USMNT ‘eager to bounce back’ in mammoth World Cup clash vs. England

Christian Pulisic USMNT
Christian Pulisic of the United States runs with the ball during the World Cup, group B soccer match between the United States and Wales, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

This is the big one, the one that was circled on everyone’s calendar when the draw came out. The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) faces England in a gargantuan Group B clash on Friday (2 p.m. ET, FOX) in hopes of wiping away a disappointing opening 1-1 result to Wales. 

“We are eager to bounce back and now have the opportunity to do that against a good team,” USMNT captain and midfielder Tyler Adams said (h/t Daily Mail). “We are eager to bounce back and now have the opportunity to do that against a good team.”

“Good” might be a bit of an understatement. England is ranked fifth in the world, fresh off a 6-2 beatdown of defensive-minded Iran in its opener where the abundance of its attacking prowess and talent was put on full display. 

The Three Lions did that without last World Cup’s Golden Boot winner, Tottenham star striker Harry Kane, getting on the scoresheet before injuring his ankle. It could hold him out of Friday’s match, prompting an internationally inexperienced Callum Wilson to step in (4 caps, 1 goal with national team). But that doesn’t do much to dim England’s power. 

Raheem Sterling Bukayo Saka England World Cup
England’s Bukayo Saka , right, celebrates with a teammate after scoring his side’s fourth goal against Iran during the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Take your pick: Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka scored twice against Iran. Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling has the speed and experience to ask major questions of an opposing defense. Jude Bellingham became the first English teenager to score at a World Cup since 1998. Mason Mount is the attacking engine of the midfield for Chelsea. Jack Grealish — a star presence of the dangerous Manchester City — came off the bench against Iran.

It’s a much more deep, imposing attack compared to what USMNT faced in Wales — a physical team with really one game-breaking talent in the veteran Gareth Bale. So a repeat of a second half against the Red Dragons would spell doom for the Americans against the English.

“We have to continue to be able to adapt and manage the game,” Adams said. “It is about winning the games ahead now. You have to focus and try and bounce back against a very good team in England.”

A loss would make the United States’ chance of advancing from Group B into the Round of 16 incredibly slim, meaning a result of some kind is a must — especially if one of Wales or Iran comes out with a victory in the other match Friday.

It’s a sizable ask for a team that is the underdog, but such a blanket statement would ultimately be unfair to the US. After all, it dominated the first half against Wales and the talent is there to find some creative magic of its own. 

And while the finishing will be the looming question mark for the Stars and Stripes, England’s defense is the weakest aspect of its squad meaning chances could be there for the taking.

It’s something the Three Lions are certainly wary about after conceding two late goals to Iran in the opener.

“To concede two goals the way we did isn’t the level we need,” manager Gareth Southgate said (h/t ESPN). “We are going to have to be better than we were [Monday] in certain aspects of our game against the USA because they are going to be coming for us full-throttle and we are going to have to reset.”

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