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USMNT England Analysis: Three Thoughts on a Second Draw

usmnt england analysis

Al Khor, Qatar – Yesterday, the United States Men’s National Team played England to a 0-0 draw at the World Cup. They Yanks now sit on two points and a win against Iran will see them through to the knockout stage. They went toe-to-toe with a tournament favorite, improved on their performance against Wales, and in several ways outplayed England.

USMNT England Analysis: Three Thoughts on a Second Draw

The Three Lions controlled the game in the first 20 minutes, pinning the Americans back. Other than a shot from Kane that was blocked by Walker Zimmerman, the US prevented dangerous looks on goal. The Americans grew into the game, confronting England at midfield and getting in transition. Weston McKennie and Hadji Wright had looks. Christian Pulisic hit the post. They had chances on set pieces, but Harry Maguire defended them well. Substitutions saw Jack Grealish give England life and regain control in the final 15 minutes. Kane had a great header in stoppage time on a set piece but it was off target. The match ended 0-0.

They brought intensity against an opponent that left space in behind

Berhalter has mentioned so many times publicly and to his players how important intensity is. They won WCQ games based on intensity. They’ve dropped points on intensity alone. The USMNT were intense for 90 minutes, something they were not against Wales. Tactically, England’s a more comfortable matchup. Wales and Iran were always going to sit back and defend.

The US were able to press a team that played out of the back. Tyler Adams was again spectacular. Weston McKennie was much improved from his 66 minutes against Wales. They let England come at them, confronted them in the midfield, then got in transition where they were excellent and comfortable. This led to a more dynamic attack. As the US scared them, Southgate gradually got more conservative, playing into their hands. If only they could finish. That’s been the story of this team going back two years.

Minor but important changes to set pieces:

Pulisic is not a good set piece taker. They were inert against Wales on corners. Pulisic’s service was better, getting past the first defender and into the box. The runs were better. One could see the play taking shape and anticipate chances coming. There were several very close calls. Credit to Maguire on coming up big, especially in the second half with Zimmerman crashing the net behind him. The follow up to these corners were also good, preventing England from playing out and comfortably resetting. If they do this against Iran, they will get shooting opportunities and make life difficult for the Iranians.

It would have been nice to see Berhalter react sooner to Southgate’s second half adjustments and substitutions. Reyna finally made his World Cup debut in the 83rd minute. Questions remain about his health and Berhalter’s approach to late game solutions. If Pulisic’s service holds up, I will be less concerned about needing Kellyn Acosta on the field for late game restarts.

Limiting Harry Kane, just like Gareth Bale:

Say what you will about Matt Turner’s feet (which have been good). Say what you will about Sergino Dest getting lost at times. Say what you will about Zimmerman’s yips after the penalty against Bale. The Americans have put on a clinic with limiting two of the best forwards in this World Cup from the run of play. Bale had little service and no space on the ball. The only time Kane was comfortable is when he dropped back into his own half. Unlike the Wales game, head referee Jesus Valenzuela let the teams play with no yellow cards. This played to the advantage of the Americans.

The back four plus the double pivot of Adams and and McKennie kept Kane in front of them. He rarely had space. They forced him to give up the ball and have other players beat them. The two exceptions were the opening chance in the 10th minute and the set piece in stoppage time. Zimmerman was well positioned on the first. The second deserves some film study. But if they can do that against Kane and Bale, they will handle Sardar Azmoun on Tuesday.

Last Word: They play like that, they will beat Iran.

The Yanks sit on two points. They’ve arguably been the protagonist in both games so far. They could be on four points, and it’s more likely they’ve won two than lost two. Iran is not the attacking team England is. They have no Bale. They’re less defensively sound than Wales. If the US plays as well as they did against England, they will win. If they improve as much as they did from Wales to England, they’ll win comfortably.
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