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USMNT focused on England after bittersweet Wales draw

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AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The pain of watching two points disappear at the hands of Gareth Bale’s game-tying penalty kick made Monday’s World Cup opener a difficult one to fully enjoy for the U.S. men’s national team.

As much as the team’s first-half performance was inspiring, and the point they earned keeps them in the thick of competition for a place in the knockout rounds, the upcoming match against tournament title contender England on Friday makes for a daunting opponent to try and rebound against.

The mood was a somber one among U.S. players, making it clear there was a collective unhappiness with the result, even though the Americans did have the better of the play overall against the more experienced Welsh.

“That just goes to show the mentality of our team that we were going out there and we’re not happy with with one point,” USMNT captain Tyler Adams said. “We’re eager to bounce back and have the opportunity to bounce back against a good team.”

As difficult a challenge as that may be, the USMNT sounded like a team ready for the challenge, even after enduring the late-game disappointment against Wales.

“I think we have a good enough team to make it out of this group,” Christian Pulisic said. “England is our next test and we’re going to go in and we’re going to try and be aggressive and try to win the game.”

England dominated Iran, 6-2, in its opener on Monday, solidifying its standing as Group B favorite. The Americans will offer a much tougher challenge though, aided by the presence of several players with experience playing in the English Premier League both with and against many of the same players they will face on Friday.

“I think we match up well against them,” USMNT captain Tyler Adams said. “Again, football is a game of inches. It comes down to minimal mistakes or minimal details. We’re obviously going to try and execute our game plan. We trust in the coach’s ability to set us up well, and how we’re going to match up against them, but they’re very flexible, as well. They played four in the back, they can play five in the back. They have variables as well. At the end of the day, it comes down to certain moments in the game.”

Both teams will go into the match on three days rest, meaning there will likely be several lineup changes for both sides. Among the players who could make their way into the starting lineup are Brenden Aaronson and Gio Reyna, though Berhalter made it clear he doesn’t see his starters from Monday’s match having trouble recovering in time to be available for selection on Friday.

“You’re getting to play England. That’s the recovery right there,” Berhalter said. “You get to play one of the teams that we think is the favorite of the tournament. I think there’s not going to be many tired players come Friday.”

Comments

  1. Vacqui, wow!! That was quite a response. I agree with pretty much everything you said. My focus on formation is to hopefully get the right players on the field. I want to see a 3421 because IMO there are only 2 people on the team that can play the 8 well and I think both are hurt. I am rooting for US so I am not happy about the prospect of them losing to Iran and I get no joy in your prediction; more like fear. My question to you was a derivation of a line from an old Peter Sellers Pink Pnther movie. It was pretty abstract and I didn’t really expect anyone to pick up on it. “By remarkable coincidence …”

    Reply
    • Tele57,

      There are the tangibles: speed, strength, size, fitness, skills, etc.. These are things you can more or less, measure with some device.

      Then there are the intangibles: “football IQ”, cunning, stupidity, heart, brains, desire, familiarity, coaching . Mechanical devices cannot easily measure those.

      The USMNT has enough of the tangibles to compete in the World Cup. For example, Gio has proven he belongs at BVB and is a future star if he isn’t one already. But BVB is not the USMNT and that little fact keeps getting ignored by many here.
      You can’t just say that because Player X is a star in the EPL or the BL that he’ll be a star with the USMNT at the World Cup.

      Players do not operate in a vacuum.

      There are too many examples from other countries that prove that the transition from club to country is not straight forward and that success in one situation does not guarantee success in another, almost completely different situation.

      To expect that Gio, or any player, can automatically translate his club success and his talent to the USMNT is nonsense. For example, it’s better now, but there was a long period where Messi’s stats were literally almost half as good with Argentina as they were with Barca. They were still good but the bar is pretty high with that guy and it’s part of why Messi still has something to prove, in some circles, with Argentina.

      BVB plays 11 men, they have a keeper. Christian played there once. Other than that, BVB is very different from the USMNT.
      They practice and play together a LOT more. They play much tougher opponents on a more regular basis.

      And what is the end result of all of that?

      When and if they finally get it right and when it matters, the end result is, they don’t think, they react, hopefully positively.

      The USMNT has a completely different set of players from BVB. They have different coaches. They have a different style.
      And whatever you think of Gregg, they have a different manager. Most USMNT players don’t have this instinctive relationship with each other that a decent club team does. It’s impossible to develop that consistently without sufficient reps. That’s just the nature of the national team game.

      Here’s the difference between national team managers and club managers.
      Club managers, the good ones who last a while anyway, for the most part, get to buy their players. They get to bring in and train their team to play their way. If you manage Brazil, France, Italy, the big boys, etc. then your gig can be closer to that model. Meaning, there are good to great players that you can routinely say “no thanks” to. With the great clubs the systems are determined by a Pep or a Klopp. It’s about players fitting to a manager.

      Back in the real world, most National team managers deal with hand me downs, walk-ons, duals who use you as a safety school, etc. In that case, you build around what you get. And Gregg has about ten minutes, comparatively speaking, to get these guys all on the same page in his “system”. Now I don’t know if his system is any good and our players are dense. Maybe Gregg has his eye on some 17 year olds who will be coming up in time for 2026 to run it consistently.

      Whatever, he has failed to get the 2022 team to implement his system consistently. Wales proved that. And that failure is shared by Gregg and his players.

      Why do Pulisic and Gio sometimes play “hero ball”? Probably because the rest of the team isn’t reacting in ways they recognize.

      Pulisic and Gio at their best react to their instincts.

      They don’t make a conscious decision per se. They catch a pattern or movement in the corner of their eye , their instinct kicks in and they do whatever their instinct tells them. My guess is they keep the ball because if they don’t see something positive, they default to keeping the ball safe. Which means keep it themselves., until something develops. And often, nothing does develop.
      That’s Gregg’s failure because he hasn’t provided his hero ball guys with reasons not to play “hero ball”.
      The USMNT does not practice. At least not in comparison to BVB who, at minimum train at least a couple of days every week during the season.
      Do the math. How many competitive games has Gio played alongside Bellingham? How many practices have they had together?
      How many competitive games has Gio played alongside Roldan, Pulisic or Weston? How many practices have they had together?
      With national teams, the systems are determined by the players. It’s about the managers fitting to the players.
      And Gregg is not suited to that. It doesn’t mean he’s a moron or that he couldn’t be a successful club manager.

      But managing the USMNT? I don’t think so. The national team game does not seem to be in his DNA. The USSF will keep him because he’s inexpensive and they can make an argument that his education continues and he will be better in 2026. Whatever.
      Gregg has a seeming lack of urgency. That’s probably because he seems like a cautious guy who is generally conservative. Or maybe his brother assured him he would be in charge for 2026.

      After three years with one manager the USMNT shows up at the World Cup with inadequate managing and coaching. They’re not ready. That should be clear to even Gregg’s most virulent defenders. They could knock off England. And they could lose to Iran. And that might be enough to advance. But they would remain a badly coached and badly organized team.
      The Wales game shows that. The first half shows you that they have the horses to perform at this level. The second half, where the USMNT failed to deal with Wales’s response, showed you that the manager and his staff did not adequately prepare the players for an entirely predictable response. Maybe, no matter what Gregg and his staff did or do, it was not their fault because the players are too stupid or not coachable. But I don’t believe that.

      Did any of you not think that Wales was going to make some halftime changes to try and get back into it? I bet many of you predicted the Moore sub.

      Anyway, I hope Gio ( if Gregg doesn’t bench him) Pulisic and the rest just get together and pull off the England win, in spite of their manager.

      Reply
  2. With Musah, McKennie and Reyna injured (which I think they all are), there are no real options for 8s. I expect a 3421

    Turner
    Long-Zimm-Ream
    Scally-Adams-Acosta-Arob
    Aaronson-Pulisic
    Weah

    Slightly ironic that Canada played well and US bad (for 2nd half anyway) and Canada has 0 points and US 1. The draw between Croatia and Morocco certainly helps Canada. Hopefully, Wales and Iran will draw as well Friday morning.

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  3. Tough call on rotation. On the one hand, you probably need to rotate several starters to keep them fresh for a must win, and winnable, third game. On the other hand, we need to keep the England game close to get thru on GD, so probably somewhere in between. Makes you wonder how Wales will approach it, as they seem to have less depth.

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  4. we did play them before — 2018, though i realize sarachan and anything before summer 2021 has kind of gone down the memory hole. 3-0. the lessons to me from that game are finish your chances, and play defense. more specifically, don’t let their wings get around the flanks, win the air balls or make them difficult, and step to the man on the ball where they can’t just shoot. given the iran score and our past experience, i think whether the defense holds (and that was villafana brooks! miazga yedlin) will be the telling factor. we haven’t developed a sniper, we don’t seem to have plans how to get goals, and so we need to keep the score down to have a chance at a result.

    based on the number chances we got in 2018 (pulisic dribbled them a bunch) as well as iran’s 2, i am sure we will have opportunities, but tactical stupidity taking risks will be punished.

    Reply
    • a tie would probably help us in the group, a low score would give us a chance to nick a winner, and failing all that with goal difference as first tiebreaker we need to keep the score close. i see a tension between achieving that purpose and chasing goals on iran. i don’t think you get a bunch of goals off iran if they play the starters 3 nights in a row. but can a rotated squad get you either a result or a tight GD margin to serve that. this is around where i get irked by a coach picking favorites or locker room guys and not actual good players.

      Reply
      • GB’s tendency in such games is to run out his first team again and then send out the second string chasing the final tiebreaker game. that strikes me as doubling down and poor tournament soccer. we all know this is a hard second game and if we mirror wales this becomes a tiebreaker. so the chess approach is try to keep game 2 “close” with fresh, rotated players, only sub on starters if we’re struggling to get that done, and set yourself up for a goal rush game 3. GB’s pattern is fanboy stuff, oh, it’s england, we have to play our best against their best. that’s also how arena has tired players for trinidad, is burning them all out on making panama a blowout. we need to learn which games matter. england you just want close so we can chase goal difference game 3. you do not want your second string against what may be a team motivated to play the great satan, or at least a decent defensive team where maybe england is the class of the group and made that look easier than it may be.

    • People haven’t forgotten it’s just irrelevant. The teams are not the same contrary to your “oddball” theory that players don’t improve after age 18 none of the players are playing at the same level both good and bad. Only 3 of the English players and4 Americans that started that day are even on the rosters for the WC. Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna weren’t even old enough to drive a car the last time the teams played. Friday they’ll be asked to drive their teams attack. Bukayo Saka scored a brace, Monday he hadn’t even played a professional match when the US met England last. Mason Mount wouldn’t get his first cap for 11 more months. Aaronson hadn’t even made his MLS debut, Sergino Dest had just begun playing for Jong Ajax, and 15 yr old Joe Scally had only played 33 US Open Cup minutes. Ferreira had 1g in 2 matches a total of 22 minutes for FCD and Matt Turner was in his first season as a starting GK for NE Revolution. It’s just not that much of an indicator. Even if it ends 3-0 it’s coincidence not correlation.

      Reply
  5. Well would you look at that Japan beat Germany. So the two teams we played last before the WC won their opening games against Argentina and Germany. Looks like the US wasn’t that bad in that window.

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    • “Looks like the US wasn’t that bad in that window.”

      That’s not how it works.

      Costa Rico just got reamed 5-0 by Spain. No shots on goal.

      Costa Rica beat the USMNT 2-0 in qualifying.

      Spain is probably ranked somewhere in England’s class.

      Does that mean the USMNT will lose 7-0 to England?

      Japan is a well organized, very cohesive team who really believe in each other and play well together. They know how they want to play.

      If anyone here thinks that the USMNT in any way resembles that kind of team unity and cohesion then they haven’t been paying attention.

      Still I expect the USMNT to beat England.

      Reply
  6. If GB ever puts Weah & Jedi our 2 fastest players on the same side, opposing defenders will be in trouble! Rather have CP as RW, so he is on Luke Shaw. I’ve been waiting to see our 2 fastest players on the same side for 3 years. LDT or Jesus as the LM, as the fulcrum or pendulum for the LW, LB, LM trio. LDTs passing will be able to keep up w/ Jedi & Weahs speed. Jesus is the 4th fastest, with Captain Adams is 3rd. Again wishful thinking, because GBs 4-3-3 doesn’t work with triangles at all, which is principle of a 4-3-3. He doesn’t want the team to play thru the middle at all, which is a staple of a 4-3-3. …and seems not to want the formation ever compact as 4-3-3s around the world are played in organized and disciplined manner. I will cheer loudly as we beat the English 3-2. Their CBs are over hyped. There fullbacks are offensive dominant, and aren’t interested in running with our athletes on the defensive side. In 3 years, we have hardly ever play to our strengths. US has to play a full match and not a good 15 minutes, or 45 minutes. We need 90+, which Reyna, Musah, Weah, CP, Dest, BA, McKennie are 60-70 minute players, and haven’t seen any evidence that they can dig deep and create some magic at the late stages of a match. It’s strange that I’m still optimistic, but hey, there’s people out who watch the WC and complain about the MLS, so I can be unrealistic also.

    Reply
    • Ferreira is overrated he does not need to start against England. He needs to only come on as a sub, until he proves he is not a Chris Wondolowski regen. I am very depressed how Ferreira, has not lived up to his potential. Literally missing chances point blank in front of goal.

      Reply
      • i see it as a process error. the coach, by repeatedly shifting to perceived “hot” players who then can’t do it again, has denied himself what most US coaches have managed, which is some clue on an even playing field, which of our strikers you could rely on to do something. dempsey wasn’t handed it. dempsey emerged and locked it down by doing it more than once. way we work sargent had been dropped for a while and hasn’t scored in like 3 years for us but he starts opening game. this is why is dislike “club form” as the primary heuristic is as you say it risks the “wondo” outcome. and unlike with wondo we’ve had years to sort out a true pecking order of the leading few as opposed to follow the form roller coaster up and down.

      • the normal way you handle such things is rotate a few strikers until someone emerges from the pack as the guy who scores goals regularly for the US. and not for norwich or gronigen, which are at best proxies. you then go with the people who score in the shirt even if they make a dumb career move, as long as they keep scoring for us. remember jozy in spain? dempsey at spurs? history shows it didn’t affect their country performance. we have been sold complete nonsense but then this coach has tossed out most of international soccer coaching 101.

      • Striker91 aka Mysterious – you are judging him by GB playing him out of position. He had 9 assists as a midfielder season before last for FCD. He’s not an initiator, which is what CFs do, is score. He’s a facilitator. Pepi played in front of him remember? I thought it was a poor choice to have both players compete for the same position, when they both play well together. Jesus is dope, just not a CF. We need a facilitator or a offensive minded LM. Point blank period!!

    • No disagreement from me on Sargent. Sargent can play 10 matches not score in every single one and it’s Jordan Morris fault. When was the last time Sargent scored for the US? Morris scored vs ES this summer. It’s just like when Scally got his lunch took by Hakimi; George Bello’s name was brung up. These comparisons are bs. Ferreira is a midfielder. Wondo is a CF. Duane Holmes is an attacking midfielder, not a 6, as you have suggested previously. Morris is a CF. Not a winger. LDT isn’t overrated and the Dutch league doesn’t suck. There I feel better, cuz agreeing with someone who’s isn’t cognizant enough to know he’s pedantic, is like agreeing with a skitzo, who doesn’t know they have a problem.

      Reply
      • What about Brandon Servania? The problem with Ferreira as a CM for Gregg is he’d be playing as an 8. As someone who watched probably 50+ FCD matches the last Jesus isn’t going to give a lot of defensive bite against the likes of Mount and Bellingham. He was best for both Luchi and Nico as a SS or or a true #10. Now if the plan is to invert the triangle and actually play with 10 and two deep CMs I’m intrigued.

      • Tele: Maybe “US team suffers food poisoning! New starting lineup Johnson, Moore, Long, Zim, Yedlin, Acosta, Roldan, DLT, Morris, Ferreira, and Scally as a LW. FIFA to allow Berhalter and Luchi to dress as the only available subs.” I am sure Vacqui would still feel draw at this situation.

      • Tele57,

        England should win.
        England probably will win.

        But Argentina should have beaten Saudi Arabia. No way in hell that Argentina loses to them right?
        And Germany should kill Japan right?

        The World Cup has always had these completely bonkers, unbelievable upsets.

        In their heart of hearts I’m sure most of the England players think the USMNT is dog shit or maybe not even that good.

        And of course, they are right. But bad teams and underdogs can win games. Weird shit happens once in a while and I think it’s the USMNT’s turn. It’s not as if the USMNT are the Cleveland Browns.

        It’s NOT because Gregg is going to come up with genius move.

        Remember that Arena went into Couva already working on his lineups for Russia and felt that it was such a formality they could even start Paul. That’s how I think England are looking at this game.

        If Gio is super pissed as maybe he might be and if the rest of the guys are tired of being called inconsistent weenies and all that other bad stuff then they might just say ” fuck it” and go for it. Which they should probably do every game. They aren’t winning anything on genius of their tacticians because it has been proven that those tacticians can’t get the players to implement the tactics, good, bad or indifferent and stick with them.

        I love how y’all get so into this formation or that formation when the reality is Gregg can’t coach this team into playing any formation well with any consistency.

        So who cares about the tactics? Gregg can’t get his guys to apply any scheme well and stick with it.

        It’s the singer not the song.

        Who is more to blame, the players or Gregg ? I don’t know.
        And even, IV, our resident tactical genius who actually has a good idea once in a while, doesn’t know either.

        Nevertheless you saw that first half against Wales so you know the team have something. And they now are pretty sure they are fighting for their lives.

        It’s not so much that we win this game as it is that England will lose it.

        If it makes you feel any better, if we do beat England I’m pretty sure Iran will beat us. Which means, and you’ll love this, it is important that the USMNT run up the score on England because GD might really matter in the end.

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