Archive for the ‘USA v. England’ Category

Fan Diary: Entry #1, Potholes & Gooch Cheers

The fewer words...

TSG has tethered some “reporters in the field” to some string and a tin can down in South Africa.

Here’s the 1st of our fan perspectives:

I will start at the check in line at NY JFK airport.  I get in line and the two people who get in line right behind me turn out to be Hope Solo and someone else affiliated with the WNT.

No Amelia Earhart....sharing the ride with the TSG crew...

The flight to Dubai took 13 hours and I was supposed to have a 9 hour layover in Dubai…Emirates was nice enough to give out hotel rooms for anyone that has more than an 8 hour layover and at the hotel, they were offering 2 hour tours of Dubai and it was definitely worth the $30 it cost me.

After that, 8 hour flight to Dubai which left at 4:40am local time.  The flight was almost entirely filled with soccer fans heading to J-burg for the World Cup.  I saw lots of US and English fans, a large group of Slovenia fans, a few groups of Algeria fans…Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Italy, Mexico, Honduras, Nigeria, Chile, and Australia were all represented.  You could sense everyone’s excitement on the flight and when the flight touched down, more than a few “Ole!(s)” could be heard.  The flight landed at 11am local time in J-burg…about 9 and a half hours before the US v England kick off.

Zoo City, RSA...

I have attached an image from the airport (the one with the soccer ball in the sky) the lines for rental car and picking up game tickets were both pretty long.  We finally got through them and tested out driving on the left side of the road for the first time.  It was pretty intense with the traffic but we managed to finally find the place we are staying after getting lost and missing a few turns.  We spent a few minutes dropping off our stuff and then it was time to drive to Rustenburg.

We had two options to get there…the short route on country roads or the long route on main highways….we elected the short route since it theoretically should have taken less time…it did not work out that way.

We got lost on city streets on the way out of J-burg suburbs a few times but when we finally made it to the main road to Rustenburg, we thought we were set.  15 minutes later, we found a pothole that could have qualified as a crater…the thing was at least 8 inches deep and about 3 feet in diameter and wholly unavoidable…it blew out a tire.

We were in the middle of nowhere with nothing in site but got it changed in 20-30 minutes…once we got back on our way, we got to the southern side of Rustenburg with 2 hours til kickoff and we thought we were fine…then we hit the traffic.  By the time we got parked and shuttled to the stadium, we sprinted to the ticketing gates and the sprinted to our section…we made it there in the mere seconds after the national anthems but before kickoff.

Colin and crew, sprinting to the game...

The drive was supposed to take 2 hours, people told us it would take 4…it ended up taking 6 hours.  If it would have taken 6 hours and 1 minute, we would have missed the kickoff.  The whole time we were sprinting to our seats, we could hear the cheers and vuvuzelas, but had no idea what we were in for because we couldn’t see inside…once we came out of the tunnel, we were awestruck.

Both sets of fans…USA and England had turned up in great numbers.  I had fans dressed up as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln right behind me in the stands, there was a fan with a Gaetjens jersey on in front of me, and cheers of “19-50” could be heard….on the other end there were England flags hanging of the edges of the 2nd level for the entire perimeter of the stadium and all the traditional English songs could be heard as well.

When Gerrard scored in the 4th minute, the English fans quickly drowned out the US fans.  Slowly the US got back into the game and so did the US fans.  At least from my point of view, the US fans were in stronger voice from the Dempsey goal until the final whistle.  Every save by Howard and every clearance or strong play by “Gooch!” provoked cheers from the US fans.  It was a strange feeling in the stands because the clock, scoreboard, and replay screen were not working…so you had to pay close attention the whole time.

A great tradition from the Yanks...

I think the story that told it all was after the final whistle…the US fans stayed in their seat and cheered on the US players and the players hung around and thanked the fans…while the English fans headed for the buses and the English team promptly headed for the locker room.

As much as I would have loved a win, a draw still made me happy but seemed more irritating to the English fans rather than upsetting them.

Most of them were courteous at the end but quick to attribute it to Green’s blunder rather than the US performance….and quite a blunder it was…I havent seen a replay of it, but there was a moment of “did that really just happen” just before the celebrations started.

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The USA Tries To Write The Same History

The time is now.... (courtesy, Jim Scheirer)

(Update: Fabio Capello has suggested that Gareth Barry is fit and will at least be on the bench tomorrow.)

Will it be 1950 again?

In a game that has been hyped perhaps more than any other in United States national soccer history, one word siphons through the buzz. This game is simply “important.”

Important as a measuring stick of US soccer to the global world and important to catapult the casual fan in the United States back to the level of attentiveness that was rudely interrupted by Torsten Frings left arm in 2002.

Identifiable as US Soccer (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Amazingly, the catalyst of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea remains the most identifiable figure on the team today. With that said, the way in which Landon Donovan plays the game–Donovan absolutely needs the skill and guile of others to make his own game shine–embodies the way the United States plays as a team….on most days. Lacking a major soccer Jordan, the US focuses on team play and cohesion.

Will unity, and a resolve for no unmitigated mistakes, be enough to break down one of powerhouses of the international game, The Three Lions?

Kickoff is set for 11:30am PDT part on ABC here in the States and up until the line-ups are revealed Bob Bradley’s strategy will remain the same as always, but the players and tactics used to conform to it will be shrouded in conjecture.

As we mentioned in a piece earlier this week, predictability was a trait closely associated with Coach Bradley through qualifying, a knukles-down sort of coach who can be heard during practices barking on his troops to take the intensity up.

“C’mon move!” “Be sharper!”

The closest thing seen to a smile on Junior... (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Bradley’s teams can best described through the traits his son Michael, one of the team’s central midfielders, exhibits on a pitch. “Junior” Bradley is a relentless ball hawker at central midfield who abounds with energy from the opening whistle to the close. He tackles hard, moves the ball quickly–though sometimes off-target–and rarely gives up on a play. Skilled in possession or an offensive tactician he is not.

You could say the same about the Yanks’ game.

The, perhaps, lone team advantage the Yanks’ have–beyond an individual moment of brilliance from Fulham’s Clint Dempsey–is speed, specifically speed on the counter.

The great conundrum facing Bradley–and every media hound attempting to predict how Bradley deploys–is when to unleash Landon Donovan with Robbie Findley–a poor man’s Jermain Defoe–in front of him.

Will Bob Bradley start the game with the pacey combination of Robbie Findley-Landon Donovan-Steve Cherundolo on the right of the pitch or will he wait to bring that grouping together until after England has tired. That, right there folks, is the main tactical question.

Beyond this the States will need to be the fitter, more steely and, without saying, the lesser mistake prone to have a chance on the day.

(For more pages in the Book on Bob Bradley, visit here.)

Now let’s get to the rest of our customary TSG preview.

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Who Caps The Line-up For The States?

Which strikers will process out of the tunnel? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

TSG writers Brian, Matthew, Tuesday and Shaun take positions on who starts for the Yanks up top on Saturday and why. Note, the position taken by the writer does not necessarily reflect their personal position.

Proposed Starters: Altidore and Dempsey

Defender: Tuesday


Can the Deuce man hang up top on Saturday? (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Let’s face it, no one really knows what Bob Bradley has planned for Saturday and that’s the way he likes it. Expect a conservative start with a strong defensive shift to keep things tight for the opening 45 minutes. That was Bradley’s plan against Turkey, so there’s every reason to think he may have tipped his hand in the Philly friendly. To add defensive solidity to resist England’s strength in midfield, I think either the US starts with Stu Holden on the right or DaMarcus Beasley on the left. That leaves Bradley with a choice: Push Dempsey up top or save him for a second half substitute?

Altidore, a lot to handle in any position (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

There’s really only one decision. Bob has faith in him as a potential game-breaker who can create something special out of nothing with a moment of individual brilliance: Deuce needs a full 90 minutes to try and find that moment. His sometimes frustrating tendency to try to do too much seems to have been pared down as Fulham’s run to the Europa League Final progressed and as   his US team-mates were distilled to the 23. Dempsey’s presence on the field means the defensive focus can’t be solely on his US co-star, allowing Donovan to be a bigger influence in the attack than on his own.

This approach may get your best 11 players on the pitch but Dempsey is not at his most influential up front at the highest level. Dempsey is far more dangerous to opponent defenses when cutting inside from a deeper left-midfield starting position with a speedy striker making diagonal runs ahead of him. If he does start up top, it’s important that he find deeper starting positions than he did against Turkey, trusting Altidore to lead the line. A deeper role behind the striker but ahead of midfield makes better use of his qualities but expect Dempsey to revert to his midfield position early in the second half.

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England: Tactics From Across The Pond

This is a guest post by TSG writer “GeorgeCross.”

Preview:  England vs. USA – 12th June 2010

England Review

During the warm-up games, England did not play their best football, but they did not play their best formation or personnel to get the best out of their key players.  Much of this came out of necessity because of the question mark surrounding Barry’s fitness, which with Lampard, provides England with their best partnership at the base of midfield.  There were also two spots up for grabs supposedly.

Gareth Barry will be missed early on...

Unfortunately, Barry has been ruled out.  Barry’s importance cannot be understated – Capello chose to take an unfit Barry over fully fit Huddlestone or Parker.  I feel that this decision speaks volumes.  Obviously England always knew that this would be a possible scenario for 12th June and they will clearly have worked on a contingency plan for Barry’s omission.  I have been thinking about how we will solve this issue.

I did think about Capello tinkering with his formation / personnel on a grander scale, but the main thing is to separate Gerrard and Lampard, so that they are not in the same midfield band.  To me that is crucial, and is why you won’t see them playing side-by-side.    Otherwise, one will be asked to curb his natural instincts to go forward, which doesn’t make sense when you have a designated DM in Carrick.  It’s been tried time and again and they just do not gel.

On Sky Sports, Sir Geoff has championed the idea of dropping Heskey, and playing Gerrard in his more favoured and arguably best position, just behind the main forward (Rooney).  While I like this idea a lot, I cannot see England playing this way from the start because they haven’t really practiced with this enough in real game scenarios.  Perhaps Capello doesn’t want to show his hand?  I doubt it.

The most simple and obvious solution would be to have a like-for-like replacement in Carrick.  As much as it doesn’t fill me with confidence because of his recent performances, he was after all, the chosen deputy for the defensive midfield role, ahead of Huddlestone and Parker.  Milner was equally as unimpressive against Japan, if not more, so I see Capello going with Carrick and keeping everything else the same.

Starting XI

Will this be the combo up top?

Rooney will be partnered up top with a big man – and I feel that will be Heskey, even though this game has Crouch’s heading ability written all over it.  Even though Heskey’s scoring record in inferior, he can create so much space and opportunities for the likes of Rooney, Lennon, Gerrard and Lampard.  The simple fact is that England is a superior team, keep possession better and score more goals with Heskey than with Crouch.

England will return to their tweaked 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation that served them so well during competitive games since Capello took over from McLaren.  In light of the recent injuries, I believe the starting XI will be:

Goalkeeper:  Green

Back four:  G. Johnson, King, Terry, Cole

Defensive Mids:  Lampard, Barry Carrick

Midfield:  Lennon, Rooney, Gerrard

Forwards:  Heskey

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England: The Book On Bob Bradley

For die-hard USMNT fans, the past few weeks have been filled with surprises in what has otherwise been a mundane and somewhat “sloggish” World Cup qualifying cycle.

Coach USA: Lots churning before Saturday

Throughout qualifying, you could count on a two things from men’s national team coach Bob Bradley. Bradley would entrust key qualifiers to a select group of experienced players. He would then supplement with primarily MLS players that had already bought into his system at other locations.

Bradley used 92 different players through qualifying interchanging newcomers on the periphery of the starting line-up and the bench. To use a parallel to baseball, Bradley kept “strength up the middle” and used the wide outfield spots to test out new players.

Strategically, Bradley employed a number of different formations, meandering from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 and eventually back to the 4-4-2.

Bradley’s teams could be counted on to exhibit their leader’s focus on tough on-the-ball pressure defense, moving collectively as one and voraciously defending the backline and goal often at the expense of generating fluidity in the offense. Additionally, Bradley–as we learned through Filip Bondy’s book “Chasing The Game,” favors the on-the-ball defense and positioning upon a turnover as perhaps the crux to his entire system.

Casey: Instrumental in qualifying, absent on the plane...(courtesy, Matt Mathai)

However, flash forward to May of this year and the US Men’s Team seems to be more experimental than any other time in the qualifying cycle. As the 30-man roster was announced, Charlie Davies was unable to participate and long-time Bradley confidante Conor Casey remained unbeckoned in Colorado. Once again as the 23-man roster was announced, another notable was absent. Stalwart Brian Ching, a Cup vet and a dutiful servant to Bradley especially during the US’s “B-team” Gold Cup run last year, found his name among those not submitted to FIFA. In the veteran strikers’ stead were three strikers with a collection of single digit caps affixed to their international profiles–Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez.

The surprises didn’t end there. Facing the task of figuring out the new collective of strikers to deploy, Bradley elected to move up a midfielder in Clint Dempsey just two Saturday’s ago in arguably the Yanks most intense test pre-World Cup friendly against Turkey. Using Landon Donovan in the hole on the right and seeking to group, arguably, his three strongest attackers (Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore)  in one locale on the pitch, Bradley tried to punt the ball into a mass of his strongest on-ball players.

Didn’t work well, but sure was surprising.

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Monday Bullets: DeMerit, Moyes, More

Some quick Monday bullets for you. We’ve got some more killer content coming up as the week gets going by the way.

Will Carrick get a start Saturday?

• Gareth Barry has been told he’s a “no-go” for the June 12th clash with the Yanks. Will Capello go offensive with either Lampard or Milner in the hole? Or will he play it safe with the knowledgeable, but limited Michael Carrick?

Currently, I see England starting with 4-4-2 with Peter Crouch and Rooney up top, which relegates Joe Cole to the bench. If Rooney goes it alone up top for the Queen, then Cole maintains his position wide left with a 5-man midfield of Lennon, Gerrard, Lampard, Cole with Carrick holding.

• A fantastic and high-praising article authored by none-other-than Everton skipper Davie Moyes on Landon Donovan and his World Cup teammates today in the Times of London. Moyes mentions Donovan’s name in concert with Rooney and Messi. Wow.

• Word from the English press is that Jamie Carragher has handled the bulk of practice snaps in central defense with John Terry, but most expect Ledley King to start. Matthew Upson’s been troubled with a fever and virus.

• Noted pressman-across-the-pond Oliver Kay tweeted the following about England’s lackluster tune-up today against the Platinum Stars, South Africa’s strongest domestic team:

FT Platinum Stars 0 England 3. Spain, Brazil, USA etc won’t be quaking in their boots

Reuters columnist Simon Evans on Jay DeMerit.

So What Are They Thinking In England?

TSG had the occasion a little more than a week ago to speak with a fellow reporter across the pond, ESPN’s Rebecca Lowe.

ESPN UK's Rebecca Lowe

Lowe is formerly of both Setanta Sport and the BBC, but now co-hosts ESPN’s Premiere League show. She’s an ardent Crystal Palace supporter and childhood acquaintance of Peter Crouch, who she says was known more for carrying a tennis racket around before playing soccer…or making ladies swoon.

Here’s an excerpt of what we spoke about.

TSG: If you ask American fans and they look at the England team, they see a little bit of infighting, challenges at goalie position per usual, and questions in the holding midfielder role.

What’s your take?

Rebecca Lowe: I think the interesting questions for England are in the midfield. We’ve got the Gareth Barry issue who some would say that his name is the second one on the team sheet after Wayne Rooney. He’s an unsung hero, you just don’t notice him…..possibly that means…some people say that makes a great player, especially in midfield.

He works hard and does the hard work. And he’s very very good at it.

However with the injury, his exact place on the team is still up in the air.

I think Fabio Capello desperately will try and get Gareth Barry playing in the World Cup.

As for the team, I think the general feeling amongst the team is good.

I’m a little worried that it’s been such a good build up.

I think sometimes with World Cups…sometimes a couple of defeats in the warm-up games or a couple of difficult things going on in camp can sometimes pull the squad together.

And although we had the John Terry saga, that’s kind of blown over and I thought it would.

And now everything seems to be fairly peaceful. I just wonder whether that’s a good thing.

Sometimes some infighting and some scandal; a seige mentality, perhaps,  is good to pull a team together.

I don’t want them to travel to Africa thinking it’s a breeze.

Unsung or vulnerable?

TSG: That’s truly spoken like the English media!

I’m going to follow up on Gareth Barry for a second. There is no question he’s a good player, but there are some questions about whether he can play the cover defense that’s needed in the holding midfielder role and then help link the offense.

If you ask me, that’s a place where the States can attack the Lions the most. Thoughts?

RL: Well, that’s really interesting. So interesting to hear another point of view on the England team from outside. I don’t get to hear from other football writers in other countries all too often.

I would agree with you.

I think Gareth Barry is a top class player but he hasn’t had a ton of international experience.

Even if he does play, I don’t think you’re wrong. I wouldn’t say he’s world class.

I think he’s a good solid player, but I take the point, but that’s not greatest area of strength for England.

Michael Carrick’s a patchy player and I don’t have a lot of confidence in him and that’s who else we have.

I take on board what you’re thinking about Barry and I concede it. I wish we had Owen Hargreaves of course.

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