The biggest question around the U.S. men’s national team entering the World Cup was whether or not any forward would emerge as a reliable goalscorer. The 3-1 loss to The Netherlands in the round of 16 proved what was already known.
Ahead of the 2026 World Cup in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, the USMNT must find a striker who can strike fear into opponents and get a goal when needed most. To coach Gregg Berhalter, that’s the difference between the U.S. and The Netherlands, as well as the rest of the upper tiers of international soccer.
“We don’t have a Memphis Depay right now, who’s scoring in the Champions League,” Berhalter told reporters in Qatar, according to FOX’s Doug McIntyre.
Some Twitter users and USMNT fans were quick to point out that Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna have scored or had assists in Champions League. Not to mention that Depay has missed most of this season at club level with an injury.
But even if a bit harsh for the players in the locker room, Berhatler’s assessment of the team is fair, and it’s the first confirmation from him of this glaring issue of the USMNT.
“They were clinical in their (scoring) opportunities in the first half, Berhalter said of the Netherlands. “Other than that, there wasn’t much separating the teams.”
— Doug McIntyre (@ByDougMcIntyre) December 3, 2022
Depay and Cody Gakpo have shown their ability to score at the international level for The Netherlands. Entering this tournament, the U.S. had almost no World Cup experience and had already struggled to score throughout Berhalter’s time as national team coach. The USMNT might have attackers like Pulisic, Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, and Tim Weah to be excited about, but they’re not go-to players on the biggest teams in the world like The Netherlands’ Frenkie de Jong and Depay — when healthy — are for Barcelona.
Berhalter took Josh Sargent, Haji Wright, and Jesús Ferreira to Qatar and left Jordan Pefok and Ricardo Pepi back with their club teams. Sargent was the best of the three, but none of them scored and all earned at least one start.
Pepi was the top goalscorer at forward for the USMNT during World Cup qualifying, but he went through a goalless drought for club and country for more than a year before finding his scoring touch again in the top Dutch league just before Berhalter made his roster selections.
With the national team, Berhalter doesn’t have enough time with players to develop a reliable striker. It’s the USMNT’s hope in the next four years that any of the five strikers named above or another player develops enough to be that world-class player the U.S. is missing.
The Americans outplayed England — arguably the most well-known soccer nation in the world. But they couldn’t find a goal when they were the better team for over 90 minutes.
If the USMNT wants to not just compete with teams like Brazil, Argentina, France, and others but beat them, Berhalter believes he’s just being honest about what he needs to do.