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Analysis Of England's Rivals, Part 1: USA

The US national soccer team poses for a photograph before their international friendly soccer match in Philadelphia Pennsylvania

US football has come on leaps and bounds in the last two decades. When the US hosted the World Cup in 1994, most of their squad had never played in a professional league. Fast forward to present day and Major League Soccer is becoming a huge brand with star names such as David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg playing in the division. Thierry Henry has also been linked with a move to New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference.

The national team is also improving rapidly, as they showed at last year’s Confederations Cup. In the semi-final against Spain, the Americans produced a fairy tale story and won 2-0 with goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. After beating arguably one of the greatest International sides ever, goals from Dempsey and an astonishing breakaway goal by Landon Donovan gave the US a 2-0 half-time lead against Brazil in the final. Brazil later took advantage of the American’s naivety and won 3-2 to write the final chapter of the fairytale.

World Cup qualification was routine enough for Bob Bradley’s men. The Americans finished the final round of CONCACAF qualifying top of their table with 20 points and just two losses, having defeated feeble opposition in the form of Cuba, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala in previous rounds.

The US look to be formidable opponents for England in their Group C clash on June 12th in Rustenburg. Since their Confederations Cup heroics, the US have also reached the final of the albeit less reputable CONCACAF Gold Cup and beaten Euro 2008 semi-finalists Turkey in a recent friendly. Fabio Capello’s men will know all about the main threats coming from their opponents. Donovan was on loan at Everton last season, and has won an incredible 122 caps, more than any other American. During his time in England, LA Galaxy’s Donovan became a darling of the Merseyside terraces for his unrelenting workrate and creativity on the ball. Donovan scored twice for the Toffees in 10 league games and was named the club’s player of the month for January 2010. Dempsey has also reached the Europa League final with Fulham in a superb domestic season for the former New England Revolution man.

American media and fans have high hopes for 20-year-old striker Altidore. The Villareal man struggled for form whilst on loan in England with Hull City, but his international performances have been outstanding. Altidore scored a hat-trick against Trinidad and Tobago, making him the youngest man to do so for his national side at just 19. A keen Twitter fan, Altidore has always been tipped for glory and represented his side at under 17, under 20 and under 23 levels.

Bradley is likely to organise his troops in a 4-4-2 formation with Donovan or Dempsey as a support striker to Altidore. Donovan will be the danger man who John Terry and Rio Ferdinand will need to keep tabs on. The former Bayern Munich loan man put in a sterling performance against Turkey and set up both of his team’s goals. Expect goals galore when the Americans play, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 7 outings and Jonathan Spector looks a slightly worry at right-back. Should Aaron Lennon travel to South Africa, he would easily have the beating of the slow, flat footed Spector. But despite a shaky defence, goalkeepers Tim Howard and Marcus Hahnemann are both hugely experienced at the highest level and very dependable.

The US have an impressive record of qualifying for every World Cup since 1990 and look to be heading for a battle with Algeria for second place in Group C where they are also joined by Slovenia. They would possibly face Germany in the second round if they finish as runners-up in their group, and Bradley’s men will therefore have a tough task at hand but they have spirit in abundance and a never say die attitude. England will have a tricky test on June 12th and will come up against a team who thrives on driving through open defences and scoring on the counter attack. England and the US have pledged allegiance to each other in many aspects of politics and the war on terror in recent years, but there will be no more favours handed out at the World Cup.

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  1. Matt T.

    June 1, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    You guys are a bit rough on Alistair. I thought this was well researched for someone who does not follow the US regularly. The only thing questionable is assuming Spector will start at right back, as I would say Cherundolo probably has the edge. No matter who plays, the weakness of the US is definitely at right and left back.

    • ranndino

      June 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      I think the bit of criticism was not directed at Alistair personally. He indeed did a good job for “someone who does not follow the US regularly”, but that’s the point of the criticism. Perhaps it’d be better to get someone who has more than a very passing interest in the American squad for this particular article.

  2. ranndino

    June 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    To add to what’s been said mostly based on the last friendly vs. Turkey…

    Before I do that though I do have to admit that the author seems to exhibit only a passing knowledge of the USA squad mainly focusing on the players who play in the EPL. I would venture a guess that Alistair has not seen too many USA games. For example, the talk about Spector being a weakness, as pointed out by a few commentors already, shows that. Cherundolo is a definite starter at that position & pace is his strength.

    On to the impressions from the Turkey game. Torres & Findley really impressed me and made a huge impact in the 2nd half. Findley pushed the turkish defense back with his speed thus creating more space for Landon Donovan & Clint Dempsey to work their magic. Findley just needs to get his head up when running with the ball. He scares the defenders with his speed & 1v1 skills, but seems to be blind to where his teammates are. There were a few times when he totally ignored open teammates after making great individual runs. Having said that Findley’s perfectly weighted ball to Donovan (who then passed it to Dempsey for the goal) was a thing of beauty & he may still be the closest thing the US has to Charlie Davies who would have undoubtedly been one of the starting strikers had it not been for that tragic car accident.

    Torres was extremely impressive to me as he basically ran the game from central midfield. In fact, so impressive that I now think that perhaps he should start alongside a defensive midfielder (either Bradley’s son, Edu or Clarke). Very calm on the ball, good vision, great distribution. I’m just worried that Bradley will choose to be really conservative & try to pack the midfield with ball winners instead of creative players. Overall, the US has some good options in midfield. Creative players like Torres, Feilhaber, Donovan & Holden as well as good ball winners Bradley, Edu & Clarke make midfield the Americans’ strongest position, other than in goal.

    My main concern is the defense which has looked rather scary in the pre-World Cup friendlies with fitness concerns over Oguchi Onyewu & the absolutely shambolic performances of Jonathan Bornstein. I’m still not entirely sure how the latter hasn’t played himself off the squad & it is my hope that he will not see any action in South Africa. A cone presents a bigger challenge to get around than Bornstein & he also looks to be in a constant state of panic when on the ball.

    Upfront is also an area of concern as the American strikers do not have neither the pedigree or any World Cup experience. Sometimes the latter is a positive as the naivete serves well to not think about all the pressure. Hopefully the strong midfield play will overcome those deficiencies, but I don’t expect the US to score many goals. Combined with the defensive frailties I’ve outlined this may be a problem.

    Lastly, I also don’t understand the complete lack of respect for Slovenia. I saw both of their games vs. Russia and this is not an also ran in this group. In fact, neither the US or England should be penciling in 3 points vs. the Slovenians just yet. Not to mention that they’re surely a much better team than Algeria and it would not surprise me one bit if they are one of the teams that comes out of this group.

  3. sucka99

    June 1, 2010 at 8:59 am

    US and Algeria battling for second? No respect for Slovenia, eh?

  4. Izzy

    May 31, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    lol was gonna say the same thing as DCM. we would most likely play germany in the 2nd round if we were runners up.. and yeaa June 12th is the big day for US.

  5. TBE11

    May 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Spector was never going to start at RB. That was always Cherundolo’s spot to lose. The question is whether Bradley does the right thing and pushes Bocanegra out left instead of Spector or Bornstein, both of whom worry me. But, in general, the US back line could be a problem.

    Also, I think you will likely see Dempsey and Donovan on the wings, not in the support striker role. It was readily apparent in the second half against Turkey, as it has in past matches, that they are most dangerous on the wings. I’d look for Findley or Gomez to pair with Altidore. If the US is pushing for a goal late, then you’ll likely see Dempsey moved forward.

    Hopefully, Bradley will pair Torres with Bradley or Edu in center midfield and leave Rico Clark on the sideline.

    You’re right about the US opposition for qualifying. It is pretty weak, as the US doesn’t get to take on the mighty Faroe Islands, Andorra, and Malta.

  6. mw828

    May 31, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    just wanted to post what DCM said in both of those posts. way to research this stuff.

  7. DCM

    May 31, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    So Australia or Ghana is going to win Group D over Gemany??

    It’s stated above that if the US were to finish runner up in Group C that they would likely play one of these two squads which leaves it that the prediction is that Germany will finish no better than 3rd in D?? I say this because 2C is matched up against 1D.

  8. DCM

    May 31, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    The US v England match is June 12th, not the 11th.

  9. hank

    May 31, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Spector’s not slow (for a defender) and he wasn’t primarily at fault for Turkey’s goal. I don’t want to sing his praises, because he made a number of mistakes in the game and probably shouldn’t start in South Africa, but at least in that instance, the defense and midfield should have shifted to cover when he made the run forward. The fact that he was the closest defender in the end, says more about the poor positioning of the rest of the defense, and his speed in chasing back…

  10. Jared

    May 31, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Spector lost his starting job most likely with the last game against Turkey. That performance in which he looked slow and made a poor decision that led to a goal, paired with his West Ham disaster of a season should do it. Look for the defender Churondolo to start

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