DOHA, Qatar -- United States coach Gregg Berhalter bemoaned his team's failure to convert goalscoring chances after the Americans exited the World Cup on Saturday with a 3-1 last-16 defeat to the Netherlands.
The USA's lack of a proven goalscorer haunted Berhalter's young side throughout their World Cup campaign and the absence of a cutting edge once again proved costly.
Chelsea star Christian Pulisic was gifted a glorious chance in the third minute at the Khalifa Stadium when left one-on-one with Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert.
But the American talisman appeared to snatch at his shot, allowing Noppert to save -- and seven minutes later the Netherlands took the lead through Memphis Depay with their first attack of the game.
A similarly clinical Dutch goal by Daley Blind on the stroke of half-time effectively sealed the contest.
"This is a tough one to swallow for us," Berhalter said afterwards.
"The guys put everything they had into it. Tonight we came up short. We talked about the game being about moments and the first half was a great indication of that. And two moments come and all of a sudden we're down 2-0.
"You have to give credit to them to finish those chances. I mean, their first attack was basically a goal. We were clearly on top and dominating before that but didn't score.
"It's just moments -- a player can be just off here and there, and it ends up in the back of the net.
"That's what happens at this level. It's unfortunate it happens in a knockout game but it did and we've got to learn from that."
- 'It's going to hurt' -
Pulisic meanwhile was left disconsolate as his missed early chance, revealing that he initially believed he was offside. Replays showed he was clearly onside.
"It's going to hurt for a while," Pulisic said.
Although substitute striker Haji Wright pulled a goal back for the USA in the second half, fortuitously flicking home a Pulisic cross, the US will depart Qatar having scored only three goals in four games.
Rectifying the shortcomings in front of goal will be a priority as the US turn their attention to the 2026 World Cup on home soil.
"When you look at the difference of the two teams, there was some offensive finishing quality that Holland had that we were lacking," Berhalter said.
"It's normal. We have a very young group that is beginning their careers. We'll catch up to that.
"We don't have a Memphis Depay right now who's scoring in the Champions League, playing for Barcelona, experienced at scoring at this level."
Nevertheless, Berhalter took positives from a campaign that saw his team advance from the group stage after the disaster of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"We set out with a goal to show the rest of the world we can play soccer and we partially achieved that although we fell short of our goals," Berhalter said.
"The guys should gain confidence about the fact that we can play the way we want to play against any team in the world. Now we've got to take it up a level, so we can win games in a knockout game in a World Cup and keep going."
Pulisic agreed with Berhalter's assessment.
"We didn't qualify for the last World Cup and here we got to the last 16 -- we've definitely come a long way," he said. "Right now it just hurts."
© Agence France-Presse