College football and soccer analyst
AL-RAYAN, Qatar – This USA men’s national team has been on a mission to change the way the world looks at American soccer.
And what better way to change minds than to beat England, favorite to win it all, in the World Cup?
The USMNT has a chance to do just that on Friday when they take on England at Al Rayyan Stadium in their second match of the group stage (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).
Greg Berhalter’s group is brave and ambitious. He has undeniable bravado and confidence. Much has been said and written about them being the second-youngest team in this tournament (Ghana is the youngest) and how only one player – defender DeAndre Yedlin – has previous World Cup experience. Now that they have one game under their belt – a 1-1 draw against Wales earlier this week – the Americans hit it big in the second game, against big and bad England.
And USA captain Tyler Adams acknowledged on Thursday that his team has an opportunity to make a statement here.
“I think it’s clearly a huge opportunity to quickly track the impact that can happen,” Adams said. “This is high pressure. [high] Prime moments getting on the pitch against some of these guys. We respect them – maybe it’s mutual respect between the two teams. When you get a score in a game like this, you know, people start to respect Americans a little bit more.”
Star winger Christian Pulisic added: “We have to prove ourselves. We may not have been on the level of some of these world powers in recent decades – but we have good teams and they have a lot of heart in us. But I believe if we can take that next step with a successful World Cup It might change a lot of things.”
In the opening match of the tournament on Monday against Wales, Berhalter’s starting line-up included 10 players playing in Europe. Only center back Walker Zimmerman, of Nashville SC, plays in the MLS. Although he did not rule out playing abroad one day.
The English Premier League, where Adams plays for Leeds United, has been incredibly popular in the United States over the past fifteen to twenty years. He has fascinated and impressed young players, especially of this generation, who were relieved to leave their homes in America as teenagers with big plans to play for Europe’s top clubs. Many have done just that, with Pulisic being the only player to actually play in and win a Champions League final.
Adams grew up in New York and played for the Red Bulls academy before later joining RB Leipzig of the Bundesliga, where he became the first USMNT player to score in a Champions League quarter-final. After three and a half years in Germany, he joined Leeds United in July 2022, where he plays alongside fellow American Brendan Aronson.
Adams said Thursday he grew up watching and admiring Thierry Henry playing for the Red Bulls and Arsenal. It was easy for him to catch up on the Premier League on Saturday mornings and dreams of doing so one day.
“I remember telling my mum at an early age that I wanted to play for England,” said Adams. “There will always be something special in the Premier League. There always has been and I think there always will be.”
Berhalter, who played for Crystal Palace in the early 2000s, added: “It seems like everyone now in America has [Premier League] team they support. It’s an incredible leap. We’re really proud of our players playing in this league and to me, it’s similar to the NFL in how dominant it is and how commercially oriented it is.”
Having so many Americans out there helps to know the World Cup opponents and gives each team a little advantage here and there. Japan, one of the Cinderella teams in this tournament, beat Germany 2-1 with eight players playing in the Bundesliga. The USA have six players in the Premier League – would that make a difference against England?
“I don’t think that makes him predictable by any means,” Adams said. “No matter how many times you’ve played against them before, you’ll be playing against a lot of quality players. They’ll be able to adapt to the game, to what you’re doing, and to figure out solutions.
“But still, it’s nice to have that experience and to play some of those big games against some of the top teams against some of the best England players. And I have this opportunity to learn, grow, develop and understand the game differently. International football, he might say, is very different from club football.” , but there is a chance to play against some of these players [in club games] It will come in handy.”
Adams dismisses the notion that a team like England would intimidate the USMNT – in fact he has said he is not intimidated by anything “other than spiders”. He just hopes that this particular confrontation shows that Americans are capable competitors and “that American football is growing and developing in the right way.”
Now, if the USA can beat England, a team full of players like Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish cheering Premier League-loving Americans on weekends, what kind of message would that send home and to the rest of the squad? the scientist?
“It means a lot,” Adams said. “We’ve been trying to make progress on this thing for the past few years and we’re moving in the right direction. So I think ultimately, benefiting from capitalization means we’re continuing to move in the right direction.”
“We haven’t achieved anything as a group on the world stage,” Berhalter added. “We need to use this World Cup to establish ourselves and then hopefully we can move on to the next World Cup and do the same.”
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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball, and soccer for FOX Sports. She has previously written for Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of Strong Like a Woman, which will be published in the spring of 2022 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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