While there’s inevitably been much focus on Wayne Rooney’s cameo, the USA’s squad is hardly their best and in fact, Gareth Southgate has more first team players at his disposal in his 28-man squad. Dave Sarachan has only been in temporary charge for 10 matches since the USA failed to qualify for the World Cup, with Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras all finishing above them, and you can tell they’re a team in transition as he’s handed debuts to as many as 22 players since taking over from Bruce Arena.
He’s even left out 31-year-old Michael Bradley, despite his obvious pedigree relative to his teammates as he’s already racked up 142 caps. While goalkeeper Brad Guzan is back in the picture, Columbus’ Gyasi Zardes also fails to make the cut despite being the top American goalscorer in the MLS this term. This is a very inexperienced squad with 17 players 23 years old or younger, while 18 have 10 appearances or less. Meanwhile, there’s little sign of a new Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey emerging, with the possible exception of Borussia Dortmund’s 20-year-old winger Christian Pulisic.
England Home Record
Excluding England’s 2-1 defeat to Spain in their opening UEFA Nations League fixture, as well as glamour friendlies with Germany, Brazil, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, the Three Lions have won their last 20 fixtures on home turf. They won to nil in 15 of these, including five 1-0 victories and six that finished 2-0, though given 11 of these 20 matches saw England win by at least two clear goals, it would be a real surprise if England could only manage the single strike – especially given the weak USA selection.
Indeed, England have some creativity returning with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard all in contention. Although Harry Maguire misses out through injury, that should mean Southgate continues with the four-man backline utilized in the last international break against both Croatia and Spain. That has the potential to work in England’s favour, as the back three has looked better suited as a defensive shield when playing the best sides, while a back four has allowed more width in attack where the Three Lions are expected to take the initiative. They certainly struggled in second-half showings against Nigeria and Tunisia last summer as both sides matched England’s back three in the second halves.
While the Rooney cameo is largely a sideshow, they’ll be no lack of fear from his opponents when he steps onto that field. The all-time leading goalscorer has made a mockery of defences in the MLS, bagging 12 goals and six assists in just 21 appearances, and he’ll be desperate for one final send off with the national side. He’s pretty much certain to take any late penalties or free-kicks around the edge of the area, especially with Kieran Trippier being ruled out after limping off against Crystal Palace at the weekend. Rooney may not be on the pitch all that long but against tiring legs (England should dominate possession here) he’s worth a punt as last goalscorer.
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