On the world’s biggest stage, a young United States team were a match for one of the world’s best teams, drawing 0-0 with England in their Group B showdown.
Amidst talk of resting players ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash with Iran, manager Gregg Berhalter stuck with his guns, sticking with 10 of 11 players who started Monday’s draw with Wales.
Forward Haji Wright was the lone surprise, earning just his fifth international cap in the Black Friday match.
On the pitch
Against the heavy favorite, the Yanks weren’t outmatched. In fact, they were the better side for much of the night.
After a nervy opening 10 minutes, the Americans grew into the match. Christian Pulisic in particular looked revitalized after a disappointing showing against Wales, cutting in from the left hand side and interchanging well with Antonee Robinson and Yunus Musah.
After Weston McKennie flashed his effort over the bar, Pulisic hit the woodwork on the U.S.’s best look of the night, nearly finding the opener in stunning fashion.
After the break, the U.S. were able to maintain their level. Outmatched in the second half by Wales, they were able to hang with England’s adjustments. Walker Zimmerman had a few scary moments in possession, turning the ball over in dangerous spots more than once, but his errors weren’t punished and the U.S. hung on for a valuable point.
The big picture
It all comes down to Tuesday. While the draw against England was a momentum booster, it wasn’t a vital piece of qualification. The U.S. could have lost and still been alive.
Iran’s win over Wales gives them three points. The United States go into their match on Tuesday needing a win to advance to the knockout round. Against Iran’s disciplined and packed defense, the U.S. will need to be the aggressor and find ways to break down a low block, something they struggled with throughout qualifying.
The United States showed their quality against England. They’ll need to do so once again on Tuesday to advance to the knockout round.