It all comes down to the Iran game next Tuesday (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo).
After a really strong 0-0 draw against England on Black Friday, the US are in good shape to advance from Group B at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. If you can go into the third game of group play where a result gets you through, it's in your hands.
In 2006, if we beat Ghana in that third game, we would have been through. We had a point against Italy, who ended up winning the World Cup, and were in a spot to make it happen. But then there’s some controversy, Ghana win and we’re packing our bags early.
In 2002, we end up losing to Poland in the third match, but we were already on four points after the first two games. Then South Korea beat Portugal and we knew we were through in second place.
That’s the key here: Usually four points are enough to get through your group, through whatever combination.
The US are in position to do that, where it looks like they'd probably play Holland from Group A, assuming the US get the second spot in Group B and England get the top one. The US can beat Holland, that's a Round of 16 game they can win. I'm pretty confident about that.
This Iran team was suspect defensively against England (6-2 loss) and then showed much better against Wales (2-0 win), so it won't be easy. But there's every reason to believe the US can get three points and advance.
A fun wrinkle here: I coached against Iran manager Carlos Queiroz in MLS, when he was with the MetroStars in 1996. People might not remember this, but he was hired by US Soccer, ironically, in the '90s to make up a master plan for us to win the World Cup. It was a report called "Project 2010" where the cover was a man on the moon, like the Apollo 11 mission with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
That World Cup trophy part obviously didn't happen. Yet maybe now Carlos is better positioned to help us win a World Cup here in 2022 – or at least go far.
Enough storytelling for now. On two points after two games, here’s how I thought the USMNT fared Friday against England. Again I’m using the following grading scale:
- 1-4: Below average or worse
- 5-6: Average
- 7-8: Good to very good
- 9-10: Excellent or outstanding
He had that low save on Mason Mount at the 45-minute mark, which was huge. That was probably the best chance of the game, even though Christian Pulisic hit the crossbar. Matt was comfortable dealing with crosses on the day, his distribution was good – a really strong performance as we've come to expect.
England didn't have a whole ton coming down the USMNT's left side of the field with Kieran Trippier, and also another very good player in Bukayo Saka. You can tell Antonee was confident, playing these Premier League guys regularly.
When your goalkeeper is quiet on the day or a center back, that's a really good sign. Ream is organizing things back there, his passing was solid too. He didn't have to make many plays and is showing why Gregg trusts him.
Walker's block on Kane early in the game was huge. That probably should've been a goal at the 10-minute mark. He was solid defensively on the day after letting up the PK against Wales. His passing wasn't great and brought on some nervy moments.
Especially in the first half he had some good crosses getting forward, helping to pin England back and put them on their heels. Dest helped keep Raheem Sterling quiet on the day too, and that's no small feat.
Tyler put out several counter-attacks, breaking up chances for England to get out on the break. Mount was mostly quiet on the day and the captain played a big part in that. Adams covers a lot of ground and breaks up transition moments, even if he's not a huge part of the offense.
McKennie had some of that confidence we've grown to love from him, even looking cocky at times. He backs it up on these big stages. That's exactly the kind of performance you need from a player like him.
Musah had a couple of good looks at the goal and maybe on a different day one gets past Jordan Pickford. For a 19-year-old he brings so much quality out there. When he's on the dribble and linking up, you can see the confidence coming through.
Christian was the team's best attacking player, no question. But I don't know if the US (or even Chelsea) plays the right way to get the most out of him. He maybe could have played where Weah did, as a second striker.
If Christian can be given a free role around the field, he'd create even more. Pulisic, back when he was at Dortmund, we had him in that free role as just a kid and he was named the 2017 US Soccer Player of the Year.
The US doesn't look to play forward that quickly, so it keeps the No. 9 out of the game sometimes. But Wright was a pain out there and created a really good corner kick, had some decent hold-up play. He could've done a bit better on that second-half chance where Christian was calling for it atop the box.
Weah just didn't look fully comfortable where they positioned him defensively, as a second striker. I know the coaching staff felt it was important to put a little pressure on England's center backs, not let them have an easy time setting up plays. So that sacrificed some of Weah's other qualities like we saw on his goal against Wales, running more direct in behind.
England helped by not pushing the game on the US, really, until the last 15 minutes or so. But the team was organized and that 4-4-2 wrinkle helped out there. The US were pressing, didn't make it easy on them and got a great effort from everybody.
If anything, I would've made the substitute changes a little earlier. The legs started to look tired around the 65th, 70th minute and some fresher legs would have made a difference. Credit to Gregg, though, this was a strong result.
The four-man midfield, and let's count Christian in that too, was very good, better than England's midfield. Does Aaronson break into that group right now? It seems not. Maybe he finds a way into the starting lineup against Iran, in the so-called 4-3-3.
Moore did okay given the fact I thought England's best player on the day was Jack Grealish. England should have probably started with Grealish on the left there, rather than subbing him on. So Gregg made a good change to take out Dest, who was starting to look tired.
We saw Gio's first minutes at a World Cup, but the Wales controversy… what I'd say is we're all experts on everyone else's teams. We're not inside the team, so it's hard to make a judgment – only the coach and the player can tell you that. And the way the US play right now, it seems like it's either Reyna or Weah, and they have Weah ahead of him. I wouldn't necessarily argue against that.
I don't think it's fair to give Sargent a rating given the minutes he played. He didn't really touch the ball.