What can we expect from the Unites States men's national team as the World Cup's group stage comes to a close? Former ESPN senior researcher Paul Carr, now Senior Director of Content for TruMedia and covering his fourth men's World Cup, ESPN FC host Dan Thomas and ESPN broadcaster and analyst Dalen Cuff offer their tips and betting suggestions for the United States' third (and potentially last) match in the tournament.
So, it all comes down to this for the USMNT. Win against Iran and they advance. Draw or lose and they go home. They're currently the favorite in this game (-110) and are coming off a strong effort versus England. Let's lay it on the line. Will they win?
Carr: Maybe I'm trying a reverse jinx, but I don't think the U.S. pull it off. Iran have been a little better at attacking in this tournament, with Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun both being better striker options than anyone the U.S. has. Plus, Iran's defense isn't as bad as indicated by the 6-2 loss to England, because England just happened to finish everything. Iran is likely go through with a draw, and I think they'll get at least that. I'll take Iran double chance at -120.
Cuff: Well I hope Paul's double jinx works for our team and my wallet, because I'm taking Berhalter's battalion to win (+101). If the U.S. can approximate the performance, especially in the midfield, that they had against England? I think they can generate the one goal that may win this game. Iran's approach will be particularly interesting to see since a draw plus an England win would see them through to the next round. I think this game will be really tight, especially early. Coming into Monday we've seen 15 of the 28 matches have a halftime score line of 0-0, I think this another one of those. I like under 0.5 first-half goals at (+165).
Matt Turner has yet to be beaten in the run of play this World Cup. Will his streak of steady play in front of the net continue? Would you bet (+130) for him to keep a clean sheet or on the team as a whole (+190) to win to nil?
Carr: I don't mind the price on a U.S. clean sheet, but I'm wary of it because this seems like a game that could get weird late, when one team (likely the U.S.) pushes for a goal. As my comment above implies, I'm not on board with a U.S. win to nil.
Cuff: I do like the clean sheet price and may play that. The U.S. has conceded so few chances (and only one goal which was a penalty following a mental breakdown by Walker Zimmerman, who committed a foul in the box). However, this second half could really open up if any goal is scored and either team needs to push. I can't play win to nil in this scenario.
Christian Pulisic hit the crossbar against England. Will he finally put one over the line against Iran? He's currently a +250 anytime goal scorer. If not him, what Americans would you take a chance on here in what could be the team's farewell outing?
Carr: Timothy Weah (+275) is the American I'd play if I had to, though I wouldn't make any bet until the lineup is out. Taremi (+300) is tempting, too, as the probable penalty taker for Iran. He's been in great for FC Porto this season, with 13 goals including five goals in five Champions League games.
Cuff: As Paul outlined, can't make any play on this until you see the lineup. I took Weah as the leading scorer for the USMNT before the tournament started, so I'd lean there. I also think Weston McKennie at +480 is worth a look. He's always dangerous on set pieces, which could create an "old-school U.S." kind of goal, but he also makes runs into the box from the midfield and is dangerous.
Any other props that you're thinking about?
Carr: This has to be another under game, right? Or at least another under first half? I'd rather play under 0.5 first-half goals (+165) since, as mentioned, the end of this game could turn into a crazy track meet. Through two games, the four U.S. and Iran first halves averaged eight shots and under 1.0 expected goal each. I think we'll see that caution again on Tuesday.
Cuff: I was always told to "read all the instructions" before taking a test. I didn't do that. I agree with Paul's pick above. The under 2.5 goals is -155, so there's no value there. Betting against "both teams to score" at -130 is slightly better, but I wouldn't play either of those at the current prices.