Saturday, June 12, 2010

England Preview: The One with Actual Soccer Knowledge

This guest post comes to us from Bradley, who unlike me, actually knows a lot about soccer. He's here to preview today's World Cup match between England and the U.S. I hope you're ready to get hit with some soccer knowledge:

When the World Cup draws came out, English newspaper headlines read:

Very clever, England. You still refer to us as Yanks, reminding yourselves of a pathetic defeat to your very own colony. You see, it is incredibly enjoyable to make fun of England, as Sam has already so eloquently done. But while tea and Hugh Grant do suck, it is not my job to rip on England, but rather to prove how they will lose from a soccer standpoint. On Saturday, the USA will once again be victorious. Really. Here's why:

Sam’s Army had many questions to answer going into this World Cup, mostly dealing with injuries. Many of the injuries are fully healed, but forward Charlie Davies didn't recover in time. This leaves a few remaining questions:
  • How do you replace Charlie Davies?
You don’t. While some of the replacements share some of Davies’ attributes, none of them have his smarts and finishing ability combined. This is why the selection of Jozy Altidore’s partner is crucial, because Coach Bob Bradley has to choose between speed in Robbie Findley, finishing ability in Edson Buddle, or the eye for goal that Herculez Gomez seems to have.

It makes the most sense to play Findley because of his speed, but Buddle and Gomez have been hot lately. For this reason, it is likely that you see two of these three play on Sunday. I see Findley starting to give some speed up top, and Herculez making a late appearance.
  • How will the defense deal with England’s speed and power?
It’s simple: you don’t play Jonathan Spector. He has been God-awful lately, especially against Turkey. He deals with pace terribly, and England has two incredibly fast wingers in Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon. Obviously the other defenders, most notably Demerit and Onyewu, also need to deal with that pace.

People will be running at the defenders all game. If you can control the pace, then you have the pleasure of dealing with Wayne Rooney, and his partner up top. If I were Fabio Capello, I would play Peter Crouch, because I don’t see any way the U.S. can defend him in the air, but hopefully he doesn’t have the same idea. Rooney has to be liking his chances against this defense, but one can pray for a similar outburst of his in 2006 with his red card.

England’s strong attack is actually somewhat of an advantage to the Red, White, and Blue, as they'll be looking to put pressure on all game, but the U.S. makes their living on the counter attack. For any of you that saw the Confederations Cup last year, you saw Landon Donovan’s awesome counterattacking goal against Brazil, who defensively, is much stronger than England.
  • So if the USA has all of these problems, how do they win?
Simple -- England is a bigger choke artist in the World Cup than Phil Mickelson is at Winged Foot. Worse than Jeremy Roenick in a "not crying contest." They seem to lose in a heartbreaking fashion every year, even though they invented the game. They almost always come out to a slow start in their first game, and then eventually get eliminated by a combination of red cards or penalty kicks. This time, the same recipe is in place.

Gareth Barry, a starting midfielder, is out. Replacement options are great, but Michael Carrick hasn’t been on form this season, and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard aren’t proven to play well together. That will be the likely pairing though. Captain Rio Ferdinand, starting center back, is out too. Their other center back, John Terry, has decided to spend most of his season doing his teammates’ WAG’s (wives and girlfriends). When he has actually been playing soccer, he's had a very shaky season.

Wayne Rooney has been injured too, and it is unclear if he is actually fully healthy. England is also very weak in goal. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, who both were superstars in the English Premier League this season, have to be thinking about the W. England has many more questions to answer than the U.S., but they have one important thing that will ultimately cause their downfall in this game. They are expected to kick the shit out of us.

If the U.S. loses, they can still advance by taking care of business against Slovenia and Algeria, but that's easier said than done. In any case, England's the one playing with the pressure, since they've choked in the past. If you want to face England in the World Cup, you want to play them early so you can be a beneficiary of their most recent disappointment. The USA has proven they can play with the big boys, as they upset Spain last year, and almost beat Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final.

Key players for the US in this game are the ones you would expect. To have any chance, Donovan, Dempsey, and Tim Howard will need to be on their games. The X-factor, though, is Michael Bradley. Controlling the ball in the midfield will be crucial against England. If the U.S. gets killed in possession, they eventually won't be able to hold England defensively any longer. I expect Bradley to step up, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

My prediction: USA wins 2-1. Dempsey and Bradley get the goals. British tabloids will read:

England: 1
America: 2
Shitting the Bed
Yet Again

Don't tread.


  1. I'd be interested to see some post-game analysis, given that Green embarrassed himself in front of the entire world (Irish coverage showed that goal every ten minutes all night. And into today. It was glorious), and England couldn't seem to string a play together. It was a pretty dull game, really. Not as bad as Slovenia-Algeria today, but pretty crap.

  2. It's coming. The resident soccer guru has promised previews and recaps for all U.S. matches.

    Also, I'm jealous that you don't have to wake up early for this thing. Since the U.S. doesn't play in and of the early games, there's just no way I'm waking up at 7:30AM for any of the matches.