Not since a humid midsummer day in 1778 near Monmouth, NJ has the United States inflicted such a promising yet inconclusive defeat on England.
I for one was very entertained during that game, the fact it ended goalless to the casual viewer does not take away from the fact that it was a very good game of soccer and one in which I would argue the Americans controlled the majority of on the night. From about midway through the first half to about the 70th minute mark, I don’t think there’s any doubt the US were the better side.
Today’s 0-0 victory is certainly worth its weight in confidence and morale, and apparently lack of creativity from the English tabloids, as the USMNT for the third time in as many games at the World Cup earned a result against England. While the Three Lions still sit atop Group B and are poised to win it, the USA controls its own destiny against Iran on Tuesday. Given the positives that Berhalter has been able to take from the last two games, they should and will be favored to beat Iran.
Win and you’re in. Lose, and all the hard work in the first two games goes for naught.
GREGG BERHALTER’S STARTING FORMATION
England scores 6 vs Iran.— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) November 25, 2022
They then look slow, anemic and basically 2nd to everything and we are still not going to give Berhalter credit for the tactical setup?! He got it right today with a little wrinkle with their defensive setup. #USMNT
I had a lot of gripes about Berhalter’s tactical setups going into the World Cup, and he completely outcoached Gareth Southgate here. Not that I think it’s particularly hard to do that,
Absolutely Gregg Berhalter got the starting lineup correct, opting for a 4-4-2 look with Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie as wide midfielders and Haji Wright and Tim Weah up front. At times, this still looked like a 4-3-3 with Pulisic pushing higher up to help press, but once the USA settled into the game after a less than stellar opening 10-15 minutes, they did really well.
Tyler Adams is still literally everywhere, the US was confident on the ball and got out of a lot of tight spaces, and were able to at times move the ball forward very effectively. Did they create a lot of high quality chances? No, well get to that, but there were for long stretches of the game able to control the tempo and really had England on their heels.
Pulisic’s set piece service was vastly improved though England’s marking in the box on corners was exceptional, and McKennie was still able to make late runs into the box and be dangerous - he was just doing it from the wide midfield and underlapping into the middle.
Berhalter was able to effectively deploy his players in a way that didn’t prevent them from doing a lot of the things they already do well and stymie a really good England team (whose first shot in the second half came at the 85th minute) at the same time.
Oh, at Matt Turner is still brilliant at everything and none of you should have had any heart palpitations when he dribbled up to his own thirty yard line. How dare all of you.
BUT THE USMNT IS STILL ATTACKING AS IF THEY HAVE A TARGET FORWARD
0-0— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) November 25, 2022
(McKennie's first-half shot got downgraded, thus the lower U.S. xG than at halftime.) pic.twitter.com/FgJO2iz5GH
This is not a dig at Haji Wright, he did fine today. He’s not the focal point of the US attack, only got 18 touches and still managed two shots. This is, still, the fatal flaw in the US system that can not be fixed with (currently available) personnel and must be changed in how the US attacks with the ball.
But the USMNT continues to operate as if they have a big #9 target man who can win aerial balls in the box and that just not what they should be doing. The counter attacks need to be much faster and far more aggressive with balls put into space and not lumped in against a set defense. The late arriving runs from McKennie and others are also more effective when there’s more space for them at the top of the area because the initial runners are tracked towards the goal.
The US did very well today, I don’t want to take anything away from their effort, this was a good result. You just held a team scoreless that tallied six goals in their opener and not only shut them out but held them to about a half xG at the same time. But you’re going to need goals, yes plural, on Tuesday against Iran and under this current setup those are going to be hard to come by.
My biggest knock on Berhalter is that his possession system has hampered this teams ability and tendency to counter attack. They don’t always look for the killer forward ball, they look for the open man - and at times, that is a great quality to have. But not all the time and this US team still seems to be in second or third gear when it comes to attacking aggression. There are times against both Wales and England where I felt like a lot more aggressive play could have gotten that elusive second or winning goal respectively.
That final free kick in the 95th minute going not into the box comes off as too passive at the end of the day, and the tie is a perfectly fine result, but I would have liked to have seen one last chance at the end.
Right now, my only question for the USMNT is if they know where that fifth gear is, and when to unleash it. Because I don’t think we’ve see it yet which is both good and bad...the good being I think the USA can still play better than they already have. The bad being...this might be the best Berhalter can do with this group and his system. And that’s okay for this cycle. Just perhaps not for the next one.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Group B Scenarios— Orri Benatar (@obenatar512) November 25, 2022
v / v
USA W / ENG W =
USA W / WAL W = ( / on GD)
USA W / Draw = (1st for GD)
IRN W / ENG W =
IRN W / WAL W = ( / on GD)
IRN W / Draw =
Draw / ENG W =
Draw / WAL W = (Top 2 GD)
Draw / Draw =
Okay, that looks far more complicated than it needs to be...but it’s very simple for the USA - win and you’re in.
The USA have put themselves in a perfectly fine spot after two games with the youngest team at the World Cup. After two games the USMNT controls their own destiny to advance out of the group stage and still has an outside chance of topping the group. I think back in September we all would have been pretty happy with this scenario.
I think if there is ever a game to unleash a Gio Reyna-Pulisic-Tim Weah front line, against Iran is it. Get your three best attackers on the field and let them loose upon the Iran backline. This needs to be the most aggressive and uptempo US formation we’ve seen in the Berhalter era - a statement of intent right from the first whistle that this is an attacking lineup and the ball is going forward a lot. If subs are needed, they go in very early in the second half at like the 55-60th minute, Berhalter can’t wait if he’s not winning at that point.
The #USMNT didn't win, but definitely earned some respect tonight. They didn't sit back & bunker, they traded punches & went toe-to-toe with mighty England and I'd argue they were the better team over the 90 minutes.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) November 25, 2022
Now let's see if they get the job done vs. Iran.
I would get Brenden Aaronson in from the start in midfield for McKennie, DeAndre Yedlin at right back for Sergino Dest, and Aaron Long or Cameron Carter-Vickers at centerback to protect against any yellow card suspensions for the Round of 16. Yes, I think Berhalter should have the confidence in his players to be able to rotate his starting lineup and only bring on Dest/McKennie in case of emergency in the second half if you need a goal.
I think the USA is going to win on Tuesday and I don’t think a lot of us were confident in that statement a few months ago or even at the start of this tournament. This team has shown that it can absolutely compete with the best in the world right now. All they need is that one win and the rest of the world is going to have to deal with an absolutely fearless young team in the knockouts.
Is it Tuesday yet?