright. I want to round off my last column here by paying tribute to the work of Tab Ramos, who I don’t believe is getting enough credit for all these guys coming through. 

Friedel backs Berhalter to stay as USA coach and says continuity is key to the team's growth

Friedel backs Berhalter to stay as USA coach and says continuity is key to the team’s growth

Almost all these players are Tab Ramos players – he was the U20 youth coach and technical director for many, many years. I worked with him as an assistant on that team.

They’ve all come through his development stages and when we as a coaching staff were going into U20s tournaments, we beat good teams and lost to good teams. These kids have played together a very long time and I think continuity is an important thing. 

There will be more exciting chapters to come from this group yet.

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