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USMNT to face England in the World Cup

USMNT to face England in the World Cup

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RAYAN, Qatar. Their territories are separated by the open sea, and their position in football is – er, in football – at the same huge distance. It’s England’s national pastime – aside from royal shows, of course – and an occasional getaway for most Americans.

Some Premier League clubs trace their history back to the 19th century; MLS dates back to 1996. The English invented the modern game; Americans fiddled with the rules before accepting them.

Yet football ties between countries have grown stronger, inextricably linked to exposure to the English game in the United States, the desire of many American players to build a career in England, and greater respect in England for how American football has grown.

That dynamic sees Friday’s World Cup clash in Byte, Qatar between a full-throttle English rival and a US boy team looking to join a clan of giant killers in this unpredictable tournament.

Full of talent, the Three Lions are eyeing their first World Cup since 1966. By learning and growing, the United States has set itself the modest goal of making the playoffs after failing to qualify for the tournament four years ago.

They have only met twice in the World Cup before, and the Americans have yet to lose (an upset in 1950 in Brazil and a draw in 2010 in South Africa). A win or a draw not only fuels the immediate US cause, but also spurs larger ambitions to become a formidable soccer nation in men’s soccer. (The women’s program arrived a long time ago.)

“Obviously this is a great opportunity to accelerate the impact we can have,” said Capt. Tyler Adams. “These are games where it’s a privileged moment of high pressure to take the field against some of these guys. … It means a lot to the team because we have been trying to move forward for the last three years and we have been moving in the right direction.”

Tyler Adams, a leader “in his actions and words”, is named captain of the USMNT.

The links between the programs begin with coaches Gregg Berhalter and Englishman Gareth Southgate, who have become good friends over the years. Both have taken over teams in need of guidance: Berhalter after the 2018 qualifying fiasco and Southgate after underwhelming performances at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship.

After their teams were grouped for the World Cup draw, they didn’t have much contact.

“I reached out to him on WhatsApp but didn’t see the blue check mark showing Southgate had read the message,” Berhalter joked on Thursday. “We sort of took a break. We will resume our relationship after tomorrow.”

Southgate said: “I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Greg over the past few years. I learned a lot from him, and it was very interesting to see the progress of the team under his leadership.

Almost half of the American staff of 26 is associated with the British. Sons of American fathers, defenders Anthony Robinson and Cameron Carter-Vickers were born and raised in England. Midfielder from New York Yunus Musa lived there from the age of 9 to 16, studied at the Arsenal academy and played for the England youth teams.

The loss of Musa hurt England. “Obviously we took one of ours, which we were not very happy about,” Southgate said. “Fair.”

Musa, 19, said: “I’m not quite sure how I’m going to feel. [Friday]. It’s definitely a special game because I’ve played both sides.”

Carter-Vickers, 24, said: “My family half wants us to win and half wants England to win.”

Striker Gio Reina, 20, was born in Sunderland, England, while his father, Claudio, the former US captain, was in the middle of his European career.

Adams, goalkeeper Matt Turner, striker Brenden Aaronsohn, defender Tim Ream and forwards Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic all work for English clubs. Striker Jordan Morris spent time on loan at Welsh club Swansea City in his second Premier League season, while midfielder Luca de la Torre began his career at London side Fulham.

Berhalter, a former defender, played one season for London’s Crystal Palace.

The Premier League is “a game that I grew up with and experienced firsthand” while playing for Arsenal, Turner said. “It was a learning experience seeing it from both sides.”

Three of Turner’s Arsenal teammates have been selected for England’s World Cup squad: goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, defender Ben White and striker Bukayo Saka. “Friends off the field,” Turner said, “and then when you get on the field, you’re completely focused for 90 minutes.”

The “banana” story of Matt Turner, USMNT’s late World Cup goaltender.

As a young player, Adams idolized Arsenal star Thierry Henry – he became Henry’s New York Red Bulls teammate – and was drawn to the Premier League. This summer, Adams moved to Leeds United from German side RB Leipzig. His coach, Jesse Marsh, is American, as is teammate Aaronson.

“I remember telling my mom at a young age that I wanted to play in England,” Adams, 23, said. “There’s something special about the Premier League – it always has been and I think it always will be.”

Berhalter, Turner, and Adams cited the Premier League’s popularity in the United States due to NBC Sports’ extensive coverage.

“Waking up to watch the Premier League, it seems like everyone in America has a team that they support,” Berhalter said. “This is an incredible league. We are very proud that our players play in this league.”

Southgate said: “We know a lot [U.S.] players from our league and we know their quality and athleticism.”

With so many Americans playing in England, the fear of facing the Three Lions may have allayed. All members of the England team, with the exception of Germany-based midfielder Jude Billingham, work for Premier League clubs.

“I wouldn’t say there are many things that scare me besides spiders,” Adams said with a laugh during a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center, one floor below the huge spider sculpture.

“So it’s okay for me to be able to play against all these big players, but we also want to show what we can do and that American football is growing and evolving in the right direction.”

The British also came to the States. Wayne Rooney played for DC United in 2018 and 2019 and is currently coaching the club.

England, knowing the weight of expectations, opens the World Cup in style

Asked at the end of the season if he shared the same loyalty, England’s all-time leading scorer replied: “No. I am English. I want England to win, of course.”

But he joked that if the Three Lions stumble, “I should call it football for the whole next [MLS] season.”

World Cup in Qatar.

Live updates: The last eight teams to make their debut in Qatar take to the field on Thursday in Groups G and H. Stay tuned for the latest news, updates and highlights.

USMNT: On their return to the World Cup, the young Americans agreed to a 1-1 draw with Wales in the opening Group B match. The US men’s team will face a bigger challenge on Friday against Group B favorites England, who thrashed Iran 6-2 earlier on Monday.

Qatari dispute: Football fans wearing the rainbow, a symbol of LGBTQ inclusiveness, said they were denied entry to World Cup stadiums and demanded by members of the public to remove the emblem.

Group Guide: The U.S. men’s soccer team, led by coach Gregg Berhalter and star forward Christian Pulisic, qualified for the 2022 World Cup, an improvement over the failed and unsuccessful 2018 campaign. Here’s a detailed look at how all the teams in each group stack up.

Written by khirou

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