After opening the World Cup with a draw to Wales, the United States men's national team will face an uphill battle to qualify from Group B. It's not out of the question for them to make it to the last 16 because they don't have an easy matchup over the horizon with a Black Friday clash with England on Nov. 25. There are a lot of connections between the two teams, even down to Gregg Berhalter describing Gareth Southgate as a mentor. On Friday, they'll be pitted against each other for group supremacy.
England boast one of the more impressive performances of Matchday 1 with a 6-2 victory over Iran while the United States struggled to get shots off against a plucky Wales side. But don't let the recent results fool you into thinking that the Three Lions can't be beaten. It's true that the United States will need to be close to perfect, but in midfield and defense, there is joy to be had if Berhalter can push the right buttons.
If Southgate runs out the same lineup again, Harry Maguire and John Stones aren't a great central pairing and although Declan Rice is an excellent midfielder, he can't shut down the entire center of the pitch alone. But since the USMNT can't just rely on the space to be there, what are the keys to a successful performance?
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1. Reyna needs to be involved
This is a no-brainer since Berhalter has stated that Gio Reyna will be involved in the match after precautions were taken due to muscle soreness to not use him against Wales.where Reyna declared himself fit and said that he was prepared to be involved. While that's a common scenario for athletes, now is the time for Reyna to back those words up. One of three teenagers on the U.S. roster, Reyna may be the most talented player of the bunch. Reyna is raw, but fearless dribbling through the center of the pitch which could draw England out of their positions and create space for Christian Pulisic or a patented later run into the box by Weston McKennie.
Even if Reyna is only fit to go for 30 minutes, those minutes against tired English legs could be the difference between a loss and a draw. Everything needs to be left on the pitch with four days to recover between this match and the group stage finale against Iran.
Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could possibly want to know about the United States men's national team during the World Cup in Qatar.
2. Persist with Sargent at striker
Josh Sargent failed to find the back of the net as one of his headers came inches from the post. Sargent managed to drag defenders out of position and create space for Tim Weah and Pulisic to run into. Looking back at Weah's goal against Wales, it starts with Sargent dragging Joe Rodon into no man's land. After already doing that, Sargent was able to head down a ball to Pulisic as Weah slid into the space that Rodon was supposed to cover. It was picture perfect.
Berhalter has been quick to chop and change strikers due to lack of effectiveness ,which makes it harder for the front three to develop any chemistry. It's tempting to play Haji Wright as an over the top option for crosses, but the United States will need a grinder against England. Sargent is a pesky forward who likes to be involved in everything, even if it means that spending more time in midfield than he should. But dragging Maguire the same way that he did Rodon would likely lead to another goal due to Maguire's lack of recovery speed. That alone is reason enough to keep the nine the same.
3. Leave Dest out of the action
Walker Zimmerman made the biggest defensive mistake of the night with his foul on Gareth Bale, who had his back to goal. That said, Sergino Dest was the most picked on defender as the other members of the back line because he was too focused on attacking. It allowed attackers to slip in behind with ease and left too much for Tyler Adams and Zimmerman to do. Berhalter brought four right backs to Qatar and now is the time to use them. DeAndre Yedlin is the veteran presence, but he shouldn't come in unless he's needed in a late-game scenario as he's too much of a liability in attack while not being a standout defender.
Shaq Moore and Joe Scally are both unproven at an international level, but they have excelled with their clubs to earn their places with the squad. Dest shouldn't be an automatic starter with the squad and if he plays, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka will be licking their chops. Moore has the club connection with Zimmerman but usually plays as a wing back in front of a back three while Scally does deputize as a traditional right back for Borussia Monchengladbach. That experience along with his recovery speed when beaten should be enough to see Scally get the start against the Three Lions for his biggest match on the international stage.
How to watch and odds
- Date: Friday, Nov. 25 | Time: 2 p.m. ET
- Location: Al Bayt Stadium -- Al Khor, Qatar
- TV: Fox and Telemundo | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
- Odds: England -182; Draw +300; USA +500 (via Caesars Sportsbook)