Christian Pulisic, who hit the woodwork, after the USA’s scoreless draw with England on Friday.  (Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis Editor

For good stretches of the match, the U.S. men’s national team looked good, pretty damn good against England in its scoreless draw on Black Friday in Qatar.

The Americans controlled the ball, created chances and kept their composure.

They did everything but score a goal and obtain a victory in what I would call a Gray Friday.

And like it or not, winning is what the World Cup is about.

No one is going to remember whether you played well. Fans, media and observers will look at the results and the standings, which, like it or not, used as the ultimate barometer for a team.

Just ask supporters of the Brazilian national team. As a five-time World Cup champion, the squad has much to live up to every time it runs onto the field.

Playing beautiful soccer doesn’t matter unless the Brazilians win. Not just games, but the tournament. Now, those are ridiculously great expectations.

At the 2002 World Cup in Korea, the USMNT was far from perfect. It struggled at times, but kept on demostrating its grit.

The Americans grabbed a stunning 3-0 halftime advantage against heavily favored Portugal and held on for dear life en route to a 3-2 triumph. They battled an improved host side, Korea, in a cauldron of enthusiastic supporters and came away with a 1-1 tie. Korea, incidentally, reached the semifinals, its best World Cup showing.

Despite losing to Poland in its final group stage match, the USA qualified for the Round of 16, where it posted the ultimate dos a cero result against archrival Mexico to go deep in the competition for the first time since the very first World Cup in 1930.

The USMNT lost to Germany, 1-0, hindered by a non-call on a handball in the penalty area. Had it been ruled a penalty kick, it might have changed the course of the match and perhaps opened the door to the semifinals.

Beyond that PK controversy, the Americans found ways to win, despite injuries that knocked starters out of the World Cup and yellow-card suspensions that forced some key players to sit.

The key phrase is that sentence is “found ways to win.”

The World Cup also is about challenging yourself and going as far as you can.

There can only be one world champion, but there can be many winners.

Take, for example, Croatia.

Outside of that European country, probably few pundits, fans and media gave the Croatians much of a chance of going deep in the tournament.

But that’s what they did, going very deep to the final. Croatia lost to France in the championship game.

Upon returning home, the team received a ticker tape parade for its greatest World Cup success.

The Croatians might have lost in the final but were winners to their supporters.

So, would you trade a gritty win by the U.S. against Iran for a beautifully played draw or loss?

Yeah, I know your answer already. You’ll take the win any day of the week.

Like it or not, it’s about winning at the World Cup.

That’s the USA’s challenge in its final Group B match against Iran on Tuesday.


A draw and exiting the World Cup undefeated at 0-0-3 is not good enough.

You can play well, but it’s about grinding out a victory, finding a win to win and record three points.

That is the ultimate measuring stick for a team’s success.