Patrick Grudberg ‘24
For nearly eight months, American soccer fans had Friday, November 25th circled in red on their calendars. Yes, the opening World Cup match against Wales would mark the country’s first game in the tournament in eight years. But, their tilt against England would mean so much more on a larger scale for U.S. soccer. Finally, a true litmus test for the potential of this young, budding generation of American stars. And after a disappointing 1-1 draw vs Wales to open the tournament paired with England’s impressive 6-2 thrashing of Iran, most fans, myself included, looked towards Friday with much dread. Would our boys pull out a result similar to 2010’s 1-1 draw against England, or would Gareth Southgate’s side embarrass the USMNT with our entire country’s sports world on watch?
The game kicked off at 2pm EST with England taking early control of possession. In the 10th minute, the Three Lions took the first chance of the game when Bukayo Saka squared a pass to Harry Kane at the edge of the six yard box. Yet somehow, Walker Zimmerman deflected Kane’s strike and only conceded a corner. It’s rare for a world-class striker like Kane to squander such a clear-cut opportunity. After this shaky start, the U.S. eased into the match and shockingly found themselves in control of the momentum. In the 26th minute, Tim Weah crossed a dangerous ball into the box that midfielder Weston McKennie couldn’t get his foot over, skying it over the England net. Soon after in the 33rd minute, Christian Pulisic snuck a left-footed shot around two defenders that ricocheted off the crossbar. The U.S. backline remained stout, with center back Tim Ream holding Kane in check and Tyler Adams doing yeoman’s work in the midfield. Adams, captaining this U.S. team, continues to impress with his ball-winning skills, tracking England attackers down and snuffing out any counterattacks.
At halftime, most American fans felt a surge of positivity and hope. Entering the game, a draw seemed like a hopeful yet unlikely result. But the team’s first half performance was more than the conservative, defensive gameplan we anticipated during pregame. Multiple times they caught England sleeping with impressive buildup play resulting in legitimate chances. As the 2014 chant famously declared, I believed that we could win.
Unfortunately, Berhalter’s boys didn’t play with the same attacking mindset in the second half. By the 60th minute, both teams seemed content for a draw. What ensued was a long game of cat and mouse, both teams begging the other to commit too many players forward. The only real chance in the second half came in stoppage time when Kane nodded a free header off-target to basically end the game. So after months of anticipation, the highly anticipated Black Friday showdown ended in a 0-0 draw.
U.S. fans should be relatively satisfied with a point. England are obviously the better team on paper, and any positive result from the match was going to come as an added bonus. Most importantly, this sets the stage for the final group stage match vs Iran on Tuesday the 29th. The U.S. must win that game to advance to the round of 16. By the time this article is published, that game will have gone final. We’ll know whether the U.S. advanced out of group B as many hoped or if they crashed out and were sent home packing early. Here’s my prediction – a 2-0 United States win over Iran. Christian Pulisic will put the Americans ahead in the first half, and Brenden Aaronson will add an insurance goal late in the second half to seal the team’s progression to the round of 16. If I’m wrong, that’ll make for a sad end to this hopeful, promising
[Chief Editor’s note: The U.S. defeated Iran by a score of 1-0, thanks to a goal in the 39th minute by American Hero Christian Pulisic. It is still very much called soccer.]