Since the US was drawn into England’s group in the World Cup, I have seen and heard lots of discussion of why the USMNT can either draw or beat England. Yet, to this point I have not seen one single shred of analysis to defend this point.
ESPN commentators and bloggers alike have made reference to 1950, the heart of American players, and the excitement of being drawn in with an opponent perceived to be arrogant and over rated. Yet, we still do not have anything passing for analysis.
It is entirely possible that every single field player the US takes to South Africa 2010 would not be good enough to play for England. Unlike Northern Ireland, who beat England in 2005 with a similarly labeled “England C” side, the US doesn’t have home advantage or the track record of sustained success against European nations. That’s why it is significant that a player like Ashley Young doesn’t get a long look from Capello: Young would without question be the star of the US team. The same could be said for his Aston Villa team mates James Milner and Stewart Downing, who may or may not be on the plane to South Africa.
In the modern history of American World Cup qualification, the Yanks have beaten a European side once in eleven tries. Eight of those matches have been loses, some by heavily lopsided scores. When you consider that many US based pundits including ESPN’s Tommy Smyth, GOL TV’s Phil Schoen and FOX Sports Jamie Trecker do not believe the talent level on the current US team is better than the sides from 1994 or 1998, you begin realize the bluster coming from certain quarters of the football community in the United States, is just that.
The United States Soccer Federation and other interested parties have spent over $50 million on player development programs since the 1998 World Cup disaster. Yet, for all this money we have a United States side that resembles the 1998 team. England is told that they should fear the USA, but aside from a very significant result versus Spain this summer, the US’ record against top competition going back to 2003 is abysmal, and in fact far worse than it was in the period from 1995 to 2002.
Even at goalkeeper, the USA’s perceived strength is exposed. Every top keeper the US has fielded this decade (Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Tim Howard) has been beaten out at the club level by a current England keeper (Paul Robinson, David James and Ben Foster, respectively).
So what becomes the equalizer between two obviously unbalanced sides: Tactics? One manager in England’s Group has the tactical savvy to try and draw England into a stalemate: Matjaz Kek, the manager of Slovenia has proven throughout the qualification he understands how to put his side in the best position to achieve results.
Contrast that with the US side that under Bob Bradley has routinely conceded early second half goals after the opposition makes tactical changes. We saw Denmark score three in nine minutes last month right after halftime. Honduras, Haiti, Mexico, Italy, and Brazil all scored goals this year right after making tactical changes which the US manager did not recognize until too late- in the case of Haiti, Italy and Brazil, it was multiple goals scored before the US made a tactical change to attempt to change its fortunes.
Fabio Capello is a tactical maestro. Believing he will not find a way to take apart a severely flawed and perhaps arrogant opponent after month of preparation is laughable. I personally hope my sentiments and attempts to analyze this matchup, is wrong, but the US’ has to this point given us no reason to believe otherwise.
FOR THE RECORD: I predicted the US had a good chance to beat Spain BEFORE the match, when other analysts were saying the US would get thrashed. Here is the pre-game post from our sister site, MLS Talk.