World Cup 2022: Can USA anger England after Wales slap in the face? NJ stars might hold the answer

Doha, Qatar – If the USA men’s national team is to emerge from Group B at the World Cup, the contribution of a trio from New Jersey will be crucial.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter – born and raised in Tenafly – will look back on the second half of Monday’s 1-1 draw with Wales as he admitted his side couldn’t cope with the Dragons’ tactical change after losing the first 45 minutes had dominated.

“They got very direct,” said Berhalter, who played at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark. “That set us back a bit. There were times when we were on the back foot.”

This after the Americans took the lead when Christian Pulisic played through Tim Weah for a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.

Wales tied the game after 82 minutes when Gareth Bale converted a penalty to Matt Turner of Park Ridge, New Jersey, who received a 7.5 fotmob rating and behind midfielder Tyler Adams, who was weaned from professional play in New Jersey, Second was Red Bulls Academy and then the team.

Turner justified the high note with a single moment that saved USA from possible defeat and a more difficult position in the group. With the USA leading 1-0, Turner produced an acrobatic reaction that Kiefer Moore parried.

On Friday, Turner meets England, who scored six goals in their opening win over Iran, including two from Bukayo Saka, Turner’s Arsenal team-mate.

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“I think it’s pretty clear that he’s one of the young stars of world football,” Turner said. “He’s a top top player and I don’t have to tell anyone on our team how dangerous he is in the game. He scores goals in many ways. He’s really developed, matured.”

Meanwhile, Turner’s story is the kind that finds its roots in Hollywood.

“It puts Rudi It’s a shame,” Turner’s college coach Carl Rees said. “It really is a fairy tale story.”

Rees welcomed Turner as a walk-on at Connecticut’s Fairfield University, but didn’t insert the backup until halfway through a game against Iona in Turner’s second campaign.

“I wasn’t convinced that the No. 1 goaltender was in it,” Rees said in his 27th season with the Stags. “In my wisdom, I’ve decided to invite Matt Turner to make his college debut. And it didn’t go according to plan.”

Turner, who didn’t play an organized soccer game until the age of 16, had a moment that lit up social media when he was revealed on ESPN’s “Not Top 10.” An Iona shot ricocheted high off the crossbar and Turner was caught between a save and a catch. Instead, the ball slipped off his chest and into the net for an embarrassing own goal.

“The first thought is, ‘How is he going to finish the game? Will he break into pieces?’” Rees said. “He didn’t. He saved, came for crosses, controlled his box and had good distribution. He got up and continued. That’s Matt’s strength – his mental strength.”

Turner eventually asked to meet Rees and the goalkeeping coach, saying he believed he should be the No. 1 goaltender.

“It was informal after practice and it was like, ‘Hey, Reesy, can I have a chat with you?'” Rees recalled. “We did it at the foot of the stairs in front of the sports department. He pointed out to us that he thought he would train better. We already had the feeling that the No. 1 was faltering a bit.”

Turner was soon given priority in Fairfield’s remaining games.

As a senior, Turner and the Stags scored the lowest goals compared to the Division I average. Rees recommended Turner to New England Revolution general manager Mike Burns. Turner got a trial and was promoted to the senior team, eventually being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021. Less than a year later, he signed for current EPL leaders Arsenal FC.

While Turner is a sure starter for Berhalter, another New Jersey star Brenden Aaronson, a backup in the opener, could earn the nod. Aaronson, 22, of Medford, NJ, was called into the game against Wales with a third of the game remaining and missed a shot at the back post. The energetic, smart midfielder (or winger) could – and perhaps should – start.

The tie, Aaronson said, was “a slap in the face” because “you feel like you’ve got the game and you’re going to win the game.”

England have never beaten the USA in a World Cup (0-1-1), but the Americans will be heavy underdogs. They will point to Saudi Arabia’s shock victory over Argentina and Japan’s excitement over Germany.

“If you have a team that cares about the same message,” Turner said, “you can beat anyone, any day.”

Glenn Crooks is a former Rutgers women’s soccer coach.

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