Monday, June 14, 2010

USA-England Recap

Bradley, our resident soccer expert, will be here throughout the World Cup, providing previews and recaps for the U.S. matches. Today, he's back for an analysis of USA's glorious tie over England. And yes, as he won't hesitate to tell you, he was one Michael Bradley goal away from a perfect pre-game prediction. He's like a soccer Nostradamus -- or a miniature Buddha covered in hair. I cede the floor to you, soccer guru:

“If you buy a ticket, win a raffle”.

This fantastic commentating comes from Martin Tyler, who couldn’t have described this terrible goal better. It was a gift from the Gods, in a game that felt like it was already lost. If you had offered me a 1-1 draw before this game started, I would have taken it, no question. In the 4th minute, when Ricardo Clark decided marking Steven Gerrard was not important, I would have sold my left kidney to get a point out of that game. Probably my right too. This was a fantastic result for the U-S-A. The New York Times had it right in their headline: USA WINS 1-1.

A note before I actually get into breaking down the game -- Martin Tyler’s announcing is absolutely identical to his in FIFA 2010. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard him say that same raffle line when playing FIFA at 4 in the morning. If only Andy Gray was there too. Or this guy, even though he isn’t in FIFA.

To quickly address my predictions, I wasn’t too far off. Dempsey did score, and I was only one Michael Bradley goal away from being 100% correct -- which could very well have happened if whoever had the ball wasn’t taken down from behind in the midfield when Bradley made a run that would have given him a breakaway. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. I’m giving myself too much credit here for a play that most people don’t even recall.

Honestly though, my optimism immediately changed when the players were walking out of the tunnel. Ricardo Clark looked like he was about to shit his pants. Maybe he did, and that’s why he was so slow on marking Gerrard on the goal. The only readable expression from the England side was John Terry’s whose clearly said, “Damn, I would totally do Peter Crouch’s girlfriend. Or Wayne Bridge’s. Oh, shit...” I guess they weren’t too nervous. We sure seemed like we were.

The draw was a miracle. Offensively, we were unbelievably sloppy in the midfield. We lost almost every single 50-50 ball off goal kicks and free kicks, especially the second balls. We couldn’t keep possession, and were sloppy with passes, especially when trying to switch fields. 

Luckily, our defense played one of its best games as a unit, and Tim Howard was unreal. We did have some trouble with England’s pace, as Aaron Lennon, Glen Johnson, and Shawn Wright-Phillips all tortured us at points. There were multiple points where I couldn’t watch because we were beat on the outside and someone was open in the box. (Editor's note: just like Wayne Bridge's girlfriend...hiii-yo!!!) 

Luckily, we had outstanding last-second defending, blocking many crosses and winning headers in the box. Onyewu was awesome in back. Jay Demerit provided one of his best performances for the national team, doing a great job man-marking Wayne Rooney, who didn’t touch the ball until the 17th minute. 

Tim Howard was what you would expect and more. His catch on Emile Heskey’s breakaway was such an underrated play -- if he doesn’t hold that, Rooney taps it home. That ball was fired in with some pace. To make it even more stellar, he had already bruised, or possibly broken, some ribs in a collision with Hesky earlier in the game.

Many questions were answered in this game. For one, Robbie Findley is a very capable partner for Jozy Altidore up top. He was one of the few players that did a decent job of keeping possession, and he made some dangerous runs early when we really had no momentum. 

Also, Onyewy is clearly back to full health. We worried about his ability to get up for headers because of his weak knee, and his ability to last a whole game due to not playing a full game in months. In a very pleasant surprise, he turned in one of his better games ever, despite a weak, hesitant play on the opening goal. He was strongly considered for man of the match, but it is undeniable that Howard wins that award. 

Jozy Altidore’s ankle wasn't an issue at all. He showed great explosiveness all game, especially on his strong run that ended in a shot off the post. But yes, there were also some questions that developed going forward. 

First, how will we avoid another slow start? Coach Bob Bradley needs to get his boys ready to go from the first whistle. Will Bob Bradley change the lineup against Slovenia?

It seems that José Francisco Torres is the clear choice over Ricardo Clark in the next game, as he is much better in possession, which will be key. Bradley could also change up the forward situation by giving Edson Buddle a start. This isn’t a bad idea though, as Findley is almost more effective off the bench because his speed is a big change of pace for the defense to deal with. 

Lastly, the U.S. defense needs to handle speedy wingers better. If they want to have any chance to make a deep run, they will need to handle this better, especially in a second round matchup with Ghana or Germany. 

Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though. 

To put it simply, Team USA still controls its own destiny, thanks to you, Robert Green. That’s all we can ask for. Don’t tread.


  1. "If you had offered me a 1-1 draw before this game started, I would have taken it, no question."

    Wait, aren't you the same guy who PREDICTED a 2-1 USA victory? C'mon Bradley, we already have enough flip floppers in sports journalism. Keep that weak stuff off the Couchwarmers.

    P.S. I still love you.

  2. I optimistically thought there was a chance they could pull out a win. Realistically though, England was heavily favored to win and a draw was all the US needed to gain an advantage on Slovenia and Algeria. So no, I am not flip flopping. I'm sorry you think it was weak stuff.

    P.S. Thanks.