Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar
There were no goals scored in Friday’s game between the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) and England in a key game of the World Cup in Qatar 2022, but the result says a lot about where this American team is headed.
Facing a superstar-studded England team that reached the European Championship final last year is no easy feat, but the Americans looked more than home.
In fact, the USMNT players seemed disappointed as they cheered for them off the field, perhaps frustrated that they couldn’t find the winner they might well have deserved.
“We had most of the chances, we were more dangerous, but we just couldn’t get into the back of the net,” midfielder Weston McKennie told reporters after the game.
Any upset is unlikely to last for long with the USMNT still unbeaten against England in the World Cups.
The sides have now met three times on the world stage with the USMNT winning once and the other two matches ending in draws.
USMNT’s hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds are still in their own hands, knowing that a win against Iran on Tuesday will see them reach the round of 16 in Group B.
Despite England getting the better of the early exchanges, the USMNT grew into the match and looked the most threatening by half time.
Christian Pulisic saw his effort hit the crossbar as England struggled to cope with the intensity of the American team.
It felt reminiscent of the previous USMNT match against Wales when it started out brilliantly. On that occasion, this young team – with an average age of 25 years and 214 days when the World Cup began – had a hard time keeping up the intensity and suffered a late equalizer through a penalty from Gareth Bale.
But against England, Gregg Berhalter’s side doubled after half-time and continued their flurries of attacks against the opposition’s nervous defence.
Pulisic, man of the match, orchestrated the US fans behind goal, sending them into a frenzy as they began to believe their team could beat fifth-ranked England in the world.
The breakthrough never came, but the USMNT coped well with a late surge from England, who finally seemed to wake up with no more than five minutes to play.
“I thought it was a really strong performance from the team against a good opponent,” Pulisic told reporters after the match.
“A draw is not the worst, but I felt that there were sections of the game in which we showed dominance. […] We might even have won the game.”
He added: “This team has come a long way and I think we should be proud of the performance, but above all, it should build confidence in the team.”
England missed out on qualifying for the next round, but would have to lose heavily to Wales to lose out on a place in the round of 16.
For the USMNT, all eyes are on the game against Iran, who beat Wales 2-0 in the previous Group B game.
“Satisfied with the performance of the group and, what is more important, the confidence of the group, which never wavered,” Berhalter told reporters after the game.
“We won [against Iran] or we are out of the World Cup. That will be the focus for us.”
The match against Iran will have added significance given the political tensions between the two countries.
However, Berhalter says the team’s focus is not on politics, but rather on rewarding their fans with a place in the knockout stages.
“The thing about soccer is that you meet so many different people from all over the world and you are united by a common love for the sport of soccer,” he said.
“I see that the game is very close due to the fact that both teams want a place in the next round, not because of politics.
“We are soccer players and we are going to compete and they are going to compete and that’s it.”
Along with Canada and Mexico, the United States will host the 2026 World Cup.
And Berhalter said that growing the men’s game is something the entire roster and coaching staff take very seriously.
“We are not done, our focus is to continue and hopefully by the end of the tournament we will give people something to talk about,” he added.