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In a match played for the Wayne Rooney Foundation, it was the star striker’s national team that took the spoils, rather than the nation where he now plays his soccer for DC United. England ran out comfortable winners in a game that the USA team rarely threatened the English goal.
Rooney was selected as a one-off appearance (his 120th cap) for the game despite being out of the national set up since November 2016, and this caused many ripples amongst media and fans. Such is the way England are progressing under manager Gareth Southgate, many saw his inclusion as a set backwards. In the end it was decided that he would not start the game, and it was just after the hour mark that he made his appearance on the field. He didn’t score, although he did have a low shot saved late on in the game.
The charity set up by the player supports disadvantaged children through other supporting charities such as the NSPCC, Claire House Children’s Hospice and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. The Football Association stated that even though the game would honour Rooney for his great work on and off the field, none of the actual gate receipts would go to the Foundation. There would instead be collections around the stadium, auctions in hospitality areas, as well of course raising public awareness. Given the furore in the build-up to the game that was a given.
For the USMNT it was a test that hadn’t been equalled in quite a while, something that interim head coach Dave Sarachan welcomed. He said at the start of the year that 2018 would be one of opportunity, and this was proved as a total of 50 players had won at least one cap in the calendar year so far, including 19 making their national team debuts. This was the first time the two sides had met since their opening group game at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and only the third time they had played at Wembley Stadium.
Despite early and consistent pressure from England, in front of a respectable crowd of 68,155, it was a breakaway that almost saw the US take the lead. Weston McKennie linked up with Christian Pulisic and he was clear one on one with the keeper, but the ever-growing confidence in England Jordan Pickford pushed his goal bound effort away. Moments later the breakthrough came when Jesse Lingard curled a great shot high into Brad Guzan’s net. Then less than two minutes later the hosts doubled their lead, the impressive Jordan Sancho crossed low and Trent Alexander-Arnold rifled home.
The US came out much stronger in the opening periods of the second half, which also made the loud away support more excitable. Most of the good work went through Pulisic, not only did he have another chance saved but he also sent over a cross that Bobby Wood headed against the bar. The game was sealed when Callum Wilson on his debut for England finished off a neat move, beating Guzan at his near post. On a night of few positives for the US team, and looking ahead to next summers CONCACAF Gold Cup, they will be enthused by the play of the attacking play of Pulisic, McKennie and Wood. They also have time on their side as the only outfield player over 26 was Jorge Villafana.