June 9, 2010


Pushovers no more, U.S. will contend at Cup: Team USA will push England in Group C and certainly advance to 2nd round (Noah Davis, 6/08/10, Goal.com)

"I don't even think getting to the second round is something that we should necessarily applaud," Alexi Lalas, a member of the 1994 and 1998 U.S. World Cup squad and ESPN commentator, told Goal.com earlier this year. "I think it's expected this time. I think if this team doesn't get out of this group, American soccer fans should be disappointed, and I would consider it a failure. That's a good situation to be in because not too long ago, people really didn't care. Now there are much higher expectations."

The growing faith in the U.S. squad stems from their recent successes.

At the Confederations Cup held in South Africa a year before the World Cup, the Americans defeated Spain en route to reaching their first-ever final of a FIFA tournament. Vincente del Bosque's La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) were on a world record 35-match unbeaten streak and held the world's No. 1 ranking. The U.S. defended as a cohesive unit, bending but never breaking, and counterattacked effectively in the 2-0 victory.

Though they would lose in the Confed Cup's last match to Brazil by a 3-2 scoreline, Bob Bradley's squad took a 2-0 lead into halftime. During the tournament, they proved to the world they can beat anyone on the right day.

The success in the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying — the U.S. finished first in their region — has fixed much of the damage done to the American reputation internationally from the poor showing during the 2006 World Cup.

The team has developed considerable depth since last year's successes, especially on the front-line, and some genuine playmakers have emerged--Torres, Holden, Edu, Findley. Even Tim Howard has settled down a bit and stopped outkicking his coverage. But the biggest difference between then and now isn't a good one--the central defender pairing of Onyewu and DeMerit, which was so solid then, has looked very shaky as both come back from injury. Compounding the problem is the injury to Jozy Altidore--who, for all the talk of how lazy he is in practice, did head away a fair number of balls in the defensive box--and the awful play of right back Jonathan Spector over the past 9 months. The 6' 4" Clarence Goodson almost has to start on defense just for his presence on balls in the air, especially against England and their 6' 7" forward, Peter Crouch. And Steve Cherundolo ought to start over Spector. Carlos Bocanegra will almost certainly start on the back line, but ought not.

A starting 11 that looked like this:

Altidore(Findley)/Buddle flanked by Donovan/Dempsey



would give us both a chance to drive right at England on offense and to defend set pieces, where we seem at most risk. It puts some guys in unusual positions, but Bob Bradley prides himself on the positional flexibility of his squad. Then you have a couple games to let some of the guys who've been struggling try to play themselves into form.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2010 9:15 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus