Americans need luck for England match

The following is an opinion piece on the upcoming World Cup by Brent
Fuller. In between his regular reporting duties, Brent has squeezed in time to
be a pretty solid football fan.

Memo to team USA football players: the entire world expects
you to lose Saturday in your first World Cup game against mighty England.

But the Americans have surprised us
before. No reason they can’t do so again.

Eight years ago in its opening
World Cup match the US
faced a Portuguese side with football legends like Luis Figo, Rui Costa and
Nuno Gomes – the ‘golden generation’ – that lost to the Americans in a 3-2 stunner.

The Yanks were also the only team
that managed a draw with eventual 2006 Cup champions Italy; a highlight in an otherwise
abysmal performance that year. 

Sadly, from a US perspective
at least, neither of these occurrences is likely to repeat against the redcoats
in 2010. The US team is much different than the one that shone in 2002, with
only a few cagey veterans like Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and Steve
Cherundolo (who didn’t play in 2002 because of injury) returning from that
squad.

The 2010 version of Uncle Sam’s
finest is quite a bit younger (average age just under 27) and has some surprise
additions – such as forwards Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez – who weren’t even
afterthoughts in US national team football (soccer) at the beginning of this
year. Spanish league football fans probably know forward Jozy Altidore while
English Premier League followers will of course know goalkeeper Tim Howard and
possibly Clint Dempsey and Johnathan Spector.

But frankly, most of these guys
wouldn’t make the B-team for the English side. The US defence has shown itself to be
lacking in the run up to the Cup and the team is still extremely dependent upon
Donovan to create offensive opportunities as well as run things in the
midfield.

Moreover, US team manager Bob
Bradley has adopted a highly defensive strategy for a team whose obvious
strengths are at the attacking end. This plays right into the hands of the
English; an older, more experienced unit that will have lots of big targets up
front (striker Peter Crouch is 6’7”) to trouble the smaller American team on
crosses into the box. 

England’s best chance to win the Cup with its current group of players was
probably four years ago; but it should easily handle the US. My
prediction is England 3, USA 1.