England vs USA Tactical Preview

Sam McGuire | @SamMcGuire90

England vs USA Tactical Preview

It was a game of two halves for the USA on Monday. 

Gregg Berhalter’s side looked assured, confident and dangerous in the opening 45 minutes against Wales and deservedly went into the break with a 1-0 lead. Timothy Weah fired his side into the lead in the 36th minute having latched onto a Christian Pulisic pass. The Lille forward is without a goal in Ligue 1 this season but you wouldn’t know that. His finish was emphatic after he dipped inside from the right flank to poke the ball past Wayne Hennessey. 

However, that was their only shot on target in the game. They weren’t able to build on their lead in the second half and Wales, with the introduction of Kieffer Moore, bullied their way back into the game. 

Berhalter’s men had chances worth 0.66 Expected Goals (xG) in the first half but carved out opportunities worth just 0.13 after the break. By comparison, Wales had an xG of 1.38 in the second half as they pushed for an equaliser. 

The US finished the game having had 59% of the ball but they weren’t able to do anything with it. That had been an issue over the last few matches. 

For example, they dominated the ball in a friendly against Saudi Arabia, having 55% possession, but managed just two shots on target in a 0-0 draw. They also had more of the ball against Japan but failed to hit the target once in a 2-0 defeat. Against El Salvador, the USMNT had 64% of the ball but needed a stoppage-time goal to avoid defeat. 
Despite this, Berhalter does possess players who could hurt England if they aren’t careful. 

USA vs Wales heatmap

Average position map vs Wales, courtesy of Whoscored. 

If the USA play a similar system to the one they deployed against Wales but with a few tweaks to accommodate the fact they will see less of the ball, they could be a real threat on the break, especially down the right flank. 

With Luke Shaw pushing up when England are in possession, there will be space to hit Weah. If Harry Maguire is forced into the channel to defend against the speedster, the one-time Celtic loanee has the potential to cause problems for the Manchester United man.  

It could well be a similar story on the left flank too with Pulisic likely to be up against John Stones. That is unless Gareth Southgate reverts back to a 5-3-2 shape with Kyle Walker in defence to help with the pace of Pulisic and Weah. That is something to ponder. 

What was interesting when looking at the stats from the Wales match was how good the front three were on the ball for the USA. All three finished with a pass success rate of over 75% meaning when the ball did reach them, it was sticking. They were able to bring others into play and sustain pressure in the opponent's half. 

Against England, it’ll be different with the Three Lions expected to have more of the ball. It just means that when Weah, Pulisic and Josh Sargent do find themselves in possession, retaining the ball will be more important than it was on Monday. 

Berhalter will likely stick with the same XI as he started against Wales. The midfield three of Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie was fairly combative and had a lot of energy. That will be needed against an England team containing Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham in the middle third. 

The star for those in white in the game on Monday, however, was Adams. The Leeds United midfielder made the most tackles (six) and had a 100% success rate. Furthermore, only Neco Williams (three) could be better his two interceptions on the night. Expect him to be even busier against Southgate’s side but don’t be surprised if he is just as effective.