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N. Ireland vs. USA preview: USMNT hope to keep momentum going, this time against European opponent

With the best squad yet assembled during Gregg Berhalter’s time as US manager, getting past Jamaica was not much of a struggle this past Thursday as the US ran out 4-1 winners. As was the case back during the November friendly window, the US looked good against a CONCACAF opponent at a neutral European venue. Now the challenge is to replicate that success against a European opponent in their own stadium. In November, that was an incredibly dull 0-0 draw against Wales in Cardiff. This time around it’s against Northern Ireland in Belfast.

It may not feel like it because of the fractured and abbreviated schedule in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the US Men’s National Team is currently on something resembling a hot streak. Dating back to November of 2019, the US is unbeaten in eight straight games, the longest such stretch during Berhalter’s tenure. Over that time, the record is 7-0-1 and a combined score of 32-4. Granted a number of these games have come against lesser opponents (namely CONCACAF foes) but after missing the 2018 World Cup and then laying massive eggs in the biggest games under Berhalter in 2019 (two losses to Mexico and the first loss to Canada since Ronald Reagan was president), the US should be in no mood to apologize for taking care of business.

Thursday’s game against Jamaica saw a number of firsts. Most impressive was Sergino Dest opening his UMSNT scoring account with a fabulous strike from distance to put the US up 1-0 (this coming after scoring a pair of goals for Barcelona earlier in the month). Another set of firsts was four US players (Luca del la Torre, Nicholas Giocchini, Yunus Musah, and Josh Sargent) notching their first international assists. Additionally, Jordan Siebatcheu made his international debut, coming on as a substitute in the 82nd minute.

Since making a dream run to the Round of 16 at Euro 2016 in France, it’s been a very rough time for Northern Ireland. They missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as failing to qualify for Euro 2020 (now set to be played in 2021). UEFA Nations League has also not been kind to them. In fact, Northern Ireland has not won a game since October of 2019 (a 3-2 friendly win over the Czech Republic in Prague). Since then, their record is an appalling 0-7-4. Their roster for this March window (including a 2-0 World Cup Qualifying loss to Italy on the 25th as well as another World Cup Qualifier against Bulgaria on the 31st) features plenty of experience, though with a competitive game shortly after this friendly, it remains doubtful that they roll a full-strength lineup out. The captain is Steven Davis with 125 caps and 12 goals. Elsewhere, defender Jonny Evans has 90 caps and 4 goals to his name while midfielders Corry Evans and Niall McGinn have 65 and 62 caps respectively. Up front, Kyle Lafferty leads the way with 80 caps and 20 goals.

When and where to watch the game on US TV:
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Windsor Park
Belfast, Northern Ireland
12:05pm ET
Live on FOX, UniMas, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling Blue, Hulu + Live TV and Vidgo

All-Time Series
Northern Ireland leads 1-0-0

Last Meeting
August 11, 1948
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland 5-0 USA

Current FIFA Ranking
USA: 22
Northern Ireland: 45

Next Game
Sunday May 30, 2021
International Friendly
Switzerland vs. USA
Kybunpark
St. Gallen, Switzerland

 

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