A week ago if you had offered any USMNT fan a draw against England in the World Cup they would’ve gladly accepted it without hesitation. Yet as the final whistle blew on the American’s 0-0 stalemate with their European allies, there was a small sense of disappointment. As crazy as it may sound, the U.S. stood toe-to-toe with the Three Lions and easily could’ve come away with a victory.
Analyzing the statistics and it’s clear to see that it was an even matchup for the 90 minutes. England had a slight edge in possession while the U.S. attempted more shots. Weston McKennie’s wayward finish off a great delivery from Tim Weah in the first half was arguably the best chance either team created all day and most models gave the USA a slight advantage on overall expected goals.
Being able to say you could’ve beaten such a prestigious team at the World Cup is certainly a feather in the USA’s cap. Going against England with all their high-priced talent and glamourous headline-dominating names, and holding your own is quite the accomplishment. USA supporters should be proud of the performance and effort their team showed.
Shutting down Harry Kane, one of the best pure strikers not only in the world right now but of his generation, is worthy of commendation. Keeping dynamic attackers like Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka quiet on the biggest stage is exceptional. The U.S. midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah standing strong against Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, two of the most highly-valued midfielders in the world, is stuff of legends.
Despite all the deserved praise this team has earned for proving they can hang with some of the best talent in the world, there is still a feeling of incompleteness at this World Cup. With just two points through two matches and only one goal to their name, they must now find another level and play the best they possibly can to advance past the group stage. Their final Group B matchup against Iran will be the biggest match most of these players have played and maybe will ever play in their careers.
Those same fans who would have happily taken a tie against England would no doubt have gladly accepted the knowledge that as long as they beat Iran they’d advance. Now, that’s what they need to do. A win puts them into the Round of 16 — possibly as the group stage winner — but anything less will knock them out. This young group of players will need to rise to the occasion and do what they couldn’t do against England; finish the job.
Holding your own against a top team is great, but if the U.S. has real ambitions of making it deep into this tournament like they did 20 years ago, they need to figure out how to start scoring goals. It’s an issue that plagued them throughout most of qualifying and has not really been solved yet. The overall quality of the team was proven against England and Wales, but the end product let them down in both matches. Now that their backs are against the wall it’s either find the back of the net or find themselves on a plane back to their clubs.