AL-KHOR, Qatar — The USMNT tied England 0-0 on Matchday 2 of the World Cup on Monday. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• The U.S. outplayed England, which is great, but it also means this was another frustrating tie. For the second time in two World Cup games, the U.S. will come away thinking it was a missed opportunity not to get three points. The Americans were the better team against one of the favorites to win the World Cup, creating more and better goal-scoring opportunities, and that should give U.S. fans plenty of optimism about this group. (The U.S. had an expected goals advantage of 0.61 to 0.36.) But England and a chance to garner global respect was absolutely there for the taking, and the U.S. just couldn’t put one in the back of the net. In the first half, Christian Pulisic banged the crossbar and Weston McKennie hit a close-in shot over the bar. And in the second half the U.S. took total control of the game for about 10 minutes with a series of corner kicks and not letting England get the ball out of its own half. But the Americans just couldn’t seal the deal with a piece of exquisite quality in the attacking third. Even heading into the game, the U.S. (two points) knew a win against resurgent Iran (three points) in the group-stage finale would likely be necessary to advance from the group. That’s now the case. But the fact is that the U.S. will rightly think that its performances in these first two games should have produced at least four and maybe six points instead of two, and we should be talking now about the possibility of winning the group and setting up an advantageous Round of 16 matchup.
• Berhalter waited too long to start making subs. For the second straight game, the U.S. coach could have handled his substitutions better. Even allowing for the fact that continuous play kept the U.S. subs waiting for a while, Berhalter waited too long (until the 77th minute) to make his first subs (Brenden Aaronson for McKennie and Shaq Moore for Sergiño Dest). For many minutes by that time, several U.S. players like Tim Weah, McKennie and Yunus Musah looked tired. Gregg, you’ve got five subs! You’ve got more quality depth available to you than you’ve had in two years! Make the changes. Alter the game. Before the game, I had written that how Berhalter handled Gio Reyna (an inexplicable DNP against Wales) would be one of the biggest decisions of his tenure. Well, Reyna didn’t start, and he didn’t come into this game until the 83rd minute (with Josh Sargent for Tim Weah and Haji Wright). This game was crying out for Reyna to change the game from the 60th minute, which his talent is capable of doing, so it was 23 minutes too late.
• Matt Turner was the right choice as the No. 1 goalkeeper. I have to remind myself sometimes that until two weeks ago I was convinced Gregg Berhalter was going to go with Zack Steffen over Turner in goal for the World Cup despite all evidence to the contrary. Instead, Turner got the job, and he’s showing why. Turner is a savant of a shot-stopper, the kind that can change the outcome of matches. In the modern game, it’s easy to forget that stopping shots is still by far the most important job of a keeper. No, Turner isn’t Éderson sending 70-yard bombs out on the break—though Turner did a good Éderson impression on one first-half play today—but his ability to make saves gives his team enormous confidence. In the dying moments of the first half, Turner dove like a cat to his right to make a big stop on a blistering shot by Mason Mount. Turner is the best shot-stopper in U.S. history, and that’s saying something for a country that also produced Kasey Keller.
What are your thoughts? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
Best shot-stopper is US history? Tim Howard is really mad right now :)
Tremendous effort by Keeper Defense and Midfield.
What is Berhalter thinking with Reyna? Saving him for the QuarterFinals? Totally agree w Grant on waiting too long.
And can we please work on something different on the corners? My head hurts from hitting the brick wall over and over again.
Best referee of the tournament so far. Fantastic.