Team USA will be looking to upset both England and Wales

USA team preview: What to expect at World Cup 2022


Drawn in Group B alongside England and Wales, the USA will been keen to upset the British party at the World Cup. American football expert Graham Ruthven has the inside track.

On the comeback from a shock failure to qualify in 2018, the obstacles are already abounding ahead of the USA's World Cup campaign.

Not so long ago, there was widespread belief within American football that the current USA national team could scale new heights in 2022. The phrase ‘golden generation’ has been uttered more than once about the current crop of American players, but this belief has long since dissipated.

Questions are already being asked of coach Gregg Berhalter, who has still to demonstrate his system and approach is the best fit for the squad he has.

The USA arrive in Qatar at a low ebb following dismal performances against Japan and Saudi Arabia during the most recent international break. Berhalter and his players must find a way to banish this negativity once the tournament kicks off.

Christian Pulisic is the most recognisable face in a talented, but young, squad which contains several other players based at major European clubs - see Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, Matt Turner and Weston McKennie. Then there’s Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, Yunus Musah, Antonee Robinson and Timothy Weah who are also playing at a high level.

On the face of it, Team USA ought to have every chance of emerging from Group B.

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Group B

England
Iran
USA
Wales


Philosophy over pragmatism

In the past, USA teams have been known for their willingness to work hard and scrap well. However, Berhalter was appointed national team manager back in 2018 with a broader philosophical brief - in his own words, he wants to “change the way the world views American soccer.”

While some progress has been made in turning the USA into a more possession-based side, he has still to deliver on his grand mission statement.

In fact, the 49-year-old’s ideological views have become a weight on the shoulders of his players who would surely prefer to have more freedom to play their natural game.

Centre-back conundrum

The season-ending injury suffered by Miles Robinson earlier this year has given the USA a problem to solve in central defence with Berhalter yet to settle on a replacement to field alongside Walker Zimmerman.

Robinson and Zimmerman had forged a strong partnership through qualifying, but the former will have to watch the World Cup from home.

Chris Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers were seen as potential centre-back options, but injury stopped both players from joining up with the USA squad in September, robbing Berhalter of the chance to experiment before Richards was ruled out of the event definitively.

Aaron Long and Mark McKenzie were used alongside Zimmerman against Japan and Saudi Arabia, but neither impressed.

An injury to Miles Robinson has left the USA with a centre-back headache

Number nine questions

Berhalter hasn’t settled on a starting number nine either. Jesus Ferreira gives the USA a great deal of off-the-ball movement, but the FC Dallas striker hasn’t always been a reliable source of goals for his country.

Ricardo Pepi scored some important goals through qualifying, but a move to Augsburg earlier this year backfired as the 19-year-old struggled for game time.

Josh Sargent has found form for Norwich in the Sky Bet Championship this season, but has been most commonly used as a right winger rather than a centre-forward.

Many view Jordan Pefok as the USA’s best out-and-out striker, with the 26-year-old an important part of the Union Berlin team that currently sits top of the Bundesliga, but Berhalter omitted him from his last squad and there are suggestions he won’t be included in the 26-man squad for the World Cup either.

Reyna’s fragile fitness

The USA’s attack could be carried by the players in the wide area where Berhalter is spoiled for choice.

Pulisic, Aaronson and Weah have all delivered for their national team in the past, but Reyna is the player who could move the needle for the USA in Qatar.

The only problem is the 19-year-old has struggled for game time over the last 12 months due to repeated and persistent injuries.

Gio Reyna has struggled for game time this season

Under Berhalter, the USA have experienced trouble in breaking down opponents who use a low defensive block.

The likes of Pulisic and Weah like to get in behind, but Reyna is a technician who can make things happen in small spaces. The teenager is playing again for Borussia Dortmund, but his fragile fitness remains a concern.

A fit and figuring Reyna could be a game-changer for the USA at the 2022 World Cup.

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