US advances to round of 16, Pulisic sacrifices body to score
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022
DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic kicked the ball, scored the goal and then crashed into the goalkeeper in a collision that sent the American star to the hospital and the United States into the second round of the World Cup.
More than an hour later, he contacted his teammates by FaceTime to join the celebration.
His 38th-minute goal held up, and the United States beat Iran 1-0 on Tuesday in their politically charged rematch to advance to the World Cup’s knockout stage.
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“Every single player is ready to lay their body on the line to make sure this team is successful,” United States mid-fielder Weston McKennie said.
The Americans finished second in Group B with five points, two behind England, and will play the Netherlands on Saturday with the chance to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.
“I always say it’s us against the world,” forward Tim Weah said. “No one believed the U.S. could play good football.”
Pulisic was sprawled on the field and lying in the goal for about 3 minutes as he received treatment from the U.S. staff. He tried to continue playing but was substituted at the start of the second half with Brenden Aaronson and taken for abdominal scans.
U.S. Soccer said Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion and was day to day. He left the hospital and returned to the team hotel.
“I sent him a text and checked on him, and he said, ‘Best believe I’ll be ready on Saturday,’” McKennie said.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said Pulisic sustained an injury below the abdomen and felt dizziness.
Back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the U.S. opened with draws against Wales and England and needed a victory to reach the round of 16.
Iran finished third with three points. The team has failed to advance in all six of its World Cup appearances.
“The dream is over with this result,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. “The U.S. started the game much better than us, more quick with better control of the game.”
Raucous Iranian fans with horns and drums in the crowd of 42,127 filled the lower bowl behind one goal at Al Thumama Stadium and were far louder than the red-white-and-blue U.S. supporters at the other end and behind the American bench.
The U.S. outshot Iran 9-0 in the first half but didn’t break through until Pulisic came up with the big moment that a growing and increasingly demanding fan base back home had been pining for.
McKennie lofted a pass from the center circle to Sergiño Dest at the edge of the 6-yard box. Dest headed the ball in front of the net on a bounce as Pulisic charged up the center of the field.
Turning his body to let the ball hit his right foot, Pulisic redirected the ball for his 22nd international goal and first in World Cup. His momentum carried him into goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
“Christian makes those runs. That’s what he does. That’s the special quality he has,” Berhalter said. “As soon as the ball is wide, he goes in with intensity to the penalty box and good things happen and you score goals.”