AL KHOR, Qatar — The mantra got here from deep in a single corner of the stadium, ringing out loud and clear for a couple of moments before fading back into the overall cacophony of the night.
“It’s called soc-cer!” the US fans bellowed at their England counterparts. “It’s called soc-cer!”
As the US has seen its soccer culture develop in recent many years, it has at all times used the nice powers of Europe as a handy measuring stick, a mark of how far it has come and the way far it still must go. Yet it’s England, a rustic that prefers to call the game football and definitely believes it is healthier than the Americans at playing it, that has at all times served because the reference point that matters most.
The evidence is visible across the US soccer landscape: American fans, old and latest, now spend weekend mornings watching matches from England’s Premier League on television. In American soccer stadiums, they borrow liberally from English sports culture, making it their very own, refracting it through a U.S. lens, but leaving no doubt of its DNA. And the most effective American players still dream of someday going overseas, anywhere at first, but eventually to stardom in Britain’s most storied stadiums.
On Friday night, the US got a rare opportunity to measure the shrinking distance between the countries’ teams, and by most assessments performed admirably, scrapping to a scoreless tie that left the Americans holding their World Cup destiny of their hands.
The result — and small moments just like the fans’ sassy chant — sent the message that the US was ascendant and bold for more.
“There’s a number of people who obviously thought we were going to get blown out,” said the American midfielder Weston McKennie. “We went into this game, to the surface world, as obvious underdogs. But we didn’t feel like an underdog in any respect, because we all know our capability, we all know what we will do, we all know what talent and fight and spirit now we have.”
With a purpose to advance to the knockout round of the tournament, the US has a sure bet: It must beat Iran on Tuesday within the teams’ final first-round game. The Americans said it felt just like the sudden-death knockout round was starting early.
And U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter said he liked the simplicity of the duty at hand, in a way: “We win or we’re out of the World Cup,” he said.
The English will go into next week knowing they need only a tie to advance, but additionally they left knowing the night could have gone much worse.
English fans within the stadium expressed their displeasure with the squad at the ultimate whistle. Afterward, Coach Gareth Southgate tried to play down the frustration of the evening.
“We’re in a very good position,” he said. “We’ve got slightly bit to do to qualify still, but we even have the chance to win the group.” He added, “The players were very down and dissatisfied after the sport, but I told them that’s not the way it’s going to be for the subsequent few days.”
The stakes of a World Cup meeting meant there was a way of occasion to the night, which brought together two of the biggest groups of traveling fans at this tournament inside Al Bayt Stadium, a towering structure designed to seem like a standard Bedouin tent.
Fans in each countries had circled the match on their calendars when the groups were announced earlier within the 12 months. It was hard to not, given the history and shut ties between the nations, the shared language, the common vocabulary of popular culture and, increasingly, sports fandom.
It was eagerly anticipated by the teams, too. Since taking on as head coach of the U.S. national team in 2018, Berhalter has repeated a single directive — to alter the best way the world views American soccer — again and again to his players.
In that regard, the team appears to be steadily progressing. It has more players than ever featuring on big clubs around the globe, lots of them in England. The old stereotypes about American players and their limitations, they hope, are continuing to dissolve.
“We’re chipping away at it,” Berhalter said about changing global perceptions in regards to the team. “You wish games like tonight to have the option to try this. Otherwise it’s hard for people to get an assessment of it. We’re not done. Our focus is to maintain going, and hopefully by the top of the tournament we give people something to discuss.”
Southgate praised the Americans for the best way they pressured his team. The Americans tweaked their normal formations within the flow of the sport, flaring players into unexpected areas on each offense and defense, forcing England to react and adjust.
“I feel we’re probably not afraid of playing against top tier teams, and I feel it really works in our favor if people think that we’re underdogs going into games because then they could take us evenly or something,” McKennie said. “I feel we surprise them each time.”
The USA needed confident performances everywhere in the field, and the players mostly delivered. McKennie, specifically, was dynamic, causing persistent problems for the England defense. Within the twenty sixth minute, he was left open to satisfy a cross near the penalty spot, but he chipped his shot well clear of the crossbar.
Lower than 10 minutes later, a sweet move by McKennie and a pointy combination with Yunus Musah left forward Christian Pulisic with an open look in a pocket of space on the left, just outside the penalty area. He banged a missile of a shot toward goal, however it bounced ferociously off the crossbar, the narrowest miss of the sport.
“It shows we will go toe to toe with a few of the most effective teams on this planet,” midfielder Brenden Aaronson said.
Just a little greater than an hour into the match, the coaches began tinkering. Southgate could call on Premier League stars like midfielder Jordan Henderson and forward Jack Grealish to alter the vibe of his flagging team, which by then had surrendered control of the flow of the sport to the younger Americans. Berhalter countered a bit later along with his own attacking options, midfielder Aaronson and forward Gio Reyna.
However the stalemate continued to the ultimate whistle, when the Americans were met with appreciative applause, and the England players were greeted by a cloud of boos from their end.