By Spencer Laws
The most-watched men’s soccer match on English television took place Friday, November 25th, with the United States Men’s National Team capturing a promising point against former Revolutionary War foe England.
They unfortunately tied England in a scoreless affair, with most of the game spent building and trying to finalize that final piece to unlock both teams’ backlines.
While that piece, of course, never came for either team, the USMNT is still in good standing after only bagging two points over the first two matches. They are in a bit of a “control your own destiny” situation as they enter their final group stage match Tuesday, November 29th against Iran.
The Dragons of Wales
The squad opened up by facing off with another United Kingdom opponent, Wales.
Throughout this game the U.S. controlled a lot of the ball, holding possession 59% of the time. Although it only led to one shot on goal for the team (from six total chances), it was nonetheless the only chance that was needed. Tim Weah broke through Wales’s defense in the 36’ minute to slip the only goal registered so far for the U.S. through two games.
This goal was set up by the team’s ability to hold the ball up and build upon that. Striker Josh Sargent did a fantastic job to be able to hold off the Wales defenders as he picked up the ball.
The next key was the midfield support. Christian Pulisic picked the ball off of Sargent and began to drive at Wales’s back 4, causing one of the center-backs to step up to pressure. This allowed Weah a lane to cut across to receive the ball in a very dangerous area, providing him a one-on-one opportunity in front of the goal.
As the second half started Wales started to up their pressure to capture a goal. As a viewer too, you could feel another goal coming, the game was forming; the question was from what team?
A big mistake came in the 82nd minute, as Nashville SC center-back Walker Zimmerman came through the back of opposing striker Gareth Bale, giving Wales a penalty opportunity with only 8 minutes left of regular time. Pulisic converted on the opportunity and tied the match at one apiece.
The U.S. came into the tournament being the second youngest team with an average age of 25.2. Despite the lack of experience, the match resulted in a 1-1 draw (definitely not a terrible result, yet rather disheartening given the control the U.S. had. ).
The Red Coats of England
This past Friday the squad faced off against European powerhouse England. This matchup has been highly anticipated since their draw back in April.
This was a very impressive performance from the young squad, as England was picked to be heavy favorites. The USMNT was able to maintain possession at 45% through the entire game. While this led to more total shots than England, 10, only one of those opportunities fell on goal.
Again, this “final piece” was missing almost entirely from both teams seemingly altogether. No team was really able to put together a full scoring opportunity- I personally thought a huge piece missing in this match was the balls played behind the back line of England’s defense.
Instead, the U.S. tried to create shots and hold in front of the defense, which never led to significant scoring chances.
England Striker Harry Kane had a very promising chance in front of the goal inside the box, but was blocked by U.S. defender Walker Zimmerman.
The U.S. put together seven corner-kick opportunities, compared to England’s three. This would have put England under a lot of pressure and in tough spots to defend. However, nothing was to come of those opportunities.
In the end, this match ended in another 0-0 draw adding another point for the squad- and pointing all eyes to the match against Iran.
Looking towards Tuesday
As the table stands, England sits at the top of the group with four points, Iran sits second with three points, the U.S. holds two points, then Wales comes in the last place with a single point.
Win, win, win. That is it- if the squad wins on the 29th against Iran they will move on to the next round- the knockout round.
Iran is coming off a huge win against Wales in which they scored two goals in extra time to get a must needed win.
If the team is unable to secure the win on Tuesday a lot of the pointing will likely be toward head coach Greg Berhalter, which many already see as unfit for the role. U.S. supporters are hopeful the suffering from missing the 2018 World Cup is enough to push the team to come through in a bright spot, continuing their journey in the tournament.
Photo Courtesy // Julio Cortez, Associated Press //