Fox’s Dempsey, Donovan and Lalas look for positives after Team USA’s World Cup exit

In the aftermath of Saturday’s crushing World Cup loss to the Dutch, former USA stars Alexi Lalas, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey all offered positives as the young side look forward to the tournament in 2026 in North America.

“Look back to 2018, where we were, when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” Dempsey said on Fox Sports’ post-match program after the 3-1 loss in the round of 16. ‘They made this country believe again.’

Dempsey’s point is undeniably true. The United States went from their disastrous failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia to a solid group stage in Qatar, drawing with Wales and England, while beating Iran, 1-0.

Former USMNT star Clint Dempsey: “Go back to 2018, where we were, when we didn’t qualify for the World Cup. They made this country believe again’

In the aftermath of Saturday's crushing World Cup defeat to the Dutch, former USA stars Alexi Lalas (right), Landon Donovan (left) and Clint Dempsey (centre) all offered points positive as young squad look forward to 2026 Cup in North America

In the aftermath of Saturday’s crushing World Cup defeat to the Dutch, former USA stars Alexi Lalas (right), Landon Donovan (left) and Clint Dempsey (centre) all offered points positive as young squad look forward to 2026 Cup in North America

USA coach Gregg Berhalter and Christian Pulisic leave the pitch after losing

USA coach Gregg Berhalter and Christian Pulisic leave the pitch after losing

And for a team that ranked among the youngest in the tournament with an average age of just 25, there’s reason to hope that 2026 will look very different for Team USA.

“It’s the experience you get from going to the World Cup and coming out of the group that was one of the highest ranked in this whole tournament and everyone being in the top 20,” Dempsey said.

“That’s what we need, and we need to inspire these kids coming in, who are going to be the 23, 22, 21 year olds who are going to come into this team and make it better for 2026.’

“They looked.”

The 2026 squad could include several budding talents who failed to qualify for this year’s squad, including 22-year-old Rangers midfielder James Sands and 19-year-old FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi, who is currently on loan in the Netherlands.

Donovan, meanwhile, was happy with much of what he saw in Saturday’s 3-1 loss. In particular, the former MLS star was delighted to see American players with European club experience hanging out with their Dutch counterparts.

“The midfield was fantastic,” he said. ‘All these young players, who play in big clubs, they are not afraid of anyone, it shows. They weren’t afraid of the Dutch.

Alexi Lalas (pictured) took umbrage at the USA team's failure to capitalize on Holland's mistakes, which he saw as a sign of immaturity on the part of the Americans.

Alexi Lalas (pictured) took umbrage at the USA team’s failure to capitalize on Holland’s mistakes, which he saw as a sign of immaturity on the part of the Americans.

American Rangers midfielder James Sands takes part in a training session at Murray Park in Auchenhowie, on the outskirts of Glasgow, on September 6

Ricardo Pepi of FC Groningen looks on during the Dutch Eredivisie match between FC Groningen and Fortuna Sittard at Euroborg on November 13

The 2026 squad could include several budding talents who failed to qualify for this year’s squad, including 22-year-old Rangers midfielder James Sands (left) and FC striker Dallas 19-year-old Ricardo Pepi (right), currently on loan. in the Nederlands

Everyone agrees that the American team showed great promise at the start of the game, when almost all the action took place in the Dutch defensive zone.

Likewise, the ex-USMNT stars were thrilled to see this year’s team respond with Haji Wright’s 76th-minute goal as Holland held a 2-0 lead.

“But even after we scored those two goals, we got that goal back, there was that moment where you think, ‘Is it possible? Could we do it? said Dempsey. “It was too much for us tonight.”

But Lalas took umbrage at the American team’s failure to capitalize on Holland’s mistakes, which he saw as a sign of immaturity on the part of the Americans.

“I think the cruelty we faced when it was a team like the Dutch – I mean, they gave us the game at the start and we said, ‘No, it’s okay,'” Lalas said. “A ruthless team – and maybe that comes with age and a lot more experience – says, ‘Uh, uh, I’m going to bite your hand and I’m not going to let you go.’

Landon Donovan (left) said coach Gregg Berhalter's side had proven they could play with traditional football power, like Holland

Landon Donovan (left) said coach Gregg Berhalter’s side had proven they could play with traditional football power, like Holland

But Lalas was not completely disappointed with the American team, going so far as to say that “there is something to be proud of”.

“There are a lot of reasons to be excited about moving forward when it comes to this game,” Lalas said. And I’m not Pollyanna. I recognize that there are issues both on and off the field when it comes to American football, but I’m just telling you, man, you gotta step back. In the 1900s we’ve come a long way, baby, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Donovan agreed, adding that coach Gregg Berhalter’s side had proven they could play with traditional football power like Holland.

“Gregg wanted these guys to change the way the world sees us,” Donovan said. “In many ways, there have been a lot of positives. What we saw tonight was naivety. In a few games, we got punished, that’s what a young team does. You’ll think they’ll all grow out of it and be better off.

Tyler Adams of USA (L) comforts Yunus Musah (R) during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Netherlands and USA at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday

Tyler Adams of USA (L) comforts Yunus Musah (R) during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Netherlands and USA at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday

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