USA's Timothy Weah

Timothy Weah: Why England should worry about USA star

England have never beaten the USA at a World Cup.

However, Gareth Southgate’s team are heavy favourites to get the better of their trans-Atlantic opponents on Friday, particularly after the contrasting starts made by both sides at the 2022 World Cup - England thumped Iran 6-2 while the USA were pegged back by Wales in a 1-1 draw.

The USA have the quality to trouble England, though.

In fact, Gregg Berhalter’s team could be more comfortable against the Three Lions than they were against Wales, when they had to break down a low defensive block.

The USA are most dangerous in quick transition and England will give them space to exploit.

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Weah the key for USA

Timothy Weah will be key to Berhalter’s game plan.

The Lille winger was the USA’s best player against Wales, giving them an outlet on the right side and ensuring possession play never became too congested in the middle of the pitch. Weah’s pace and direct running is an asset and will keep Luke Shaw honest.

Berhalter is expected to stick with the established midfield unit of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah for Friday’s match.

Adams will be the protective barrier in front of the American back four (Adams made six tackles against Wales) with the Leeds United midfielder arguably the USA’s most important player such is the ground he covers. Without him, Berhalter’s team would lack structure.

Musah’s role will also be important against England. The teenager wasn’t always afforded the space to carry the ball forward from deep against Wales, but England will push high up the pitch and it will be up to Musah to drag his team forward.

While his final product isn’t always the best, Musah is frequently the conductor of the USA quick transition.

An injury suffered by Miles Robinson earlier in the year forced Berhalter to find a new centre-back partner for Walker Zimmerman.

Tim Ream assumed that role against Wales and the veteran Fulham defender, who has been excellent for the Cottagers this season, is expected to keep his place in the team for Friday’s match against England.

Ream’s distribution out from the back gave the USA a way to progress the ball forward against Wales, primarily through Antonee Robinson (only Pulisic played more crosses than Robinson against Wales), who was so pushed so high up on the left side that he was frequently one of the most advanced players on the pitch.

Robinson might not have the same freedom against England given the threat of Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka in behind.

Pulisic a difference maker

Christian Pulisic could be the USA’s difference-maker in the final third, although the 24-year-old hasn’t always produced his best football for his national team - Pulisic is sometimes guilty of slowing down his play and taking too many touches of the ball. If the Chelsea winger makes quick decisions and plays with incisiveness, like he did for Weah’s opener against Wales, the ceiling of what the USA can achieve against England will be higher.

Gio Reyna is another player who raises the USA’s ceiling as a team, although there is uncertainty over the 20-year-old’s fitness after Berhalter refused to introduce him off the bench against Wales.

Gio Reyna has struggled for game time this season

Reyna is most effective in tight spaces and could be useful if the US enjoy a period of possession on Friday, but Pulisic and Weah are expected to be favoured in the wide areas to facilitate the rapid counter.

“Greg [Berhalter] came up with a very good match plan on how to exploit the spaces,” USA captain Adams said after the 1-1 draw against Wales.

"We had some good runs in behind.”

The USA will need another game plan designed to exploit space against England. If Berhalter gets that right, the likes of Pulisic, Weah and Musah could cause real damage.

England v USA
ALSO READ: Sporting Life's England v USA preview

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