The last time the USA and Holland faced off, Robin van Persie had just finished his third and final season with Manchester United, and a 22-year-old John Brooks was viewed as the future at center back for the Stars and Stripes.
It’s been a while.
But while the US’ squad in Qatar has just two holdovers (DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris) from that game in 2015, there’s inspiration and lessons to take from that stunning 4-3 comeback win.
DeAndre Yedlin is one of just two current USA players who played vs. Holland in 2015
Entering the June friendly, Holland – less than a year removed from losing in the World Cup semifinals on penalties to Argentina – were No. 6 in the FIFA rankings.
The USMNT were just 27th despite a respectable showing in Brazil, as they escaped a group with Germany, Ghana and Portugal and took Belgium to the wire in extra time of the Round of 16.
Nonetheless, they were massive underdogs on paper for the friendly vs. the Dutch and still managed to earn an impressive win at Amsterdamn ArenA (now known as Johan Cruyff Arena), the home of Ajax.
The game was an open one, and while the US found themselves in a 3-1 hole, it wasn’t for a lack of chances early on.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar netted a brace in the matchup but the Dutch still went on to lose
Bobby Wood netted a 90th-minute winner for the USA as they stunned their hosts
Saturday’s matchup will look drastically different from who was on the field last time around
Gyasi Zardes missed from close range in the 15th minute, Michael Bradley struck the post from the top of the box and Brek Shea squandered an opportunity on the break.
Holland, however, created openings as well, and took the lead when Klaas Jan Huntelaar lost his man and headed home in the 27th minute.
Following a first-half equalizer from Zardes, Memphis Depay and Huntelaar struck in the second half to give the Dutch a 3-1 lead.
From there, Brooks, Danny Williams and Bobby Wood scored to turn the game around, and there’s some clues in that hugely impressive comeback on how the US can hurt the Dutch this weekend.
The second US goal came in the sort of way this high-energy American group might create chances: winning the ball in midfield, feeding it to a pacy, offensively-inclined right-back (then Yedlin) before rolling it to an attacker (in this case an out of position Brooks) to slot home.
Earlier this week, in fact, the US’ winning goal vs. Iran came from right-back Sergino Dest getting beyond the opposing defense and providing a (painful) tap-in to Christian Pulisic.
The USMNT attacked through their right back the last time they played Holland and it could be a case of the same this weekend with Sergino Dest
The third goal of the game, or rather the buildup to it, is also instructive on what the US might look to do.
Before Williams’ deflected goal off of a corner, Morris shrugged off Holland’s Bruno Martins Indi on the right-center part of the field after a long punt from Brad Guzan, getting in behind on the counter and forcing a corner with his shot.
Morris came into that game late at right wing from the substitutes’ bench, and the USMNT will certainly hope to find more joy from the player who currently mans that spot on the field.
Tim Weah is just one of two USA players to score at this tournament, and his strength and pace on the flank will make him one to watch vs. the Holland back line. His ability to stretch a defense and provide a direct option could be even more important if Holland dominates possession.
Of course, Morris (who also assisted Woods’ winner) could also provide the goods this time too, as he’s in Gregg Berhalter’s squad and was a late sub in the draw vs. Wales.
Tim Weah scored the USMNT’s lone goal vs. Wales in the World Cup opener for the Americans
The US will also have to contain Memphis Depay, who started in the 2015 game on the wing
While the US managed to turn their last meeting with the Dutch around – and beat them for the first time in five tries – they should be wary of falling behind in the same manner they did in 2015.
Huntelaar scored virtually parallel goals on his head by losing his marker in the box, and Berhalter’s group will need to contain another dangerous striker on Saturday.
Cody Gakpo is the joint-leading scorer at the tournament with three goals, and at just 23 years old, is certainly pacier than Huntelaar was at the Amsterdam ArenA back then.
Whether Berhalter opts for a back four or back five, his defenders will need to keep tabs on the budding star’s movement.
Gregg Berhalter could decide to set up in a more defensive approach against the Dutch
There will be faces on the Dutch side who remember their surprising loss seven years ago.
Depay, Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind, Luuk de Jong and Steven Berghuis were all part of the Holland squad that day and will be there Saturday at the behest of current manager Louis Van Gaal.
But the talent gap has closed some between the Oranje and the Americans, and those five and their teammates will no longer be viewed as massive favorites.
Pulisic, captain Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Tim Weah bring Champions League pedigree to the starting lineup. Another with European experience, Sergino Dest, was born in Holland but rejected overtures from them and committed to the USA in 2019.
Both in stature and personnel, then, this matchup will look radically different than the last fixture, as the US have a host of emerging talent and Holland – finalists in 2010 – enter this round having missed the tournament in 2018 like the US.
Nonetheless, this Round of 16 clash at Khalifa International Stadium is a chance for both sides.
For the USA, to repeat the past. And for Holland, to correct it.