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On a hot summer night in downtown Austin, Texas, at the green Q2 Stadium, the United States Men's National Team found themselves in a tightly contested matchup against World Cup 2022 Host country, Qatar.
Led by head coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Sebastian Lleget, the US dominated possession. The USMNT created good chances but poor execution led to a lack of production up top in the attacking third.
Meanwhile, when the USMNT lost the ball, Qatar was deadly. Their forward duo of Akram Afif and Al Moez Ali possessed quality that challenged the US defense.
US goalie Matt Turner stood head over heels and was the sole reason the first half ended 0-0. With cat-like reflexes and a constant awareness of his surroundings, Matt Turner was as sharp as a knife in the first half against Qatar.
The US at times looked indecisive in the attacking third. Center forward Daryl Dike wasn’t producing and the midfield lacked the creativity needed to advance the ball consistently.
Then came the second half and luckily for Matt Turner, his job was easy, except for one moment.
James Sands went for a tackle on Qatar forward Akram Afif, but missed the ball and hit Afif’s knee.
On the spot stepped captain Hassan Al-Haydos. Haydos went for a cheeky panenka but ended up skying the ball into the supporters section as a big weight got lifted off of both Sands and Turner's shoulders.
Then, Gyasi Zardes was subbed in, 63 minutes into the game. Then in the 81st minute, both Eryk Williamson and Nicholas Gioachinni came onto the pitch as late substitutes.
These three players were all subbed in by USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, combined in a heroic play that led to an 85th-minute winner, with Gyasi Zardes being the hero of the day.
However, it shouldn't go without notice that it was Berhalter who subbed these three in. He saw the talents they had and what was lacking on the pitch and he adjusted accordingly. For a coach who was berated on Twitter for not being able to adjust during games, this wasn’t so bad.
And don’t mistake it for luck, this was pure coaching genius from Berhalter, a coach who has helped elevate the USMNT both on and off the pitch, also leading recruiting efforts.
Now after a heart-racing win, Berhalter has his eyes set on winning Gold at the Gold Cup Final, taking place at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. Perhaps the most beautiful stadium in the world.
The USA will face the winner of Mexico-Canada.
A writer who loves to learn and share.
All Editorials written by Chris Dailey