247 years ago, way back in 1775, the American Colonists pulled off huge upsets against the Imperial British forces at Lexington and Concord, lighting the spark for what would be a successful and uniquely significant revolution. More recently, in 2010, the US Men’s National Team was given absolutely no chance to do anything against the mighty English side, yet fought their way to a draw. At the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Alex Morgan enjoyed a cup of tea as she fired her nation to a huge victory over the English. This Friday, the boys in red, white, and blue will be given another chance to do the improbable, and compete with a heavily-favored England team in both teams’ second match in Group B. Let’s take a look at the gambling odds and make some picks for this titanic international clash.
USA vs. England Odds
England are unshockingly the favorites here, -180 to win the match. The Americans are listed at +500, while a draw is set at +310. The goalscoring line is set at 2.5, which is surely a number to watch after England fired 6 past Iran while also allowing 2 goals to a clearly inferior side.
USA vs. England Prediction & Pick
Besides serving as an installment in one of the more exciting sporting rivalries we as Americans have on the international stage, this match holds immense significance in terms of American prospects within this tournament. After settling for a disappointing draw after dominating much of their opening game against Wales, the USMNT looks to be on a goal differential hunt, as it’s fairly likely that they lose to England and beat Iran, while the same can be said for Wales. This would leave the two sides tied on points, meaning that goal differential could be the tiebreaker that determines who advances to the knockout stages. Of course, even a draw against England would be immense for the US side to break that deadlock, but the focus has to be on clean play and limiting damage; a 3-goal loss, for example, would not be acceptable, and put them in a tough position against Iran. Manager Gregg Berhalter, under immense pressure to get his side to the knockouts, has fallen under scrutiny after his decision to not use Dortmund star Gio Reyna when his team needed a late goal- nearing the end of a meat-grinder of a game, a Bundesliga and Champions League veteran with fresh legs could have been positively invaluable. It’s also notable that the one MLS player in Berhalter’s lineup, Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman, almost singlehandedly blew the game with a reckless and frankly unnecessary tackle on Welsh legend Gareth Bale- it’ll be interesting to see if Zimmerman cracks the lineup again, and if not, who takes his spot.
Other than pride, and not wanting to hear Americans on the internet proclaiming that “it’s soccer now,” there’s not nearly as much on the line for the English squad. They won comfortably against Iran to open the tournament, and are in prime position to advance to the knockouts even if they draw a game before the group stage is over. That being said, this portion of the tournament is a key time for a very deep, but sometimes disjointed England side to figure out who plays well together, and solidify a lineup before launching into what will be an enormously pressurized knockout stage for a nation that has gotten deep into several major tournaments in recent years, but come up just short- the Euro final last summer, and the 2018 World Cup semifinal against Croatia both come to mind. Will football finally come home? This team has the talent to make it happen, but they’re going to have to find a consistency we’ve rarely seen from them if this squad is going to be the one to make it happen- this matchup with their former colonial counterpart will be a good measure of how close to ready they are at this point.
When it comes to a prediction, I’m going to follow the lead of Ted Lasso, the World’s favorite fictional American football personality, and BELIEVE. I’ll take the draw at +310; its solid value, and I think this England side is a bit more vulnerable than many may think, particularly at the back end. If you can find a double-result that pays with a draw or American win, that’s a nice way to ensure that you won’t have to root against an American goal at any point. I absolutely love the over as well; 2.5 is pretty low for these sides, despite only one goal scored for USA in their first match against Wales, I liked a lot of what I saw in terms of ball movement and chance creation. Both teams to score is also a solid bet if you can get it- I have absolutely no faith in either side to keep a clean sheet.
American Forwards vs. English Back Line
I thought that other than the moment of horror from Zimmerman, the American defense and midfield did a good job of limiting Welsh possession and threat, and giving their team enough time with the ball to create some chances. However, outside of the brilliant build up and strike that gave the USA a lead through Timothy Weah, the forwards did not hold up their end of the bargain; the team only generated 6 shots, and Weah’s was the only one on target. Weah looked menacing for much of the game, but the team’s biggest star, Christian Pulisic, was disappointing, although he was pretty clearly banged up by some questionable Welsh defending by the end of the game; I won’t criticize him for playing his hardest through obvious discomfort. Norwich’s Josh Sargent was a pretty significant disappointment both in terms of positioning and shooting; Brenden Aaronson was much more positive once he came on. The biggest story with the American attack will be the presence, or lack thereof, of the versatile Gio Reyna, who has excelled for Dortmund over the past few years. He’s been banged up this season, but says he’s 100% healthy now; nobody quite knows why he didn’t play against Wales, and I hope to see him on the pitch against England. He’s one of our few truly battle-tested players from one of Europe’s top teams, and could be an enormous difference maker.
England’s brain-dead manager, Gareth Southgate, ruffled some feathers by leaving Fiyako Tomori, an absolutely pivotal member of AC Milan’s championship squad and pretty clearly the nation’s best defender, off of the World Cup squad. In his stead, John Stones and the positively fraudulent Harry Maguire started in the middle. Stones is generally a great performer for his nation, but conceded the penalty to Iran. Maguire didn’t even get through the entire game, as he was replaced by Eric Dier with 20 minutes to go before stoppage time. The fullbacks are more straightforward- Luke Shaw is always great for England at left back, while the usually-confusing right back situation has been made simpler by injuries, essentially leaving Southgate with Kieran Trippier, who is very solid as well. It’s a talented group, but to me, the England defense against the USA attackers is a battle between two units that were not at their best in their respective opening matches.
USA Midfield vs. England Midfield
Relatively speaking, this is a matchup the US should feel pretty good about. Newly-minted captain Tyler Adams lived up to that label, as he was a clear leader for his nation in terms of both play and poise. He was literally and figuratively at the center of everything the USMNT was trying to do on the pitch, really a strong performance at his World Cup debut. Weston McKennie, the country’s best player in my opinion, also performed well in a shortened appearance, which was his return from injury. As he continues to become healthier and settle in a bit, I think we can expect even better showings from him going forward. Valencia’s Yunus Musah was a bit less consistent, but had bright moments before giving way to sub Kellyn Acosta, who picked up a very smart yellow card by preventing a Bale shot on an empty net.
The young star Jude Bellingham is certainly England’s best midfielder, and he looked the part in his first World Cup appearance against Iran. Mason Mount and Declan Rice started alongside him and performed more than well enough against overmatched competition, but unlike Bellingham, I don’t see them as the type of stars that English midfields of years past have boasted. There’s some good depth with Jack Grealish and Phil Foden coming off of the bench, but these are mostly attack-minded players; for a true central midfielder, we’re looking at Jordan Henderson, who has been terrible for Liverpool, and Kalvin Phillips, who has been injured for most of this club season. The all-attack lineup worked well against Iran, but realistically, so would have anything they put out there. Against an American team that actually has some possession-minded, box-to-box midfielders on the pitch, it will be interesting to see if the lack of balance in the English midfield proves to be problematic this time out.
Harry Kane vs. USA Centre-Backs
This one will be relatively brief- England’s captain Harry Kane has been one of the best strikers in the World at both the club and international levels for the better part of the past decade. It was somewhat surprising, however, to see England put up a touchdown’s worth of goals without their talismanic #9 getting on the scoresheet. His starting position could not be in less danger, but England would be happy to see him getting into a groove; they don’t necessarily need him to be at his best to knock off any of the sides they’ll face in the group stages, but when it comes to facing teams like France or Brazil, they’ll want their top scorer to be in top form if they are to stand any chance.
On the other side of the ball, it was a tale of two defenders for the US centre-backs against Wales. Fulham standout Tim Ream was really solid, despite picking up a probably-necessary yellow card, but Walker Zimmerman was shaky all day long, which culminated in his bizarre challenge on Bale, with the Welsh winger’s back to the goal, and the penalty that ultimately settled the score. Zimmerman may or may not be in the starting XI for the match against England after his blunderous showing against Wales- big man Cameron Carter-Vickers of Scottish Premiership giants Celtic might get a shot. But if he gets another chance, he is going to have to play a lot closer to his ceiling while matched up against probably the best striker he’s ever played against.