England U21s see off USA's Olympic squad in Preston

By Jessica Smithson

England Under-21s made it a perfect 45th birthday for boss Gareth Southgate as they began the new season with a 1-0 victory over USA.

The Three Lions fielded a new-look team as they prepare for next Monday’s opening Euro Qualifier with Norway and they were put to the test by an organised and strong States side, who are building up to next month’s Olympic qualifiers.

England U21s 1-0 USA U23s

International Match
Deepdale, Preston North End
Thursday 3 September 2015

But after dominating spells of the game without managing to make a breakthrough, it took a goal from substitute James Wilson to settle the contest.

It was nothing less than England deserved, but most important for Southgate was the way his players worked together as a unit in what was their first match as an U21 team.

They started well too, enjoying the majority of possession, but they had to wait until the 12th minute for their first chance when Eric Dier headed a James Ward-Prowse free-kick just over the bar.

A chipped ball into the box from Nathan Redmond then picked out Dele Alli’s run, but the Spurs midfielder faced the difficulty of twisting his body into position before his volley went over.

It took a smart save from Jordan Pickford to keep England level moments later though, as Mario Rodriguez’s low drive from distance looked destined for the bottom corner until the fingertips of the Preston loanee turned it around the post.

Cauley Woodrow had the clearest opening of the half in the 26th minute though, when Jordon Ibe and Redmond combined from the left. Redmond spotted Woodrow in space in the box, but US keeper Cody Cropper was out quickly to block the Fulham striker’s shot.

And Woodrow came close again in the 30th minute, when Ibe’s low cross from the left picked him out, only for a last-ditch block to divert his shot behind.

image: http://www.thefa.com/sitecore/shell//~/media/images/thefaportal/pillars/england/u21s/2015-16/usa-norway/live/joe-gomez-drives-forwards-against-the-usa.ashx

Joe Gomez drives forwards against the USA
Joe Gomez drives forwards against the USA

England ended the half strongly in their pursuit of an opener and Cropper was again on the spot to make a smart save to stop Ward-Prowse’s free-kick in stoppage time.

That was to prove the MK Dons man’s final action, as USA coach Andi Herzog replaced him with Zack Steffen at the break.

Again, it was the Three Lions on the front foot in the second half as both Ibe and Matt Targett flashed dangerous crosses into the box in search of an opener.

image: http://www.thefa.com/sitecore/shell//~/media/images/thefaportal/pillars/england/u21s/2015-16/usa-norway/live/jordon-ibe-attempts-to-whip-in-a-cross.ashx

Jordon Ibe attempts to whip in a cross
Jordon Ibe attempts to whip in a cross

Then Ward-Prowse stung the hands of Steffen with a well-hit 25-yarder, before the skipper sent Ibe clear after a fine tackle on the edge of his own box.

The Liverpool forward showed his pace and power to advance into the area, where it took several USA defenders to eventually bundle the ball off him and clear the danger.

Southgate made wholesale changes on the hour mark, with all nine substitutes introduced across the pitch, undoubtedly with Monday’s game in Drammen in the head coach’s mind.

image: http://www.thefa.com/sitecore/shell//~/media/images/thefaportal/pillars/england/u21s/2015-16/usa-norway/live/emerson-hyndman-battles-with-dele-alli.ashx

Emerson Hyndman battles with Dele Alli
Emerson Hyndman battles with Dele Alli

England’s rhythm did not subside though and they were rewarded with a well-earned breakthrough in the 72nd minute.

A quickly-taken free-kick from Jake Forster-Caskey picked out Duncan Watmore in the box, where he nipped in ahead of a defender to poke the ball past Steffen, into the middle. Wilson was well-placed and on to it in a flash, making no mistake by sweeping the ball home from five yards.

Solly March almost scored a sublime second just a minute later, when Watmore slid a pass forward to him inside the left channel. Having spotted Steffen off his line, the Brighton winger clipped a measured chip over the Freiburg keeper only to see his effort hit the post and bounce to safety.

image: http://www.thefa.com/sitecore/shell//~/media/images/thefaportal/pillars/england/u21s/2015-16/usa-norway/live/james-wilson-slots-home-for-england-u21s.ashx

James Wilson slots home for England U21s
James Wilson slots home for England U21s

And Watmore had a good chance to get himself a goal too, after nipping clear onto a perfect pass from Wilson in the 82nd minute only to fire a shot over.

March then embarked on a strong run down the right, which took him into the box with Steffen’s legs blocking his eventual cross-shot.

Another goal would hardly have flattered the Three Lions, but with bigger tests to come, Southgate will be more than satisfied with what he saw as the road to Poland 2017 draws even closer.

England (4-3-3): 1 Jordan Pickford (Preston North End, loan from Sunderland); 2 Joe Gomez (Liverpool), 5 Calum Chambers (Arsenal), 6 Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), 3 Matt Targett (Southampton); 4 Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), 10 Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), 8 James Ward-Prowse (Southampton; captain); 7 Jordon Ibe (Liverpool), 9 Cauley Woodrow (Fulham), 11 Nathan Redmond (Norwich City).

Substitutes: 12 Dominic Iorfa (Wolverhampton Wanderers) for Targett 61, 13 Angus Gunn (Manchester City) for Pickford 61, 14 Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers) for Dier 61, 15 Jack Stephens (Middlesbrough, loan from Southampton) for Gomez 61, 16 Nathaniel Chalobah (Napoli, loan from Chelsea) for Ward-Prowse 61, 17 Jake Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion) for Alli 61, 18 Solly March (Brighton & Hove Albion) for Redmond 61, 19 Duncan Watmore (Sunderland) for Ibe 61, 20 James Wilson (Manchester United) for Woodrow, 61.

Goals: Wilson 72.

Head coach: Gareth Southgate

USA: 1 Cody Cropper (MK Dons), 3 Boyd Okwuonu (Real Salt Lake), 4 Shane O’Neill (Apollon Limassol; captain), 6 Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), 8 Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), 11 Alonso Hernandez (CD Juarez), 13 Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes), 15 Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), 17 Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stittgart), 18 Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Monchengladbach), 19 Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls).

Substitutes: 12 Zack Steffen (Freiburg) for Cropper ht, 20 Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy) for Hernandez 61, 10 Miguel Ponce (Chivas de Guadalajara) for Okwuonu 61, Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur) for O’Neil, 21 Matt Polster (Chicago Fire) for Hyndman 63, 23 Rubio Rubin (Utrecht) for Rodriguez 63, 9 Gboly Ariyibi (Huddersfield Town) for Miller 86, 7 Dillon Serna (Vancouver Whitecaps) for Pelosi 86.

Substitutes not used: 5 Will Packwood (N/A), 14 Benji Joya (Club Necaxa), 22 Ethan Horvath (Molde), 24 Maki Tall (Sion).

Head coach: Andi Herzog.

Referee: Alan Mario San (Malta)

Assistant referees: Roberto Vella & Luke Portelli (Malta)

Fourth official: Steve Martin (England)

Attendance: 10187

Read more at http://www.thefa.com/news/england/under-21/2015/sep/usa-report-030915#02hukmaMbO1Vjrtp.99

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