The Journeyman | Soccerball: Part 3 – World Cup 2030 with USA

The United States of America were heading to World Cup 2030 having cruised into the Finals by dismissing the soccer powerhouses of Panama, Dominican Republic and Curacao.

Even better news was that we now had many more players at our disposal as I’d turned on Major League Soccer at the start of 2030, so I was now actually able to see the league. When I did, a host of new players appeared in my squad, which meant a load of effort to work out who they were.

World Cup warm-ups

Luckily, we had a load of pre-World Cup friendlies that enabled us to do just that. We played Sweden in March, then Morocco and Serbia as tournament warm-up games.

We did well away to Sweden, only conceding an own goal and equalising through new centre-back Néstor Sánchez. Then we beat Morocco 2-1 in the first pre-World Cup warm-up game and beat Serbia 2-0 in the second. Lovely stuff!

World Cup selection

Our plans for the World Cup were dealt a huge blow when one of our star players Efrain Alvarez was ruled out for 3 months one day before the World Cup squad announcement.

And the final 23-man squad was as follows:

World Cup group stage

Our group began with Belgium thumping Cape Verde 6-0, then we faced Belgium in our opener. We played pretty well but they scored fairly on and we weren’t able to find a way through and fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat – our first loss as USA coach.

But we made up for that with a 6-0 win of our own over Cape Verde. Christian Pulisic opened the scoring before Cape Verde had even touched the ball then we scored four screamers by Sergino Dest, two from Tyler Adams and midfielder Greg Gray. Watch all the goals here:

World Cup knockout stage

Our opponent in the Second Round was not easy but could obviously have been more difficult having not won our group, as we drew Colombia. And “massive excitement was gripping the entire nation,” apparently. Prior to our game, a big shock saw Turkey – who’d lost to Peru in their opener – knock out Germany 2-1 in extra-time. And we were hoping to do the same against a Colombia side that was 6/4 favourites.

We began the game on the front foot and Pulisic went close with an effort that was well saved. But from the resulting corner he whipped in a cross that attacking midfielder Ignacio Hernandez headed home at the near post.

It became a ding-dong first-half and Colombia got level as our former Valencia player Diego Gutiérrez scored a great goal. Things stayed at 1-1 until half-time and the second half was a tighter affair with us just edging it until substitute Mario Taylor decided it was a great time to throw in a two-footer and got himself sent off.

I went to a defensive formation and we held out for a 1-1 draw. Then I threw on a second left-back to provide more cover and tried to hit them on the break. And it somehow paid off as Dest’s cross picked out substitute striker Jacob Fisher to head home his first goal for the USA. Great timing, Jacob.

We went even more defensive and held on for a huge win to advance to the Third Round of the World Cup!

Our reward was a tie against Spain, who’d just thumped China 7-0, so this will be far more difficult. Annoyingly, in addition to the idiot Taylor, we would also be without our best centre-back Sanchez through suspension and matchwinner Fisher managed to pick up a back strain in the Colombia game.

I went with a more defensive formation with Pulisic dropping back to right midfield and Weston McKennie playing in the holding midfield role. And we got off to a shock start as Pulisic curled a cross in from the right that centre-back Ron Cooper smashed home.

Spain obviously went on to dominate but we managed to survive until half-time at 1-0 up. I tried to encourage the boys and they seemed happy enough but Spain were awarded a very dubious-looking penalty on 52 minutes. Ansu Fati stepped up and slammed it home and now we were really up against it.

However, 7 minutes later we out tiki-takka’d Spain with a wonderful piece of play that ended up with the ball falling to Josh Sargent in the box and the striker smashed home to hand us an unlikely lead.

I kept things as they were until 80 minutes when I brought on another left-back for winger Timothy Weah and we went on big time-wasting efforts. I thought the ref was trying to give another penalty to Spain for who-knows-what but thankfully VAR said it was outside the box. But in reality, Spain offered very little, with only 19 shots to our 7, and we held on for a famous victory!

That had us through to the quarter-finals where we took on hosts Italy, who still had the likes of Sebastian Esposito, Nicolo Zaniolo, Federico Chiesa and Sandro Tonali plus two of our Valencia youngsters Davide Patti and Rodolfo Ravera, and hadn’t conceded a goal yet in the tournament.

The good news, for me anyway, was that we’d gone further into the tournament than Spain and my home nation England, who lost 4-2 to Brazil and probably regret not playing Philip Cohen.

Italy were far tougher opponents than Spain and scored early on through Emanuel Vignato. They dominated the first-half from there but held on to stay at 1-0 at half-time. The second half offered more of the same as Italy racked up 18 shots to our 5 but we did really well to keep them out.

Creating was more of an issue, that was until the very last minute when Pulisic swung in a free kick and Ron Cooper headed just over the bar with our only real goalsoring opportunity of the match.

We ultimately fell 1-0 to hosts Italy, which was a highly respectable effort. Luckily, the US FA agreed and were delighted with our performance at the World Cup.

We had several good performers through the tournament, but right-back Dest impressed with a goal, an assist and average rating of 7.54 from 5 appearances. Centre-back Sánchez also stood out with an average rating of 7.43 from 4 games and, at the point of our exit, had won the second-most headers and had the most interceptions.

Pulisic was also a key player with, at this point, the joint-6th most assists of 3. He has also covered more ground than any other player at the tournament at 41 miles over 5 games. McKenzie, Dest and Adams are in 5th, 8th and 9th. While midfielder Ignacio Hernandez got a goal and an assist with an average rating of 7.20.

World Cup result

The other quarter-finals saw Mexico shock Belgium 2-1, France defeat Holland 1-0 and Brazil edge past Portugal 1-0. Brazil then got past Italy on penalties in the semis after a 1-1 draw, and they would face France in the final after they beat Mexico 3-0.

Italy beat Mexico 2-0 in the third-place playoff, then France defeated Brazil 1-0 with a Kylian Mbappé penalty.

Mbappé also won the player of the tournament award, and our own Sylvinho Dest was named at right-back in the team of the tournament! England wonderkid George Clarke, who plays for Man United and is ridiculously good, won the golden boot with 10 goals in just 4 matches.

That brings our time with the USA to an end, as I don’t think we can take the side any further than the World Cup quarter-finals. But stay tuned for our next career move shortly!

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