The USMNT needed a hero.
In came Captain America to save the day, with Christian Pulisic sacrificing himself for the greater good in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Iran that sends his nation to the knockout stage of the 2022 World Cup.
After draws against Wales and England, the USMNT needed to win in order to reach the knockout round. With the win, they’ll face the Netherlands, who won Group A, on Saturday.
Pulisic has dreamt of this World Cup opportunity since he broke out as a teenager and then became the face of American soccer. Since he shouldered much of the blame for the USMNT not qualifying in 2018. Since he carried the Americans back to this year’s World Cup.
The moment demanded bravery when it arrived. But Pulisic was courageous and would not let anything deny him, putting his body on the line as he scored the only goal of the game to push the US into second place in Group B.
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In the 38th minute, Weston McKennie found Sergino Dest making a darting run into the box with a lobbed pass over the top of the defense. Dest promptly headed the ball back across the goal, where a charging Pulisic met it and finished coolly tapped it in to put the Americans up 1-0.
Amid the celebrations, however, one thing was missing — the goal-scorer himself.
Pulisic collided hard with Iranian goalie Alireza Beiranvand on the play, smacking face-forward into the latter’s torso as he sprinted full speed onto Dest’s pass, not slowing down at all.
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The 24-year-old star remained on the ground in pain right in front of goal while holding his midsection. He was treated on the field, and struggled to walk off the field with trainers, clearly in significant pain. Despite returning for the end of the first half, manager Gregg Berhalter replaced Pulisic with Brenden Aaronson as the teams came out for the second half. Berhalter told the Fox broadcast that Pulisic suffered an abdominal injury on the play.
In his absence, the USMNT defended their slim lead in the second half with a more cautious approach and managed to hold on.