LONDON – Christian Pulisic played just his second match with the U.S. national team in 13 months, and the Americans failed to muster much of an attack in a 3-0 loss to England on Thursday night that marked Wayne Rooney’s farewell with the Three Lions.
Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold scored in a 104-second second span midway through the first half, just after Pulisic was denied by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, and Callum Wilson beat American goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 77th minute. The United States is 0-3 and has been outscored 7-0 in three matches at old and new Wembley.
“We were a little timid and we allowed a little bit too much space. Their spacing, their movement was very challenging for our group,” U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan said.
Rooney, who joined Major League Soccer’s D.C. United in July, entered in the 58th minute in his 120th international appearance, the most among England outfield players. The best chance for the 33-year-old striker was in stoppage time, when his low shot was saved by Guzan to the frustration of a crowd of 68,155. His finished with an England record 53 goals.
“Another yard it would have been in ... and it would have great,” Rooney said. “But in some ways it’s great because if I did score it would have opened another whole lot of debate whether that goal should count or not. In some ways it’s probably better it didn’t go in.”
U.S. center backs John Brooks and Matt Miazga had trouble closing down England, a World Cup semifinals, and the Americans dropped to 4-3-4 under Sarachan going into Sarachan’s likely finale, against Italy on Tuesday at Genk, Belgium.
Pulisic, now 20, is the top player on a rebuilding American team that does not have a competitive match until the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June. Since the loss at Trinidad and Tobago last October that ended a streak of seven straight World Cup appearances for the U.S., Pulisic had played just once for his country, in a May exhibition against Bolivia near his home in Chester, Pennsylvania.
He showed his speed in the first half, breaking in alone on goal, but Pickford was quick off his line. This marked the first time Pulisic played together with midfielders Weston McKennie, Tim Weah and Tyler Adams, who entered during the second half.
Sarachan played him on a wing, where Borussia Dortmund used Pulisic, rather than the center of the field.
“That’s always going to be a debate” Sarachan said. “You have arguably our best player and so most would think, well, we should use him in the middle of the field, and I’m not saying maybe that won’t happen, but I also know that when you watch him play for his club in the position he plays, he’s very dangerous in confined space, so our thinking tonight was let’s put him in a comfortable spot, having the freedom to cut inside and make the game, and I think there were moments when he did.”
Sarachan’s successor will face the same question.
“I think as we move along, as this program moves along, as players around him get settled and allow him maybe more freedom as a central guy, that’s probably a place that would make sense,” Sarachan said.
After a giveaway by Pulisic, England went ahead in the 25th minute when Dele Alli took the ball into the corner and passed to Lingard the top of the penalty area. Lingard took a touch as Miazga failed to close him down, then lofted the ball to the far corner over Guzan’s outstretched arm
Wilson dribbled into the penalty area in the 27th at Brooks and Miazga. The ball bounded out to Jadon Sancho, who passed to an unrushing Alexander-Arnold. Brooks failed to challenge him and Alexander-Arnold beat Guzan to the far post from with an angled shot from 10 yards.
“Catches your group a little bit deflated,” Sarachan said.
Wilson scored off a pass from Fabian Delph, beating Brooks to a cross and putting in a volley from 7 yards. Wilson and Alexander-Arnold scored their first international goals.