Ah, the Motherland.
For so long fans of the U.S. national team have looked over at the English national team with envy. The players, infrastructure, coaching and prestige they possess has been head and shoulders above what the USMNT could offer. That was then.
What about now? How far ahead, if at all, are England?
If you go by the latest FIFA World Rankings, the difference between the two nations is miniscule. England are ranked 11th in the world, the U.S. come in at 14th but both have flip-flopped above and below each other in recent months.
On the pitch it’s hard to split the Three Lions and Nats, as at the last World Cup in South Africa they battled it out to a 1-1 draw in their opening games of the tournament.
In terms of their playing squads, this is where we can break it down to be more specific as to who is the stronger team, right here, right now.
Let’s take a look by position and decide who comes out on top.
The USA or England?
This is a toughy to start with. England’s first-choice ‘keeper is Joe Hart, who just won the Premier League title with Manchester City and is in fine form. However the 27-year-old had a dodgy spell to start the season and is still prone to a monumental error. As for the U.S., they have Tim Howard (the bearded fellow who looks like his head is on upside down) between the sticks. Playing in the PL for over a decade, Howard is a legend at Everton and is about as solid and reliable as they come. He gets the nod over Hart and with Brad Guzan in reserve, he would beat out both Ben Foster and Fraser Forster. The USA takes this one.
Another tough one as defense could easily be described as both teams’ Achilles heel. When their players are fully-fit England’s backline of Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines is particularly robust. However with Jagielka struggling with injury and Glen Johnson coming in for Walker, it looks a little shaky with few options as back up. That said, stars like Luke Shaw are waiting in the wings. As for the USMNT, apart from Matt Besler and perhaps DaMarcus Beasley at left back, Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t know his strongest back four. Many would argue Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron should start alongside Besler with Omar Gonzalez recovering from a knee injury. For their experience alone, England get the nod here.
There’s no doubt about it, England have a perfect mix of youth and experience. Veterans Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are augmented by the likes of Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling. The Three Lions are wonderfully talented in this area and seem to have found a system that finally suits them. The USMNT may play the diamond with Jermaine Jones sitting in front of the back four which allows Michael Bradley to roam. Is that his best position? If the U.S. are to get the best out of their team, they need to get the best out of Bradley who is the man that makes everything tick. Guys like Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya could find it hard to flourish against the big teams. England win the midfield battle.
This is pretty straight-forward as the likes of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge would get into most national teams if they were available. Rooney’s vision and penchant for the spectacular make him a perfect foil for Sturridge who uses his pace and unpredictability to get in-behind defenses and create havoc. Together they are a real handful. The U.S. have Jozy Altidore who has scored one in 31 PL games for Sunderland this season. Add in the likes of MLSer Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson and even Clint Dempsey in a withdrawn forward role, I still can’t see past Rooney and Sturridge. England get the thumbs up again.
What both managers have done over the past few years deserves great credit as Klinsmann has ushered in a new style of play in the USMNT and has helped the nation compete and kick on against some of the worlds best teams in friendly games. Hodgson has turned England into a well-drilled unit that were penalty kicks away from reaching the semifinals of the Euros in 2012 and they qualified rather comfortably from a tough group for the World Cup. For the huge changes he has made with the USA and his Gold Cup success, I give Klinsmann the nod here as his job was very difficult from the get-go. USA pull one back.
England wins it 3-2 but it is a close run thing. The USA and England have perhaps never been this closely matched in their history as soccer nations. Both countries would be delighted to get out of their groups this summer in Brazil and have realistic expectations of their chances of progressing. Both are on the right path as they build for the future with young talent, but who will get their first and will they be side-by-side for the foreseeable future?