Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’ll be working but I hope you can go out and watch the U.S.–England game somewhere fun.
In today’s SI:AM:
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What’s at stake against England
From the moment the draw was announced, the U.S. men’s national team’s game today against England was going to be a big one. A World Cup match between two countries with such a long and complicated history played on a day when many Americans are home from work? It’s bound to draw plenty of eyeballs. And now, after the U.S. drew against Wales on Monday, it’s even more important.
A loss would not spell the end of the U.S.’s hopes of advancing out of the group with the standings altered following Iran’s dramatic win over Wales earlier this morning. Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was issued a straight red card and sent off in the 85th minute, forcing Wales to play the final minutes a man down and with seldom-used backup keeper Danny Ward in net. The game was tied, 0–0, when Hennessey was sent off and Iran proceeded to score two goals late in stoppage time (a long-range strike by Rouzbeh Cheshmi in the 98th minute and a chip by Ramin Rezaeian over a flailing Ward in the 101st minute) to secure the victory. So here’s what the group standings look like right this moment:
- England: 3 points (+4 goal differential)
- Iran: 3 points (-2 goal differential)
- United States: 1 point (0 goal differential)
- Wales: 1 point (-2 goal differential)
If the U.S. loses against England … it would most likely advance out of the group with a win over Iran on Tuesday. (The scenarios where the U.S. would not advance in this situation involve the Americans suffering a massive defeat to England and the Welsh beating the snot out of their neighbors so that the USMNT’s goal difference finishes worse than Wales’.)
If the U.S. draws against England … the scenario is simple: a win against Iran pushes the USMNT through to the knockouts.
If the U.S. beats England … a draw against Iran guarantees advancement, while a win would see the Americans top the group. A loss to Iran could spell doom if England takes care of Wales.
From an American standpoint, there was a lot to like and a lot not to like in that opening-match draw against Wales. The U.S. totally dominated the first half, which was nice to see after it looked awful in its two World Cup tune-ups against Japan and Saudi Arabia. (Side note: the 0–0 draw against the Saudis doesn’t look so bad after they beat Argentina, huh? And, don’t underestimate Japan after their 2–1 win over Germany.)
At the same time, while the U.S. managed to maintain possession during that first half and spent much of the time operating in the attacking third, it was frustrating that it only resulted in one goal (by Timothy Weah in the 36th minute). Even worse, the U.S. attack couldn’t put anything together after the goal.
England, too, had concerns coming into the tournament, having failed to win any of its previous six matches (including two losses to Hungary). Those fears were quelled by a dominant 6–2 victory over Iran on Monday, though. The English are a World Cup favorite for a reason and the U.S. will need a lot to break right to at least emerge with a point.
Goal-scoring prowess has always been the main concern for the USMNT, which is why it was a surprise not to see 20-year-old playmaker Gio Reyna make an appearance in the draw against Wales. Reyna has dealt with injuries over the past year but was thought to be fully healthy as the tournament began. He told Yahoo Sports that he “definitely felt 100%” before the Wales game but manager Gregg Berhalter said the team was taking a cautious approach to “a little bit of [muscle] tightness that we were guarding against.” If the U.S. is in need of an offensive spark either in the starting 11 or off the bench against England, Reyna could be the guy to provide it.
England also has one major injury concern. Star striker Harry Kane hurt his ankle in the game against Iran and underwent an MRI this week. Kane is England’s best option up front but it remains to be seen how many minutes manager Gareth Southgate gives him today at the risk of jeopardizing his availability for the rest of the tournament, especially when fellow strikers Marcus Rashford and Callum Wilson are capable of holding down the fort.
The U.S. is a serious underdog in this game, but that’s what makes it fun. Expectations are low and the pressure has been relieved to a degree thanks to Iran’s win this morning. It’ll be a great way to spend a couple of hours on a holiday weekend.
More on U.S.-England:
- What Iran’s Win vs. Wales Means for USMNT’s World Cup Outlook (Andrew Gastelum)
- Feeling the Blues at Chelsea, Can the U.S.’s Top Star Rise? (John Gonzalez)
From 2010: The Hero Who Vanished: The U.S. upset mighty England in the 1950 World Cup on a single goal by Joe Gaetjens (Alexander Wolff)
The best of Sports Illustrated
In today’s Daily Cover story, Brian Straus explores the changing perception of American soccer in England.
Conor Orr recaps a busy Thanksgiving in the NFL. … Greg Bishop visited the Qatar National Library to see how the country describes its soccer history. … Rohan Nadkarni writes that the Hawks may come to regret trading Kevin Huerter away.
Around the sports world
You have to see this acrobatic goal Brazil’s Richarlison scored yesterday against Serbia. … The Vikings’ Kene Nwangwu had the play of the day in the NFL, returning a kickoff for a touchdown. … With 94 yards against the Patriots last night, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson broke a record previously held by Randy Moss.
On this day in 1908, Italian Dorando Pietri and American Johnny Hayes met in a rematch of their epic, controversial marathon four months earlier at the Olympics in London. Which New York City venue hosted the race?
- The Polo Grounds
- Madison Square Garden
- Central Park
- Coney Island Beach
Wednesday’s SIQ: The NFL tradition of football on Thanksgiving continued yesterday with three games (Lions-Bills, Cowboys-Giants and Vikings-Patriots). What is the only NFL franchise that has not appeared in a Thanksgiving game?
Answer: Jaguars. I guess North Florida doesn’t come to mind when you think of a late-autumn holiday.
The Panthers, Buccaneers and Bengals have each only had one game on Thanksgiving. The latter two come as a bit of a surprise to me. Tampa Bay has been in the league since 1976 and Cincinnati since ’68. Neither team could get a holiday invite in all those years?
The most frequent Thanksgiving matchup is Lions vs. Packers. Those two have met 21 times on the fourth Thursday in November. The Cowboys’ most common Thanksgiving opponent is Washington (10 meetings).
From the Vault: Nov. 25, 1991
Christian Laettner was the college basketball player everyone loved to hate. At the start of the 1991–92 season, he was the most recognizable player on the defending champions. Curry Kirkpatrick wrote in his cover story that around the ACC, Laettner was “known as a whiner” who had a reputation for chewing out teammates while on campus at Duke he was “widely perceived to be aloof, arrogant, even nasty and mean-spirited.” He went from a prestigious Buffalo prep school, The Nichols School, which Kirkpatrick described as “a small, rich, mostly white, preppy paradise,” to a university that can be described the same way. And worst of all, he was really good.
“Of course I enjoy the notoriety,” Laettner told Kirkpatrick. “If I didn’t want to be in this situation, I wouldn’t play basketball.”
SI couldn’t have picked a better player to feature on the cover of its college basketball preview issue that year. Laettner led the Blue Devils in scoring and won the Wooden Award as the top player in the country as Duke, which was ranked No. 1 from start to finish, won the national championship for the second straight year. That season produced one of the most enduring moments in NCAA tournament history: Laettner’s fadeaway shot at the buzzer against Kentucky that sent Duke to the Final Four. Hate him all you want—he couldn’t be beaten.
Check out more of SI’s archives and historic images at vault.si.com.
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