A draw against Wales on Monday felt to many like a letdown.
The sky wasn’t falling, as the 1-1 tie kept the United States men’s national team’s hopes of making the Round of 16 at the Qatar World Cup well intact. But the late penalty kick scored by Wales to tie the opening match brought the U.S. club — and its fans — back down to Earth.
Friday’s game against England couldn’t be more different.
A tie against the Brits on Black Friday would not just cause the hype train to relocate the tracks, but it would be one of the U.S. club’s best results in a World Cup in recent memory.
“I saw England live, and I would chew your hand off to give us a draw right now. In a heartbeat,” former U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan said on Fox.
Finding a way to tie — or even win — will be a difficult task for the young American squad. England, which entered the World Cup heavily favored to make it out of Group B, handily defeated Iran 6-2 on Monday. England’s odds to win the World Cup are +650 — third best in the 32-team field. Oddsmakers have England favored to beat the U.S. at -170.
“I want the USA to do well in the World Cup, I want them to get out of the group,” former English soccer player Bradley Wright-Phillips told MLS.com. Wright-Phillips played with U.S. national team players Tyler Adams and Aaron Long with the New York Red Bulls. “They can’t win the England game though.”
A tie would put the U.S. at two points through two games, putting them in prime position to qualify for the Round of 16 with a win over Iran Tuesday. A loss Friday would put the Americans in position to rely on results other than just a win against Iran, as the final Group B spot could come down to a goal differential tiebreaker.
A U.S. upset, though, would be fitting for the first week of the quadrennial event in Qatar. The tournament has already seen two massive upsets — Saudi Arabia over Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Japan over Germany.
“You see that the world of football is leveling out in a lot of ways,” U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner told reporters Wednesday. “Teams have game plans. Teams have been investing in their youth academies over a number of years.
“I think the message is when you have one team that’s bought into the same message, you can beat anyone on any given day.”
The U.S. also has a history of success against England at the World Cup, beating the British in 1950 and pulling off a crucial tie in 2010.
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford told reporters in Qatar that he, for one, won’t be doubting the U.S. The goalie noted the number of U.S. players competing in the top leagues in the world as evidence that the American team has improved.
Thirteen American players on the national team play in one of the top five leagues in Europe, including six who compete in the English Premier League.
“They’re a top nation with a lot of top players who have played in the Premier League and who we’ve come up against,” Pickford said. “But it’s about us as a squad being 100%. It’s about us taking the result from Iran and going into the U.S. game positive.”
U.S. captain Tyler Adams told reporters Thursday that he thinks there’s “mutual respect” between both teams heading into Friday’s pivotal match.
”These are the games where it’s a high pressure privileged moment to step on the field against some of these guys,” Adams said. “We respect them, probably mutual respect between both teams.”
“When you get a result in a game like this,” Adams added, “people start to respect Americans a little bit more.”
• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.