Get your popcorn, turkey, stuffing, anything and everything ready for this one.
The United States men’s national team will have its toughest fixture of Group B in the 2022 FIFA World Cup when it takes the pitch against England.
England is coming off a 6-2 drubbing over Iran in its opener, with Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) netting twice with additional goals from Jude Bellingham (Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) and Jack Grealish (Manchester City).
Meanwhile, the U.S. had all but just one shot on target in its 1-1 draw against Wales, which Tim Weah slotted home in the game’s first goal.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
Ahead of Friday’s 2 p.m. ET kick-off time, let’s analyze the key storylines, players to watch and more in what should be one of the best group stage games from Qatar:
USMNT vs. England key storylines
Here are three storylines for each nation worth following:
- Gio Reyna starts as an unused substitute: In one of the stranger things from the Wales’ result, Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Gio Reyna did not make an appearance off the bench. Instead, manager Gregg Berhalter opted for Jordan Morris in the 88th minute. After the game, Berhalter pointed to potential muscle tightness for Reyna while Reyna said he felt 100%. Berhalter indicated Reyna will play against England, and the U.S. will surely need his creativity in central areas.
- All eyes on Walker Zimmerman: There was no need for Nashville center back Walker Zimmerman to make the challenge he did on Gareth Bale that led to the equalizer via a penalty kick. England’s players will be familiar with the Fulham duo of Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson on the left-hand side, but Zimmerman’s mistake will draw plenty of eyes on him as the Three Lions boast a much stronger attack than Wales.
- Shots, shots, shots: No, this is not referencing LMFAO’s 2009 song – the U.S. cannot win games with just one shot on target. It was a theme in the September friendlies that resulted in zero goals, and Wales were there for the taking. The USMNT will likely need at least multiple goals to get a result against England, but will the players create enough opportunities to get them?
- England’s aggression: It has long been said that Gareth Southgate needs to instill a more attacking-minded approach with the England side. After neglecting that for a few years, Southgate’s aggressive tactical switches led to the Three Lions’ impressive barrage of goals. Yes, Iran sat back and invited pressure with a five-man low block, isn't effective on counter-pressing higher up the pitch and isn't sound technically, but six goals are six goals. The U.S. is much better in those departments, but England is best when its star attackers attack, not sit back with a slow build up.
- Testing Jordan Pickford: Pickford is known to be a shot-stopping profile at goalie, but he isn’t necessarily elite. At 6-foot-1 with a small wingspan, Pickford conceded on Iran’s first shot on target – a few inches taller in regards to body and arms and he punches that over the crossbar. If the U.S. can log more shots on target, there are goals to get here.
- Young stars: Youth is abundant for both sides, but England is on a different tier. Both Saka and Bellingham are already rising to the occasion for a nation that has World Cup Final potential, and they each had stellar games against Iran that went beyond the score sheet. Can they, along with guys like Declan Rice and Mason Mount, continue against the U.S. back line? It’ll be a salivating watch.
USMNT vs. England players to watch
World Cup 2022
Coverage of the 2022 World Cup
Here are three players to watch for each nation:
- Christian Pulisic: Pulisic will usually make this list for the U.S., but this time it’s even more pertinent. The Chelsea winger has either played or been a teammate with almost all of England’s players in the English Premier League, and his familiarity against the defenders’ play styles could make a significant difference, particularly against Newcastle United’s Keiran Trippier, who could start at right back.
- Tyler Adams: Similar to Pulisic, Adams’ first year in the EPL has also been fruitful, and the captain’s Man of the Match-caliber performance against Wales will need to be replicated. He’s excellent in breaking up progressive passes and gives forwards fits with his aggression and speed in the center of the pitch, so he’ll need to be on top of it again with Bellingham, Rice and Mount far better than Wales’ options in midfield.
- Matt Turner: He already made rounds with his massive second-half save in the 64th minute, and he’ll be called upon again. The new Arsenal goalkeeper has not conceded an open-play goal at the club level, and his performance against Wales was secure. Though he’s also in the EPL, he has yet to make an appearance in league competition – but he does have experience with Arsenal teammate Saka, which will be one to watch.
- Harry Kane: The England captain surprisingly was not one of the scorers against Iran, despite winning the 2018 Golden Boot and being the odds favorite for the award in Qatar. He poses a serious threat to Zimmerman and Ream as a No. 9 with tremendous ball striking and passing in open space, and he’ll be looking to open his 2022 World Cup account against the U.S.
- Harry Maguire: Usually at the center of attention for all the wrong reasons, the Manchester United center back turned in an impressive performance against Iran. He set up Saka’s first goal by winning an aerial duel off a corner kick and should’ve scored the opener himself if it didn’t clang off the crossbar. The U.S. will look to be more aggressive than Iran, so Maguire will be put to the test under more pressure. This is the moment where he’ll need to handle it.
- Bukayo Saka: Two goals, in the Golden Boot race and a Man of the Match Award. That’s how Saka is entering this battle vs. Robinson and Ream on the left-hand flank. They’ve already faced off once this season in a game where Saka logged an assist from that same flank, but he’s one of the best left-footed right wingers in the world who can swivel the ball to his right and be just as effective at just 21 years old.
USMNT vs. England predicted starting lineups
Let’s take a look at how each team could line up:
Expect Berhalter to keep the same shape (4-3-3) and players from the Wales’ starting 11:
GK – Matt Turner, LB - Antonee Robinson, CB - Tim Ream, CB - Walker Zimmerman, RB - Sergiño Dest, CDM - Tyler Adams, CM - Yunus Musah, CM - Weston McKinnie, LW - Christian Pulisic, ST - Josh Sargent, RW - Tim Weah
What makes this game intriguing is Southgate also likes to run an attacking-minded 4-3-3 with players pressing the opposition off the ball and wanting to keep possession on the ball. It’ll be interesting to see if he makes any changes player-wise, though, most notably with right back Keiran Trippier looking shaky against Iran.
GK - Jordan Pickford, LB - Luke Shaw, CB - Harry Maguire, CB - John Stones, RB - Keiran Trippier, CAM - Mason Mount, CM - Jude Bellingham, CDM - Declan Rice; LW - Raheem Sterling, ST - Harry Kane, RW - Bukayo Saka
USMNT vs. England prediction
The U.S. technically can afford to lose, but it’s the absolute worst-case outcome. The Stars and Stripes capital-N need a draw or a win to feel good about progressing into the knockout stage, but England represents their toughest group opponent. England will likely draw more quality shots than Wales putting Turner in for a busy day, but he’s known for his shot-stopping and can keep this game from being closer than it could be.
And on the other end, will facing a back four help the USMNT’s chances of getting more goals? The quality shots just haven’t been there for a while, and now the U.S. is facing the best team from its recent schedule. After predicting a 2-1 U.S. win over Wales – which was close – this feels like one the Three Lions should win.
Prediction: England 3, USA 1