In a friendly between an England side who made the World Cup semi-final, and an American one that entirely failed to reach Russia, the big story here is, without a doubt, the inclusion of Wayne Rooney, England’s record goalscorer, for his 120th and final cap. Rooney has been playing his club football in the USA’s capital, for DC United, and will get a second-half runout for his home country against the nation where he earns his salary.
Outside of the Rooney storyline, areas of interest include the chance for England debuts for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Brighton defender Lewis Dunk. The visitors are likely to hand a start to their star player, Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, while there could be appearances by the sons of two of the best strikers of the 1990s. Goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (son of Jurgen) is in line for a debut, while winger Timothy Weah (whose father is Liberian president and former AC Milan striker George) may start.
England vs USA Prediction: England 4-1 USA
It will be hard to avoid the feel of a carnival atmosphere in this match – England are facing a limited opponent, and the “farewell match” element engendered by Rooney’s selection makes it feel less like a standard international. That may, at least, remove some of the scrappy tension that often makes major international games a pain to sit through. Being blunt, the USMNT are at present some way below their (still somewhat mediocre) heights of the past, and with England able to call on livewire Jadon Sancho among others, this should be a comfortable home win. It’s England, though, so they’ll probably concede.
Our recommended tip: Wayne Rooney LGS
Rooney’s level of performance in MLS – he energised his club from a team propping up the Eastern Conference and dragged them into the playoffs – shows he still has the hunger to play at a high level. The former Evertonian will be kept out of the starting lineup to ensure him a special reception when he comes on in the second half, and this may also allow him the space to play to his optimum level. Given his tendency to mark big occasions with a goal, what better way to bid farewell to the Three Lions than with a trademark Rooney thunderbolt? William Hill’s price of 6/1(7.00) seems generous in the circumstances.
For two countries with a “special relationship”, England and the USA meet fairly rarely on the football pitch, with the last encounter coming in the group stage at the 2010 World Cup. Steven Gerrard gave England the lead on the night at Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Stadium, firing home in the fourth minute from Emile Heskey’s layoff. However, as the first half drew towards a close, Clint Dempsey’s half-struck shot wormed through Robert Green’s grasp, levelling the game at 1-1 – where it stayed.
The USA have also inflicted two of the more wounding defeats in England’s history. Joe Gaetjens’ header in 1950 secured one of the World Cup’s greatest shocks. In Boston in 1993, meanwhile, goals from Thomas Dooley and Alexi Lalas inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Graham Taylor’s ill-fated Lions.
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Players to watch: Callum Wilson & Christian Pulisic
That Callum Wilson is still playing football at all after ACL tears in both knees in recent years is reason enough to celebrate. Both injuries have come since he fired Bournemouth to the Premier League in 2015, and he could easily have lost his competitive edge as a result of either one. Not a bit of it, though – he’s scored six times in 11 games so far this season, and his committed approach to the game along with those goals has been a major factor in his club’s excellent start to the season.
At just 20, Pulisic is extremely young for a player deemed to be carrying a nation’s hopes on his back, but he is easily the best player that the USA has produced in the last several decades. His dribbling ability and attacking instincts are without peer in the rest of the squad, and he may be regretting not declaring for Croatia, which he could have done on ancestry grounds. Part of a Dortmund squad riding high at the top of the Bundesliga, if the Stars and Stripes are to get anything here it’s likely to come through him.