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Preview of USA v. England

It’s hard not to see England as the clear favorite for this match, but there is definitely hope that the US can pull out a victory or a draw. To begin with the English have a higher level of talent at basically every position on the pitch except for goalkeeper. The English are ranked 3rd by the Soccer Power Index, which is a better indicator than the FIFA rankings. The US is ranked 15th. Beyond that the English have a proven world class head coach in Fabio Capello.

The bookmakers have given the US only a 1 in 6 chance of defeating the English. They also seem to expect at least a 2 goal defeat. The over under is 2.5 and the Asian Handicap is +1 for England and -1 for the US. The conventional wisdom is that the English have trouble against quick passing teams like the Spanish and Mexicans, while they are much better suited to deal with counterattacking teams like the US.

On the other hand the English have shown a historical trend to choke when it matters. While Fabio Capello has certainly whipped the English into shape, there still seems to be major problems with the team chemistry. There have been off field issues with John Terry sleeping with Wayne Bridge’s fiance for instance. John Terry lost his role as the team captain.

In their most recent games the English have not shown well. Mexico seemed to really give them a run for their money, and the English were barely able to beat the Japanese. The English have also suffered a couple of important injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry. Ledley King will replace Rio Ferdinand, but he looked terrible against the Mexicans. He did not do well against quick players, so Landon Donovan might really be able to punish a player like that.

Gareth Barry is important because he is a much better holding midfielder than Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard. Although a combination of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the center of the midfield might seem really strong, the weakness is that they will both cheat forward. This could mean that an American counterattack would have a better chance of success than if Gareth Barry were playing deep.

Finally, the English do not have excellent choices for their goalkeeper. They have two good but inexperienced keepers in Rob Green and Joe Hart. They also have a very experienced but over the hill keeper in David James. This could make a major difference in the US snagging a goal on the counter attack.

The US team’s ability is greater than the sum of its parts. While the US players might not be World Class with a few exceptions, when they are put together they play better than their individual talents would suggest. The English on the other hand appear to play worse than the sum of their parts. The English have so many great players that there must be clashing egos. The US doesn’t have anywhere near those types of clashes.

Furthermore, the US has a great goalkeeper, who can save the US defense from mistakes against some world class attackers like Wayne Rooney. It is much more likely that the US will capitalize on a mistake than the English will because of the difference in the goalkeepers.

Beyond that the US are not just a counterattacking team. They have shown in recent matches especially against Australia that they are capable of the type of quick passing combinations that undid the English against Mexico. Bob Bradley has changed the US game a bit to include better passing and possession. It isn’t at the same level as the Mexicans, but the US appears to play a hybrid utilizing quick passing and counterattacking. This may be enough to cause the English problems.

As far as individuals, Jozy Altidore will be able to cause problems for the English backline with his physicality and one-on-one skills. He may not score, but he will be able to pick up free kicks. Clint Dempsey is always an x-factor and might pull off a goal similar to his beauty against Juventus. Finally, Landon Donovan has shown that he can cause all sorts of problems for the English on the wings with his stint at Everton. Another important factor could be the incredible vision and passing of Jose Fransisco Torres should he start alongside Michael Bradley. His passing could open up the English defense. Finally Michael Bradley is very scrappy and seems to find a way to get the ball in the net when it bounces around in front of the goal.

Certainly the US also has its weaknesses. The backline is not very quick and the English possess a number of quick players like Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Wayne Rooney, who could unlock the US defense. In addition this speed will probably force the US to defend deep, which will give the English plenty of space to maintain possession and dominate the game. Beyond that the US looked very vulnerable on crosses and set pieces against the Australians. The English wingers are going to be able to outrun the American fullbacks, so expect to see a lot of crosses.

The US back line also has dealt with injuries that have left them rusty. Only Steve Cherundolo seems to be steady and fit. Onyewu hasn’t looked that good and neither has Jay DeMerit. Carlos Bocanegra also looks a bit off. If the back line replicates its form in the Confederations Cup, then we have a good chance of seeing off the English threat. A fit Onyewu is key because he can deal well with crosses and the English targetmen, Crouch and Heskey. Clarence Goodson is a decent substitute, but he isn’t as dominant or as experienced.

One last consideration is the referee. Carlos Simon has been accused of being corrupt. The Brazilian referee, however, has a pretty solid track record. If he is on the take and the English are the favorites, then I see the US getting a boost because a US draw or win could mean big money.

In sum the English appear on paper to win this match handily. However, the US has a decent chance of snatching a draw or a victory. I predict a 2-1 outcome in favor of the English, however, I will be hoping for a 3-2 American victory. What do think about the chances of a US victory?

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