The United States Men’s National Team advanced to the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 win over Iran on Tuesday. After securing their place in the round of 16, the USMNT is slated for a difficult matchup against the Netherlands on Saturday, December 4. The Netherlands was the winner of Group A, so they’ll take on the USA as a result of the Americans placing second in their group, Group B, behind England. With all that in mind, let’s dive into our USMNT bold predictions for the round of 16 matchup against the Netherlands. 

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4. Cody Gakpo causes problems for USMNT defense

Cody Gakpo is looking like one of the breakout stars of the tournament. The USMNT will need to contain the 23-year-old if they want to maintain their strong record defensively. In his first three World Cup games, Gakpo has scored in every single one. It’s his first World Cup, but he hasn’t missed a beat, picking up where he left off amid a strong campaign for PSV in the Eredivise, where he’s recorded nine goals and 12 assists in just 14 matches.

A superstar in the making, Gakpo could be a matchup nightmare for the Americans. He’s a big body who possesses tremendous pace, capable of making plays in the air or finishing in front of net with a strong, well-placed shot. He’s also a talented passer of the ball, so he could link up play with Memphis Depay in order to cause headaches for Tim Ream and Co. in the back line.

3. USA is held scoreless in first half

Goals were hard to come by for the Americans in the first round of the tournament, but their defense was excellent, surrendering just one goal, and none from open play. They only managed two goals for themselves, however, so they’ll need to be more effective in front of the net against the Netherlands.

That will be easier said than done for the young squad. The Netherlands defense, headlined by Liverpool superstar Virgil Van Dijk, has only conceded one goal at the tournament thus far, matching the United States’ impressive tally. With Christian Pulisic potentially not at 100 percent strength, the USMNT goalscorers figure to be silenced by the Netherlands. If there’s a goal to be had for the USMNT, it’ll likely be in the second half of the game.

2. Gio Reyna finally gets in the game

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This might be more of a prayer than a prediction, but it’s about time the Americans call upon star attacker Gio Reyna. Fans have been longing for him to be included in the starting lineup, but Gregg Berhalter has, for some reason, resisted those calls. With a matchup against the Netherlands looming, creativity will be critical for the USMNT if they want to find any good looks on goal. That makes Reyna the perfect candidate to insert into the lineup.

The 20-year-old is capable of playing in various positions in the attacking third or even settling into a central midfield role. His versatility has been taken for granted thus far, with Berhalter often opting to keep his subs until late into the game. Hopefully, this all changes against the Netherlands and Reyna’s name is on the starting team sheet, or at the very least he gets some action as a substitute.

1. USMNT takes the Netherlands to extra time

Now that we’re in the knockout stages, it’s win or go home. Draws are no longer an option for the remaining 16 teams, meaning that a 90-minute draw will result in extra time, and eventually penalties if the deadlock isn’t broken. These two teams have played magnificent defense thus far into the tournament, and that should hold true on Saturday. Whether it be 1-1 or 0-0, this game figures to be low scoring and closely fought. The bold prediction here is that regardless of the end result, the USMNT will force the Netherlands to play into extra time, and possibly beyond.