Christian Pulisic goal propels US into World Cup’s next round
DOHA, Qatar — Christian Pulisic kicked the ball, scored the goal and then crashed into the goalkeeper, 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.
Pulisic’s 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.
“Every single player is ready to lay their body on the line to make sure this team is successful,” United States midfielder 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 three 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 felt dizziness after the collision.
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 in the group 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.
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 just past 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 past Ramin Rezaeian and Majid Hosseiniand.
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 play. 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.”
Berhalter thought Pulisic got second-half updates on phone apps.
Weah, who scored the Americans’ goal in the opening 1-1 draw with Wales, nearly doubled the lead in the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time but was ruled offside.
With England ahead of Wales, Iran knew it needed only a draw to advance and finally got its first shot at goalkeeper Matt Turner when Saman Ghoddos put a header over the crossbar in the 52nd minute. Saeid Ezatolahi put an open shot high and wide in the 70th and Morteza Pouraliganji’s diving header in the third minute of nine minutes of stoppage time went just wide.
Walker Zimmerman cleared a loose ball in front of the open net in the ninth minute after Cameron Carter-Vickers got a slight hand on Mehdi Taremi.
“I hope that our fans and our people in Iran forgive us. I am just sorry,” Taremi said.
Carter-Vickers, a son of former NBA player Howard Carter, made his World Cup debut in place of Zimmerman and gave the U.S. an entirely Europe-based lineup for the first time ever in World Cup play.
YOUNG AT HEART
The U.S. lineup averaged 24 years, 321 days, the youngest of any team at the tournament thus far and the youngest in the World Cup for the Americans since 1990. Yunus Musah turned 20, the first American to appear in a World Cup match on his birthday.
The U.S. is 1-4 against the Netherlands, all friendlies, overcoming a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 at Amsterdam in 2015.
“I think that’s the American spirit, the way this group plays, and I think people will appreciate that,” Berhalter said.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports