USMNT-Iran press conference turns surreal as Adams, Berhalter grilled over racism, inflation and war ships

Questions about soccer were rare. Airing of grievances was the order of the day

AL-RAYYAN, Qatar – In hindsight, the tenor of things was revealed from the moment Carlos Queiroz and Karim Ansarifard received a hearty round of applause as they strode into the wood-paneled auditorium deep inside the Qatari National Convention Centre.

That was just the start of an antagonistic and deeply surreal press conference.

The room that hosted both teams’ pregame availability one day ahead of the enormous — Ansarifard politely called it “a very sensitive game” — United States vs. Iran World Cup match was almost full, with representatives of US, Iranian and overseas journalists alike. Only one of those groups was clapping for Team Melli’s manager and striker, though.

An urbane, charismatic presence, Quieroz has led the Iranian side for most of the past decade. And his back-and-forth with Iran’s press pack — most of it hailing from state-affiliated outlets — flashed the cleverness by which he has endeared himself to so many across the nation without antagonizing the complex network of political factors that affect so much of high-level sports in the Islamic Republic.

While he did not utter the words “stick to sports,” that message was crystal clear.

“If after 42 years in this game as a coach, I still believe that I could win games with those mental games, I think I did not learn anything about the game. And this is not the case,” said Queiroz when asked about allegations of gamesmanship and skulduggery by the U.S. and Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of this fixture. “Those collective set of events that are surrounding this World Cup, I hope it will be a good lesson for all of us in the future. And that in the next event, we’ll be learning that our mission here is to create entertainment. And at least during 90 minutes, make the people happy.

That was likely music to the ears of both Iranian and Qatari government officials infuriated by media coverage of the ongoing human-rights protests that have roiled the streets of Iran for months, with hundreds reportedly killed and thousands arrested in state reprisals. Or the host nation’s questionable track record with migrant labor, laws criminalizing homosexuality and widespread reports of corruption around the awarding of this tournament.

It certainly drew another loud ovation from the Iranian press, who clapped a third time when Queiroz and Ansarifard left the room, with a FIFA official not offering any of the women journalists in the room a chance to pose a question.

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The reception given to USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams a little under an hour later was drastically different.

“Tomorrow, perhaps it’s going to be the most sensitive game of this Cup,” an Iranian journalist stated in the second question of the United States’ presser. “If we made a survey of the whole world, what percentage of the population of the world will be happy because of the win of the national team of Iran, and what percentage of the whole population of the world will be happy because of the United States soccer team wins?

Berhalter sought to defuse the ferocious tensions rumbling around this occasion, from Klinsmann’s contentious words about Team Melli, to the U.S. Soccer social-media posts that fleetingly used images of the Iranian flag sans the central emblem and other Islamic imagery in a gesture of support to the protesters in Iran.

“I know that a lot of other constituents have another feeling towards it. But for us, it’s a soccer game against a good team. And it’s not much more than that,” said Berhalter. “It’s a knockout game, both teams want to go to the next round, both teams are desperate to go to the next round. And that’s how we’re looking at this match. We’re very focused on what we could do as a team, as are they. And we think it’s going to be a good soccer game.”

The questions posed by Iranians grew more and more strident. After Adams offered a seemingly earnest declaration of support for “Iran’s people and Iran’s team,” but added that his team is “laser focused” on securing the victory that will see them through to the knockout stages, another journalist called out his mispronunciation of the country’s name (Adams said I-ran rather than eee-ron).

Then he asked the USMNT captain if he was “OK to be representing a country that has so much discrimination against Black people in its own borders?” and where “there’s so much discrimination happening against Black people in America.”

Adams was measured in his response.

“My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country,” said the 23-year-old midfielder. “That being said, there’s discrimination everywhere you go. One thing that I’ve learned, especially from living abroad in the past years, and having to fit in in different cultures and kind of assimilate into different cultures, is that in the U.S., we’re continuing to make progress every single day. Growing up for me, I grew up in a white family with obviously an African-American heritage and background as well.

“So I had a little bit of different cultures, and I was very easily able to assimilate in different cultures. So not everyone has that ease and the ability to do that. And obviously, it takes longer to understand and through education, I think it’s super important. Like you just educated me now on the pronunciation of your country. So yeah, it’s a process, I think. As long as you see progress, that’s the most important thing.”

The queries from Iranian reporters ran the gamut of their nation’s frustrations with the United States government and its foreign policy.

“Why is it that you do not ask your government to take away its military fleet from the Persian Gulf?”

“It seems the U.S. media have also started the mind games and attack like England and U.K. [media], we have never seen in sports that something like this has happened.”

“I’ve been in New York about two months ago, and there was no support to your team [due to] the high rise of inflation and economic problems. Do you think the American people support your team and you?”

“How is your reaction when I tell you U.S. passport [holders], they can be welcome to Iran anytime, and they can visit anywhere in Iran. But the same time Iranian passport, they can’t enter USA or United States lands, otherwise they have to make some problems?”

“Jurgen Klinsmann and his offense to head coach of Iran, Mr. Queiroz, he was starting psychological warfare to Iran or not?”

On and on went the fusillade of grievance, with Iranian journalists making clear that their members see great unfairness being inflicted on their team and its nation, leaving Adams and Berhalter nonplussed.

“I don’t know enough about politics. I’m a soccer coach,” Berhalter said at one point. “And I’m not well-versed on international politics.”

It was a surreal moment, and underlined — if the USMNT could possibly have any remaining doubt — just how many layers of meaning and controversy have been layered atop this zero-sum match.

“Sports is a huge opportunity to bring people together,” Adams said. “We continue to show our support and our empathy for what’s obviously happening to the Iranian team and the people. That being said, we do have a game to focus on.”

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Carlos Queiroz, part of the USMNT’s revival, now aims to end its World Cup dream

The architect of Project 2010 is now trying to end project 2022

AL-RAYYAN, Qatar – A savvy, charismatic, multi-national polyglot with a fascination for the particularities of the American spirit: One could make the case that Carlos Queiroz was American soccer’s Jurgen Klinsmann before Jurgen Klinsmann was.While Klinsmann has been a constant presence in the nation’s footballing consciousness for more than a decade thanks to his television commentary work and time in charge of the U.S. men’s national team that followed, the Portuguese manager was a quietly influential figure on the domestic scene before the turn of the century.Though he would become a globetrotting coach with an array of high-powered destinations on his resume, Queiroz maintained U.S. ties through a network of colleagues and relationships that stretches from New York to Chicago to Manchester to Tehran and, eventually, to Doha today.Here he leads Iran into a massive World Cup match with the USMNT on Tuesday, with Group B’s results pitting the longtime geopolitical antagonists in a zero-sum situation for advancement to the tournament’s knockout stages. The Yanks need a win at Al Thumama Stadium to reach the round of 16, while a draw would be enough to see Team Melli through.In several ways, Queiroz’s ideas served as a sort of Rosetta Stone for the dramatic evolution of the player development pathway that produced so many members of the current USMNT squad. He arrived stateside in the spring of 1996 to take over the coaching duties of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars during Major League Soccer’s inaugural season.He would hold that post for only a matter of months, thanks to a big-money offer from Nagoya Grampus Eight that lured him to Japan. But contacts were made, seeds planted.“I realized immediately the great potential of United States soccer,” Queiroz told Soccer America in 2018. “What I found was the beginning of a huge project to create and help develop soccer in the United States.”Not long after, the U.S. Soccer Federation launched Project 2010, an ambitious big-picture plan to orient multiple levels of the sport towards the pursuit of excellence in time to compete for the trophy at that year’s World Cup.

Federation leaders, mindful of his past role in cultivating Portugal’s “golden generation,” tabbed Queiroz and his friend and colleague Dan Gaspar to provide “an independent look at the landscape here with a third-party point of view,” as Sunil Gulati would later put it.

Its general outline was released just before France 1998, where the USMNT’s woebegone last-place performance delivered a painful reality check.The 113-page “Q report” wasn’t exactly implemented in full. Yet its concepts helped lay the groundwork for innovations like the U.S. Soccer Development Academy youth league, upgraded coaching education structures and a national talent scouting network.

(Read Project 2010 in full HERE)

In fact, the federation was impressed enough that tentative plans were mooted for Queiroz to take over the USMNT after Steve Sampson’s departure, although that never came to pass. He would go on to manage Real Madrid, work alongside Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and lead a diverse list of national teams from Portugal to South Africa.Nowhere did he build a legacy quite like with Iran. He’s led Team Melli at three consecutive World Cups across two stints in charge, and is now just one positive result away from steering them into the knockout stages for the first time ever.

(Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

A hard-charging personality who’s said to thrive on four hours of sleep a night, Queiroz has earned the loyalty of fans and players while managing to walk the tightrope required in the treacherous, politicized environment of Iranian sports, a domain government officials often involve themselves in.He’s also drawn headlines for his outspoken defenses of his players, who are under a microscope in Qatar, just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. Huge numbers of supporters on both sides of the political divide are flocking to their matches while the human-rights protests and deadly government reprisals that have roiled their homeland since September loom large.He confronted a BBC journalist for asking striker Mehdi Taremi about the protesters back home, urging her to also query Gareth Southgate about U.S. and British policies towards Afghanistan. And on Saturday he ripped Jurgen Klinsmann in a lengthy Twitter thread after the naturalized Californian said on a BBC show that it was “part of [Iranian] culture” that Queiroz and his players “worked the referee” and engaged in gamesmanship and underhanded play in their emotional win over Wales.Making sure to note Klinsmann’s perceived “German/American” allegiances, Queiroz called his remarks “prejudiced,” “outrageous” and “a disgrace to football” before calling on him to resign from his position on FIFA’s Technical Study Group.Klinsmann responded that his words were “taken completely wrong” and “taken out of context,” suggesting that his past role in charge of the USMNT had led Iranians to see him as a provocateur and pledging to get in touch with Queiroz and “calm things down.” The subsequent controversy over U.S. Soccer’s use of an altered Iran flag with the symbols of its hardline Islamic government removed has only roiled the waters further.“It is unique. It is something different,” said U.S. defender Tim Ream on Sunday in a tense press conference attended by media from both nations. “But at the same time, we’re all human, we understand that there are things going on that are out of our control. And so that’s where we find ourselves. Again, we understand and empathize with the Iranian people. And at the end of the day, we are still having to focus on what is our job.”It all shapes Tuesday into a metaphorical powder keg, as well as an on-field scenario that favors Queiroz, known for his organized, defensively resilient tactics. If the Yanks are unable to dig out the victory they require to reach the round of 16, they’ll have been undone by an adversary who knows them and their soccer culture just about as well as any opposing manager could.

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Tensions flare as U.S. Soccer alters Iran flag on social media ahead of World Cup match

Iran officials reacted angrily to the gesture from U.S. Soccer

AL-RAYYAN, Qatar – An already-contentious occasion with massive stakes got even spicier for the U.S. men’s national team on Sunday, as a social-media squabble turned up the heat on Tuesday’s must-win World Cup match versus Iran.Fierce, women-led street protests have rumbled on in Iranian streets for weeks, with the nation’s hardline Islamic government responding with violent crackdowns that have reportedly killed hundreds and led to thousands of arrests. Amid that backdrop, U.S. Soccer officials decided to show support for Iran’s human-rights activists by using an Iranian flag without the Emblem of Iran on the USMNT’s Twitter header and some social-media posts.The emblem was added to the flag’s center after the Iranian Revolution of 1979; it is a stylized depiction of the word Allah that represents the phrase “There is no god but God” and has become associated with the country’s fundamentalist religious leadership.“The intent of the post was to show support for women’s rights, it was meant to be a moment,” said USMNT press officer Michael Kammarman at a Sunday media availability at the team’s Al-Gharafa training base. “We made the posts at the time, all the other representations of the flag remain consistent, and will continue to.”

The flag on the USMNT’s Twitter header was soon adjusted to reflect the official Iranian flag and the social-media posts have been taken down amid rapid blowback. Iranian officials and state-associated media have reacted with anger, accusing USSF of removing God from their flag and attempting to disrupt their national team before a crucial game for both sides.

“We know that this game isn’t isn’t played in a bubble,” said U.S. defender Tim Ream. “There are a lot of things that happen around the world and people want our opinions, but our opinion is that we want to play the game. And the game is for everyone. And that’s what we’re focused on.”U.S. Soccer officials had consulted with Iranian experts on the gesture of support, but did not inform USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter or his players before posting the images of the altered flag.“We’re huge supporters of women’s rights,” said USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman. “We didn’t know anything about the post, but we are supporters of women’s rights. We always have been. We’re focused a lot on Tuesday from the sporting side as well, so you [a reporter] mentioned it’s a distraction. I think this is such a focused group on the task at hand. But at the same time we empathize, and we are firm believers in women’s rights and support them.”

Iran’s players refused to sing their country’s national anthem ahead of their World Cup opener against England, in solidarity with protesters back home.

The USMNT are on two points and must win Tuesday’s match at Al Thumama Stadium to advance to the World Cup’s knockout phase, while Iran enter with three points and need only a draw to advance. The game is a redux of the nations’ meeting at the 1998 World Cup in France, where Iran won 2-1 amid similar political tensions owing to their tangled history over the decades.

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Former USMNT striker Eric Wynalda alleges ‘rift’ between Gio Reyna, Gregg Berhalter

The USMNT officially has its World Cup controversy

You’re not playing at a World Cup without some controversy, so it’s time to offer congratulations to the U.S. men’s national team for officially making it as a soccer nation.

The USMNT’s issue is the status of Gio Reyna, who has surprisingly played just seven minutes out of a possible 180. Even with the quality Gregg Berhalter has at his disposal on the wings, Reyna was widely expected to have played a more important role in Qatar than he has.

Reyna’s lack of playing time has sparked some speculation on whether he has an injury or if something else is up. Former USMNT forward Eric Wynalda thinks he knows what’s going on, offering claims of “a rift” between player and coach on social media following the team’s 0-0 draw with England.

Wynalda alleged “a massive controversy within the team” in a Twitter Space hosted by the LA Times, adding that there is now “internal strife with the manager, Gregg Berhalter.”

“I don’t know how much I should comment on that,” said Wynalda, before immediately commenting on that. “I’ve been trying to console Gio’s father, Claudio (his former USMNT teammate), for the last couple of hours and days with everything going on.”

Wynalda went on to allege that Berhalter “did lie to the media” in saying that Reyna was injured. “He asked the player to go along with that story, which caused a rift between the two of them and now he’s on the bench, which is really unfortunate,” said Wynalda. “This situation should have been handled very differently.”

If true — and that “if” is massive given the off-the-cuff nature of these quotes — Wynalda’s claims would be fairly explosive stuff. Reyna is among the best USMNT players, and given that he’s only 20 years old, he figures to be a foundational part of the squad for many years to come. In particular, Wynalda’s allegation that Reyna’s teammates are also upset with Berhalter over the lineup choices would point to a real problem for Berhalter and U.S. Soccer.

There was some confused messaging on this topic coming out of the team’s draw with Wales. Berhalter cited sporting reasons to explain why he opted to bring Jordan Morris on for the final minutes rather than Reyna, but also said that Reyna had felt “tightness” in the days leading up to the game.

With Reyna’s unfortunate injury history, it wasn’t surprising to hear that he had suffered some kind of knock, but Reyna told reporters that he “felt ready to go” after acknowledging “a little bit of tightness over the last few days.”

Is there some other explanation?

Tactically, it’s not all that difficult to parse how the USMNT has ended up leaving Reyna out of the starting 11. Berhalter’s 4-3-3 formation against Wales only had two positions that Reyna truly fits into, at least as long as the game state doesn’t dictate major risk-taking in central midfield. The starters in the spots that made sense for Reyna were Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah, two of the team’s other attacking stars.

Against England, Berhalter switched to a 4-4-2, adding to the number of spots where Reyna would be at his best, but those places went to Pulisic, Weah, Weston McKennie (a player that will start in any formation), and Haji Wright. Reyna is a bigger talent than Wright, but he can’t lead the line in the same way; they’re not really in direct competition with one another.

Given how well Weah played against Wales, and McKennie’s performance against England, and the fact that Pulisic is Pulisic, it’s difficult to make a case that someone truly undeserving ended up ahead of Reyna.

There are angles you could take to circumvent this: a move to a 4-2-3-1 formation, or shifting Weah into a center forward role. All of those would be big decisions, though, just as Berhalter is making a huge choice when he leaves Reyna out.

Things are different once you turn to Berhalter’s substitutions. The USMNT made five moves against Wales. Reyna’s not a perfect fit in the midfield when the USMNT plays 4-3-3, or as a striker, but it was possible to adjust and make room for Reyna, and Berhalter didn’t do it. Even taking a generous read, that’s a curious choice from the manager.

(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Fans took issue with Berhalter bringing Jordan Morris on, but the coach’s post-game analysis — that the game had become so direct that Morris’ straight-line speed and physicality were more suited to the situation — does hold some water. Still, it’s not like Reyna is slow or easily pushed around, and you can argue that Berhalter over-thought that particular choice.

Against England, there was another head-scratcher: Berhalter went 77 minutes before making any substitutions, even as the team began to show fatigue.

It’s hard to quibble with Brenden Aaronson coming on for McKennie, though that is certainly a spot that Reyna would have fit into with no issues. Reyna had to wait until the 83rd minute to take the field as a forward as Berhalter stuck with the 4-4-2 look that had flummoxed England, giving him little time to make much of an impact.

It is strange that Reyna hasn’t played more. Berhalter is facing the most bizarre World Cup ever, slammed right into the middle of the European club season, and has minutes to manage. Reyna is one of his best players, and has declared himself fit, so it stands to reason that he’d have seen more playing time.

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On the other hand, it just so happens that the USMNT is deeper on the wings than they are anywhere else. Aaronson is right up there with Reyna in terms of talent, and he’s not starting either. Coaches call this a “good problem,” but it is still a problem, because you have more players who rightly feel they’ve earned time than you have starting positions to give out. Someone’s going to be unhappy when the lineup comes out.

It could also be that fans and ex-USMNT forwards are overreacting in act two of a three-act story. Berhalter has repeatedly talked about how you have to tackle the whole group stage, and Tuesday’s match against Iran — who figure to play out of a low block — stacks up as the best game of the trio for Reyna’s clever, shifty style of play. Reyna, if he ends up playing a major role against Iran, could be Berhalter’s “Chekhov’s Gun,” particularly if the USMNT gets the win they need to advance.

If not, though, the choice to bring one of the best young players the USMNT has ever had to a World Cup, not use him very much, and struggle for goals is the kind of thing that tends to take up a lot of time when your employer brings you in for a performance evaluation.

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The USMNT played well against England. Will it regret the result?

The USMNT had the better of the game, but was unable to find a breakthrough goal

AL-RAYYAN, Qatar – Earning respect is one thing. Inspiring fear is quite another.That’s one of the sobering lessons the U.S. men’s national team is learning during the first World Cup experience for all but one member of its 26-player squad. By broad acclaim of opponents and pundits alike, the young Yanks have on balance been the better side in their meetings with Wales and England, yet still find themselves in a win-or-else situation in their Group B finale against Iran on Tuesday.“They were good. I thought they made it difficult, as we knew they would,” said Three Lions and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson after Friday’s 0-0 draw with England, where the United States bossed the majority of play and were superior in terms of expected goals. “They have some good players in the team, well-organized, make it very difficult and created some half-chances as well.”All that said, the USMNT have now played 34 World Cup games in their history. They’ve won just eight of them. England, on the other hand, have 29 wins all time. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will regret their lack of ruthlessness thus far in Qatar.“Yeah, it’s obviously a different beast when you get to a big tournament like this,” admitted striker Josh Sargent postgame on Friday. “So definitely you’ve got to learn how to close out games.”Coach Gregg Berhalter, himself a World Cup veteran twice over, has spoken of the stiff difficulty of both scoring goals and winning matches in this competition. On first blush that might sound bleedingly obvious, yet Friday’s encounter with the 2018 semifinalists and Euro 2020 runners-up was a vivid case in point.“It’s definitely mixed emotions,” said USMNT left back Antonee “Jedi” Robinson. “I’d say it feels a little bit better to draw this game than the Wales game, because I feel like we should have won that one. This game, I feel like it was a pretty even battle, any team could have come away feeling like they should have won the game.“We feel a little bit hard done by, but a clean sheet against a top side is nothing to be upset about. And now we get to go into the last game with it all in our hands.”

Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

History offers a mixed bag on this front. The USMNT also drew their first two games at South Africa 2010. They were a bit lucky that Rob Green’s howler helped them snatch a 1-1 draw against England but felt brutally wronged after the 2-2 draw with Slovenia, where a late Maurice Edu goal was waved off by a baffling refereeing decision. They wound up group winners, however, when Landon Donovan’s memorable late winner versus Algeria took them to five points from three matches.It was a different story in Germany four years prior, where a hard-earned draw with eventual champions Italy kept the U.S. in contention heading into their third game against Ghana after an opening defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic. But the Black Stars expertly exploited American mistakes for a 2-1 win that ended the USMNT’s tournament early.“Every play matters [in the] World Cup. You’ve got to be focused, and every single play can have a potential outcome on the game,” said Berhalter after Gareth Bale earned, then dispatched a late penalty kick to peg back the Yanks on Monday. “It’s a high level that we’re playing in, really high intensity.”As was so often the case during qualifying, the USMNT created a respectable proportion of decent scoring chances, only to spurn them repeatedly, with the absence of a dependable finisher at the No. 9 position still a nagging concern.As Bale’s moment of magic reminded them, games are often won and lost inside the penalty boxes. Those small details could determine whether they produce the necessary win over Iran, or have to settle for moral victories as they jet home early.“You’ve got to score to really [not] let them off the hook,” said Berhalter after the England draw. “We had a lot of close opportunities. We played well, I think we showed what type of team we are, what we’re capable of. But it’s also difficult for me to say that we should have won the game, because you need to score to win the game and we didn’t do that.”

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How Berhalter outwitted Southgate in USMNT draw vs England

Some clever tactical tweaks helped the USMNT control much of the game in a 0-0 draw

AL KHOR, Qatar – While they’ve cooled things off for a while as they compete head-to-head at the World Cup, Gregg Berhalter and Gareth Southgate have developed a friendship in recent years, sharing ideas and fellowship as they implement youth-driven overhauls of their respective national teams.“I’ve enjoyed my interactions with Gregg,” Southgate told reporters the day before his England side faced off against Berhalter’s United States in their Group B clash at Al-Bayt Stadium. “Over the last few years I’ve learned a lot from him.”At the time that sounded mostly like politeness. Southgate led the Three Lions to the semifinal of World Cup 2018 and the final of Euro 2020, and they currently sit fifth in the FIFA World Rankings. Berhalter’s Gold Cup and Concacaf Nations League titles just don’t hold quite the same cachet for most observers.Berhalter doesn’t seem like the sort to rub it in his face. But next time they link up out of range of the cameras and microphones, Southgate might just have to admit he got a lesson from his North American mate in the Qatari desert on Friday.Berhalter made several tactical tweaks that blunted the threat posed by England’s talent-laden XI, starting with targeted pressing and an unexpected move to a 4-4-2 formation while defending. Christian Pulisic paired up top with surprise starter Haji Wright ahead of a mostly flat midfield shape with Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah central and Weston McKennie flared out to one flank while Tim Weah manned the other.“Obviously it worked,” said McKennie, one of his side’s top performers in a scoreless draw. “You guys saw, we had the ball often, they weren’t able to really break through so many times, I don’t think we gave them a lot of chances to get in behind and to get goalscoring opportunities. And it worked for us as well, we were able to break them down, have space out wide.”

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

It continued with a number of subtle shape shifts as the game played out, keeping the English side guessing.“We wanted to highlight our defensive shape that would change from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. If we did that, effectively, we wanted to hit them in transition, offensive transition, and we think we gave them some problems in that,” explained Berhalter in his postgame press conference.“We wanted to make it compact. We want to work from a compact block in the beginning of the game. And throughout the game, we switched it up a little bit just to keep giving them different looks. And give them credit, they kept adapting as well. They moved from, four on one to four on two to three on one and it was a handful for us, for sure.”The tweaks unsettled England, as the flowing moves forward that tore Iran apart occurred only in fits and starts. A managerial game of cat and mouse unfolded over the course of the match, and by the final whistle both the statistical data and the general run of play favored the USMNT.“It was a really tough opponent. They defended incredibly well,” said Southgate after his side were largely outplayed and out-thought in a game that boosts U.S. confidence ahead of a must-win against Iran. “To come off the high of the performance the other day [a 6-2 win over Iran] and find that same energy, level of quality, was always going to be a challenge. Their front six make it so difficult to play through and get at their defense.”

Adams claimed that he and his teammates weren’t informed of the shape shift until the day before the match. The organization and fluidity with which they executed the plan — and the details shared by their coach — stretched the credibility of that statement, however.

(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

“That was something that we saw with their defending in the last game and we wanted to key in on it. Basically triple-stacking the right side of the field, Serge [Sergiño Dest] getting the ball, being able to bypass his defender to find Weston free and then [English left back] Luke Shaw would have a decision to make,” Adams said.“He’s either going to leave Timmy [Weah] and release to Weston or he’s going get held by Timmy, and that was a focus of ours. So glad to see that. England did that a little bit in the second half with Mason Mount also popping wide, and it’s difficult to deal with. You’ve got to be smart about it. You got to understand when to pressure, when not to pressure, but it definitely put us in some good positions to continue advancing the attack.”Southgate shared a glimpse of his side of the chess match, which leaves both squads in need of a positive result on Group B’s final matchday in order to move on to the round of 16.“We didn’t quite get our pressure right. [Yunus] Musah was dropping low and we got a little bit stretched without the ball, and McKennie pulling a little bit wider caused us a bit of a problem, which we needed to resolve at halftime,” he said. “So we needed to be more aggressive on our pressure, bit more compact as a team. Obviously Pulisic comes into clever areas with [Antonee] Robinson going outside him as well. So there’s lots of questions for the players to answer within the game.”

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How can the USMNT advance at the World Cup? Breaking down all the Group B scenarios

After two games at the World Cup, the U.S. men’s national team hasn’t lost, and as such has kept themselves in the frame to advance from Group B. Sure, it feels like they left points on the board against both Wales and England, but by not losing, …

After two games at the World Cup, the U.S. men’s national team hasn’t lost, and as such has kept themselves in the frame to advance from Group B.

Sure, it feels like they left points on the board against both Wales and England, but by not losing, the door is still wide open for the USMNT to get into the knockout stage, which is an altogether pretty good scenario. However, it comes with pressure: the USMNT’s match against Iran is effectively a one-game playoff to get into the round of 16.

First, let’s settle the terms here: there’s no scenario in which two points is enough to get out of a four-team group in the round-robin format used at the World Cup. That means a loss to Iran ends the USMNT’s tournament.

This young U.S. team also heads home early if they get a draw. They’d be undefeated, but ending the group on three points would leave them stuck behind England, who have already collected four, and Iran (who would get their fourth point by securing a tie against the USMNT).

As such, there’s only one way through: a win. Anything less and USMNT fans will be ruing the thickness of the Al Bayt Stadium crossbar that Christian Pulisic’s shot thwacked against in the first half against England, or wondering what might have been had Walker Zimmerman kept his feet against Wales. So it goes at the World Cup.

As such, all the scenarios below depend on the United States winning on Tuesday.

Musah: Today the whole world saw the USMNT can do big things

The U.S. impressed in a draw against England, causing plenty of problems for its vaunted opponent

Yunus Musah was proud of the U.S. national team’s effort in a scoreless draw with England at the World Cup, saying his team showed the world that they “can do big things.”

Musah and his teammates put in a strong performance against one of the pre-tournament favorites, only lacking a final touch in a match it could have easily won.

The Valencia midfielder spent much of his life in England and came up through the country’s youth international setup before making the switch over to the U.S.

Facing some of his former teammates with England and the Arsenal academy, Musah was part of a midfield that controlled much of the match, outplaying some of the Premier League’s biggest names.

“I feel like the team played really well today and showed how good they are. Most of them play in great teams, high level. And I felt like today the whole world will see that the U.S. can do big things,” Musah told reporters.

“But I guess time will tell. You can’t just do it for one game, you have to be consistent.”

With some of the USMNT’s top players featuring for big clubs in Europe, Musah believes the team’s ascent is not going unnoticed with fans back home.

“I know that the audience back home supports us so much,” Musah said. “And as you can see in the U.S., football is growing a lot. A lot of us are playing in Europe, they see big stars — Christian [Pulisic] for example — and it’s just nice to inspire the future generations.

“This World Cup is going to be there forever. And future generations are going to watch this and want to be like us. So now I’m very grateful for the place I’m in right now to be doing that.”

The USMNT will close out Group B with a game against Iran on Tuesday, needing no less than a win to advance to the last 16.

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USMNT player ratings: Adams, McKennie, Ream help secure World Cup draw vs. England

A smart adjustment from Gregg Berhalter ends with an impressive draw

The U.S. men’s national team stepped it up against England, securing a 0-0 draw in which they had the better of the game’s few chances.

The USMNT may have been slightly disappointed with one point against Wales, after dominating in the first half and leading until the final stages, but it’s hard to have too many serious complaints after they held the Three Lions to virtually no serious chances.

We’ll have deeper analysis in the future, but during the World Cup we’ll be giving a quick breakdown of each USMNT player’s performance.

Our scale:

  • 1: Abysmal. Literally any member of Pro Soccer Wire’s staff would have been been able to play at this level.
  • 6: Adequate. This is our base score.
  • 10: Transcendent, era-defining performance. This is Maradona vs. England in 1986.

McKennie: It sucks we couldn’t score against England

The midfielder was happy with his team’s display but knew they left some chances on the table

Weston McKennie was proud of the U.S. national team’s display in a 0-0 draw against England on Friday, but admitted it “sucks” that his team was unable to find a winner.

The USMNT controlled much of the game against vaunted opposition, going toe to toe with a team many consider to be among the World Cup favorites.

But Gregg Berhalter’s men were unable to find a winner, and now go into their final group-stage game knowing only a win against Iran will get them into the last 16.

Despite playing an overall excellent game, McKennie was one of the guiltiest parties when he missed an excellent chance to score the opener in the first half.

Speaking to Fox Sports after the game, the midfielder said his team couldn’t be disappointed with their performance, but conceded that they did leave some chances on the table.

“I don’t think we’re really disappointed. I think we knew that we would come out here and put up a fight. And as you guys could see, I think we felt it, I think the fans felt it,” McKennie said.

“We were all in, we held the ball really well. I think we had the majority of the chances. We were more dangerous and it just sucks we couldn’t get it in the back of the net. But obviously our goal is to try and play our best. And I think that’s what we did.

“That was the one thing that was missing, just putting the ball in the back of the net. The final passes were there. But unlucky and we take away the point. The most important thing is that it’s in our hands.”

The USMNT will move on to its final group stage game on Tuesday, where it will face an Iran side that lost its opener 6-2 to England before stunning Wales with a 2-0 victory on Friday.

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