Yanks draw with English in World Cup 2022

USA's Christian Pulisic
USA's Christian Pulisic

In by far their biggest game in years, the USA National Team outplayed England’s lads and were unlucky to leave the pitch with a 0-0 draw in Group B play in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup. Though both teams had their chances including a Harry Kane open header which he sent way wide, the closest play to a goal was Christian Pulisic’s left-footer rocket from the left wing which beat Jordan Pickford to his right and hit the crossbar beyond his reach only to bounce up and away.

The Yanks controlled the midfield with Greg Berhalter’s four of Yunus Musah, Weston Mckennie, Pulisic, and Tyler Adams outplaying England’s five-man midfield setup with Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Declan Rice, Josh Bellingham, and Bukayo Saka for most of the match. When the five USA subs came in, from the 78th to the 83rd minutes they were mostly placeholders asked to keep the status quo the starters had earned pinning the Three Lions back in their half and attacking them primarily down the wings.   

Southgate’s first two subs came in ten minutes earlier and were made to provide more midfield bite and more wing speed and as that seemed not to work the coach went for speed with size down the middle with his second sub. But just as the English had made no inroads with their first wave of new players, the second sub was equally ineffective.

The USA has to feel good about themselves with this result as the vast majority of pundits were simply wondering how many goals the Brits would win by. As a matter of fact, the USA was the better team on the pitch tonight and the Brits know it.

As the second-half stoppage time was coming to a close the USA had the final play, usually indicative of who has been in control of the match. With the ball at the far right of the England side, halfway between their half-moon and the center circle, and near the touchline, two Americans hovered over the ball deciding how to take the called free kick.

All of the players from both teams, save the two Americans discussing the free kick, lined up at the left corner of the penalty area as if awaiting an aerial cross, the quickest way to get the ball into scoring position and certainly the play the Brits would have chosen. But the English are experts at defending headers and the USA is not particularly adept at the skill, with a few exceptions, and their key ones were not on the pitch at the time. So, something different had to be tried.

With the entire right side of the penalty area open, the play to make would have been a quick pass to someone peeling off the mob on the left toward that open space, or one of the two standing over the ball to spring into that space to receive the other’s pass on the right. Either option, if the first pass succeeded, would have allowed three goal-scoring opportunities, a quick low cross to the left, an immediate shot on goal, or a dribble into the box in search of contact or a closer shot.

Any one of those options the English would have had a harder time defending than an aerial ball. But the men on the ball hesitated too long and by the time they made their choice, and the pass finally came in toward the receiver who peeled off the mob, his marker arrived simultaneously, and the play died. The referee blew the whistle seconds later.

Now the USA has two points to Iran’s three and a 0-goal differential to Iran’s -2-goal differential, which means that if Iran and USA were to draw the USA would be eliminated, but if the USA won, they would likely progress. Meanwhile, England sits at four points and a +4-goal differential so a draw or win in their final match with Wales would ensure the Three Lions’ progress. But if Wales were to defeat England by seven or more goals (not likely) they would move to second place and progress with the USA if they beat Iran or with Iran if they draw with or beat the USA. Easy, right?

 

Photo: USA’s Christian Pulisic, Shutterstock ID: 1276171765, by MDI

 

Papa is at 9 correct and 11 incorrect in game outcome predictions—a 45% success rate, pretty average.

 

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