Why USMNT should gain confidence from their disappointing draw with England


AL KHOR, Qatar — The last time the US men’s national team was here, sitting in a sweaty dressing room after a World Cup draw with England, the New York Post editors devised a headline that aptly expressed America’s joy.

“USA WINS 1-1,” roared the tabloids in 2010, and while the players certainly didn’t announce victory, confidence in the US dressing room soared. positivity permeated. A point against a supposed World Cup contender meant a win.

But here, in Qatar on Friday night, there was no contentment. Tyler Adams stepped out in front of a crowd of reporters and said he was “not happy” about the USMNT’s recent standoff with England.

Adams, the recently elected USMNT captain, went on to cover the full spectrum of emotions simmering in the bowels of Al Bayt Stadium following the 0 for USA and 0 for England. Many were nuanced and measured. But the most resonant words were those of Adams, midfielder Weston McKennie and defender Tim Ream.

“It felt like we dominated the game,” McKennie said. “I think we had the clearer chances. Obviously it sucks that we couldn’t put the ball in the net and come out with the win and three points.”

So were they frustrated?

“Yes, sure,” Ream said. “Because we felt we played well enough to get three points.”

And as they spoke, they solidified what millions of Americans felt as they watched football on Friday. The USMNT not only belonged in the same field as England, which they proved back in 2010. They didn’t just deserve a draw against a World Cup favorite. They had outplayed this favorite just as they expected – and they weren’t satisfied; They wanted more – because they’ve made nonlinear progress since that 1-1 “win” in 2010.

They remain in a dangerous position, third out of four in Group B, and a win against Iran is their only route to the knockout rounds. But they didn’t get away with a point and celebrated; Instead, they took a point but thought they deserved more.

They pushed back the notion that England were at the top early on before the US took control. “About us? I don’t know,” Adams said confidently.

USA’s Christian Pulisic reacts during the World Cup match between England and USA November 25. (Berengui/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

They didn’t feel like outsiders, as the 2010 team so clearly did. “We didn’t feel like outsiders at all,” McKennie said. “Because we know our capabilities. We know what we can do.”

They looked back on “a fairly good performance” and were “satisfied”.

England fans, informed by outdated perceptions, rained down boos at the final whistle.

Southgate, informed by hours of study, said: “I’m very happy with the players’ application. I think it was a really tough opponent.”

“Tonight didn’t surprise me one bit,” he later continued, greeting the USMNT. “The way they pushed, the energy, the athleticism, was exactly what I thought. So it was about if tonight we were going to be able to find the solutions to deal with that, to counter that, to take advantage of that and we answered most of the questions but not all.”

England midfielder Jordan Henderson wasn’t surprised either. “It was a difficult game, as we expected,” he said.

That outdated perception of the USMNT as a hard-working but under-skilled team still exists throughout global football, and that’s what this team, under head coach Gregg Berhalter, is looking to reshape. In his very first meeting with the team in January 2019, he made it his mission to “change the way the world sees American football”.

Almost four years later, on the biggest stage his players have walked, they do – but they don’t revel in their success. There are no moral victories.

“We’re hacking away at it,” said Berhalter about the changed perception. But, he clarified, “we’re not done yet. Our focus is to keep going. Hopefully by the end of the tournament we’ll give people something to talk about.”

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