United States thankful for Musah as ex-England teen frustrates Three Lions again

Getty Images

An unprecedented November-December World Cup has thrown up some unusual calendar clashes in 2022. On Thursday, the United States celebrated Thanksgiving at the finals for the first time.

USMNT captain Tyler Adams was "thankful to spend the day with this many Americans", he said. "It's probably the first time in a long time.

"It's usually just been me and my girlfriend, so I'm very lucky to call this place my family as well. It's like my extended family. It's very, very nice to feel very comfortable here. It's an exciting day."

Coach Gregg Berhalter was not asked the same question, but words were not required to confirm his gratitude for Yunus Musah's decision to represent the United States.

Adams and Berhalter were speaking on the eve of a World Cup stalemate with England – a fixture Musah would have long hoped to play in, just perhaps not in the blue of the USMNT.

Until 2019, Musah played for England's youth teams. He may have been born in New York City, where his mother was on holiday at the time, but the midfielder was "one of ours", Gareth Southgate said on Thursday.

The England manager acknowledged Musah was not part of his immediate plans as the world closed down for the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. By the time he had chance to properly assess the Valencia teenager's credentials, he was a United States international.

"It has to be a decision the player makes with his heart," Berhalter explained. "The most important was if he was going to feel comfortable with us. And he did."

It is perhaps difficult to work out where Musah might have fitted into the England midfield, which includes Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice, but he was more than a match for the Three Lions on Friday.

After the excitement of the 6-2 opening win over Iran, England appeared determined to settle into the sterile possessional domination of old, but Musah would not let them.

The 19-year-old pressed high up the pitch and snapped into challenges. When Christian Pulisic hit the crossbar with the best effort of the first half, Musah supplied the pass.

As their team unexpectedly took charge, the American fans delighted in chanting: "It's called soccer!" Musah might have been excused for continuing to call it "football".

He was far from the only standout performer for "the underdogs" – a tag Adams vowed to "carry with pride". His intensity is familiar to a Premier League audience, but this version of Pulisic may not be.

Although Berhalter suggested ahead of the game Chelsea fans had seen the best of Pulisic, Stamford Bridge season-ticket holders will do well to recall too many displays of this ilk. England noted his threat, attempting to harry the winger but possibly lacking a player of Musah's talents to shut him down entirely.

Still, none of the former Borussia Dortmund man's four shots troubled Jordan Pickford, and the United States could consider this an opportunity missed – despite Harry Kane's header wide at the other end in stoppage time.

England remain winless against the USMNT in three attempts at World Cups, but Berhalter's side will wonder if they might have added another famous victory to the ultimate upset of 1950.

In the end, as well as keeping both sides firmly in contention, a goalless draw – the United States' first at a World Cup but England's 12th – might have suited one man in particular.

Indeed, new American hero Musah was surely the only England-eligible player to emerge from the match with any real credit as the Three Lions were booed off.