England’s head coach Gareth Southgate started a lesser-experienced team on Thursday in favor of resting his star starters for Sunday’s Nations League match against 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia. Despite this, his side still delivered a dominant performance, shutting out the U.S. 3-0 before 60,000-plus amped-up Brits in Wembley Stadium.
With the likes of Harry Kane, John Stones, Kyle Walker, and Raheem Sterling sitting out the entire match and veteran Wayne Rooney coming in late in the 2nd half, England overwhelmed the United States with tenacious pressure, pinpoint passing, and picture-perfect goals from Jesse Lingard, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Callum Wilson.
Even with the star trio of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams combining late in the midfield, the Yanks never matched England’s aggressive play complete with backs surging forward and nearly everyone contributing to the onslaught of shots on America’s goalkeeper, Brad Guzan.
Twenty-five-years old Jesse Lingard scored first in the 25th minute. The 20-year-old and Man of the Match Trent Alexander-Arnold added another goal 120 seconds later, and finally, Callum Wilson added England’s third around the 77th minute. He also earned a long embrace from Captain Rooney in the southwest corner of the pitch. The act of kindness delighted Team England’s supporters, who shouted “ROONEY” every time he touched the ball.
The USA had an early chance to set a different tone for the match, but weren’t able to capitalize. In the 25th minute, Weston McKennie played a ball to Christian Pulisic, who was breaking into the box all alone. Unfortunately, his close-range blast was blocked by the oncoming goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford. Pulisic sat on the pitch frustrated, then slapped the grass to flush away his emotios. Meanwhile, the Three Lions were already countering, with the swift Jesse Lingard finishing the surge. 1-0 England.
Changes were made in the second half, including Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta coming in for Columbus Crew’s Wil Trapp. The U.S. looked far more confident in the half, owning much of the early possession. ”We talked about some things at half-time,” Interim head coach Dave Sarachan said. “I think there were some stretches where we had some confidence to play a little bit, get better numbers centrally, the ball could go from one to the next and we are going to take some positives, that’s the point of these games.”
A small break in the action occurred in the 58th minute as legendary England striker Wayne Rooney came on to make his 120th and final appearance for his Three Lions.
Acosta was assigned to mark Rooney when he was playing the defensive end of his box-to-box game. Rooney kept him off balance with his mad dashes, cuts, and attempts to score. Just over 10 minutes in and the crowd yelling “SHOOT,” Rooney evaded Acosta to get a shot on target, but Guzan easily saved the ball.
Pulisic came close to cutting into the lead, picking up a ball on the end line only to see his close-range shot on goal turn into a corner kick. Adams played a short corner to Pulisic. His cross found an unmarked Bobby Wood, but his attempt at a strong header nicked the bar.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Pulisic expressed disappointed with the overall team display. “You are never happy to lose 3-0. It is a tough result. We need to get a lot better as a team,” he said. “We can talk about continuing to gain experience. That is not why we are here. We want to win now. We need to win these games. I’m a competitive guy and I know everyone else is in the locker room. It was not a good enough today.” Pulisic continued, “I had a really good chance in the first half that I need to score and that could change the game, after that they scored two quick ones and that’s soccer. It can change real quick and there just was not time for us to recover.”
He also has seems fed up with the way the USMNT are at bay without a full-time head coach. “Dave [Sarachan] is doing what he can and obviously he wants to win these games too, just like we do,” Pulisic commented. “It is going to help a lot once we get a permanent head coach, moving forward with a guy who has a real plan and a style we want to play. He is going to help us a lot.”
During Sarachan’s press conference he said that “their spacing, their movement, was very challenging for our group. As much as we watched and scouted England, it’s still on the players to sort through that. We just didn’t get around on the ball enough, didn’t get in on enough plays, makes for a tough half.” England also played a different lineup than the USMNT expected.
Sarachan and his staff have done their best given the situation that General Manager Earnie Stewart has put them in. The performance of his team should not be all on him and his coaching group.
Brad Guzan admitted that everyone connected with the USMNT wants this situation sorted out as quickly as possible.“Everyone is eager to see who that is, not just the players, fans, Dave, everybody involved with U.S. Soccer,” Guzan said. “As a national team, of course you want that direction and whatnot but ultimately when you step across the white line to a certain extent tactics go out of the window and you have to be able to play with a bit of desire and fight. We probably showed them too much respect in the first half.”
Team USA is a work in progress. Every match affords them another learning opportunity as this young team, much like England’s, continues to evolve, someday, into a global powerhouse.
The U.S. will play its final game of the year against Italy next Tuesday in Genk, Belgium. Hopefully, they will end up on a positive note, then head into 2019 with lessons learned and more confidence.