Christian Pulisic kicked the ball, scored the goal and crashed into the goalkeeper, a collision that sent the American star to a hospital and the United States into the second round of the World Cup,Associated Press reported.
More than an hour later, he contacted his teammates by FaceTime to join the celebration.
Pulisic’s 38th-minute goal had held up, and the United States had beaten Iran 1-0 on Tuesday night 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,” midfielder Weston McKennie said.
After finishing second in Group B with five points, two behind England, the U.S. plays 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,” winger Tim Weah said, “’cause no one believed that the U.S. could play good football.”
Back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the U.S. needed a victory to reach the round of 16. Iran finished third in the group with three points and has failed to advance in six World Cup appearances.
“The dream is over,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said.
McKennie started the play for the goal when he lofted the ball 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 Hosseini.
Twisting his body, Pulisic redirected the ball with his right foot for his 22nd international goal and first in World Cup play. His momentum carried him into goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, according to Associated Press.
“Christian makes those runs. That’s what he does. That’s the special quality he has,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “As soon as the ball is wide, he goes in with intensity to the penalty box and good things happen.”
Pulisic was sprawled on the field and for about three minutes as he received treatment. He tried to continue playing but was substituted at the start of the second half and taken by athletic trainer Harris Patel for abdominal scans at Hamad General Hospital, where Pulisic followed the game on phone apps. The U.S. Soccer Federation said Pulisic was diagnosed with a pelvic contusion, returned to the team hotel and is day to day.
“I sent him a text and checked on him, and he said, ‘Best believe I’ll be ready on Saturday,’” McKennie said.
Weah nearly doubled the lead in the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time but was ruled offside.
Raucous Iranian fans with horns and drums in the crowd of 42,127 filled the lower bowl behind one goal at Al Thumama Stadium, a circular venue shaped like a gahfiya, a traditional hat.
While the U.S. outshot Iran 9-0 in the first half, Iran had a 4-3 advantage in the second, knowing it needed only a draw to advance. Berhalter inserted Walker Zimmerman in the 82nd minute and shifted to a five-man defense.
Nine minutes of stoppage time were announced. Morteza Pouraliganji’s diving header in the third minute went just wide. In the eighth minute, Cameron Carter-Vickers had a hand on Mehdi Taremi’s shoulder as the striker slid into Matt Turner, and the ball squibbed through the goalkeeper only for Zimmerman to clear it. Spanish referee Antonio Mateu denied Iran’s appeal for a video review, and the final whistle blew after the 10th extra minute.
“I hope that our fans and our people in Iran forgive us,” Taremi said.
Turner gave the U.S. consecutive World Cup shutouts for the first time since 1930. Inside the locker room, teammates tried to speak with Pulisic, Associated Press reported.
“Everyone was screaming, so we couldn’t really hear too, too much,” Turner said. “He left everything, put everything on the line there and was able to get the ball across the line.”