USMNT earns point, and some massive respect, in 0-0 draw with England at World Cup | Opinion – USA TODAY

AL KHOR, Qatar — No one is going to give the U.S. men a spot among the world’s elite. They have to earn it, and the only way they do that is by proving they can play with the best. 
That’s exactly what they did Friday night, outplaying mighty England, a team that’s considered a favorite at this World Cup and one that just four days earlier had scored goals in bunches. 
“We didn’t feel like an underdog at all because we know our capabilities. We know what we can do,” said Weston McKennie, who’s going to be giving England players nightmares for weeks about his relentless play both offensively and defensively. 
“We’re not really afraid of playing against top-tier teams.”
The Americans were, rightfully, disappointed not to have won this game, having created more opportunities and dominated England for long stretches. Taking only a point from the 0-0 draw means they have to beat Iran on Tuesday to advance to the knockout rounds. 
But it does not diminish what this game means for American soccer on the grander scale.
This was the first time since the improbable 1-0 win over England in 1950 that the USMNT had held a European team scoreless at the World Cup. It also kept their unbeaten streak against England at the World Cup intact; the USMNT’s last meeting with the Three Lions, in 2010, also ended in a draw.
“We proved that we can go toe-to-toe with some of the best,” defender Tim Ream said. “With the way we played, the style we played — it wasn’t just sit back and soak up pressure. It was get at them.”
This U.S. squad is young and, on the world stage, inexperienced. But it does not lack for skill — all but one of the starters Friday plays in Europe, and five are in the Premier League — or confidence. They make no secret of their ambition to change the view of American soccer, and they know this World Cup can help them do it. 
Anyone who watched Friday couldn’t help but be impressed. 
England is a favorite at this World Cup after reaching the semifinals in 2018 and playing for the European Championship title two years later. They are so loaded they have two and three world-class players at every position. 
But aside from Harry Kane’s near-point-blank shot in the 10th minute that was blocked by Walker Zimmerman, the Americans were largely able to contain Kane, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka.
“That gave us a boost and it’s almost also a little bit of a wake-up call,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said of the early stop on Kane. “To know that you can make plays like that, that’ll keep you in the game, it builds everyone’s confidence.” 
LIVE UPDATES:Keep up with all of the action from the World Cup
OPINION:Is this the World Cup or the NCAA basketball tournament?
WORLD CUP GUIDE:Everything to know about the World Cup
The Americans were fearless against the Three Lions, forcing them to adapt to what the USMNT was doing. 
“There were stretches of the game where we had control and had them pushed back in their half,” said Christian Pulisic, who banged a shot off the crossbar in the 33rd minute. “We went toe-to-toe with them and put in a really good performance.” 
McKennie, Tyler Adams and Sergino Dest were simply brilliant, closing off openings, tracking down balls defensively and providing the gas in the U.S. attack. The combination of McKennie and Dest in particular gave England fits, pulling their midfield wide and forcing them to choose whether to leave McKennie or Tim Weah open. 
McKennie gave the USMNT what was arguably its best chance, skying a volley from inside of 10 yards in the 26th minute.
Turner saved a rocket by Mason Mount just before halftime. Kane gave the USMNT a scare in the dying minutes of this game with a header off a free kick, but he had the wrong angle and the ball sailed wide. 
The Americans were in such control that at one point in the second half, Jordan Pickford spent about five minutes screaming at his teammates while the England players were wildly gesturing at one another. There was a chorus of boos from England fans when the final whistle blew. 
“We certainly approached the game as if they were” a top team, England midfielder Jordan Henderson said. “They’ve got some really good players, well-organized. We knew it was going to be difficult tonight, and it certainly was that.”
One game won’t put the USMNT on the same level as the Englands, the Brazils and the Frances of the world. But with more performances like this, the USMNT will force the world to view them with respect and acknowledge, even if it’s grudgingly, that while they might not be ready to contend for a World Cup yet, that day is coming. 
“We’re chipping away at it, and you need games like tonight to be able to do that,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We’re not done. Our focus is to keep going.” 
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 


Leave a Comment