Almost all of the articles, blog posts and podcasts I’ve read and heard about the England-USA match leaves out the most important ingredient to a United States upset victory.
The U.S. has to play a fantastic match. Some might think that’s a given, but it’s important to emphasize. Even if Bob Bradley picks the perfect team with the perfect tactics, it doesn’t matter if the U.S. doesn’t play at an extremely high level. On the other hand, if Bradley doesn’t have the perfect team or the perfect tactics the U.S. could still win if they play out their minds and England falls on its face.
But a coach’s job is to pick players that gives the team its most likely chance for success and fear Bradley won’t.
First, this is what I think is the U.S.’s best team and formation is:
And this is what I think Bradley will do:
Here are the reason’s why I prefer my formation:
1) It opens up a spot for Stuart Holden. I think Holden is the seventh or eight best American player in the world and it’s important to get our best players on the field. He’s a fantastic crosser of the ball and he’s dangerous on free kicks. I think of him as a poor man’s David Beckham.
Replacing Donovan with Holden does weaken the midfield, considering how well Donovan has played out there the last six months. But Holden can play at this level and he’s more than capable of connecting the defense with the forward.
2) It takes Findley out of the lineup. I don’t think Findley is one of the top 30 American players. Findely defenders tend to concede he isn’t the best footballer in the world, but say his pace makes the players around him better. Questionable (personally, I would rather play with someone who was good at soccer than someone who was fast), but even if it is true, Donovan is plenty pacey himself.
3) Having Donovan play in a central attacking midfield position will be tactically tricky for the English to counter. With Berry out, Capello will likely play Gerrard and Lampard in the middle, two players that like to get forward. With Donovan in between the midfield and Altidore, it forces Gerrard and Lampard to be weary of pushing to far forward.
4) The Ricardo Clark love affair is a strange one. He’s the worst American player playing in a top European league; he’s prone to do something stupid (red card against Italy in last year’s Confederations Cup); he’s a below average passer and though he’s decent defensively he’s only decent. In short, he’s not very good. Plus, he has barely played in the last six months because of injury. Maurice Edu has played and has performed in big matches for Rangers. Maybe there’s some chemistry problem with Edu and Michael Bradley or something, I don’t know. But I’m surprised the media is giving Bob Bradley a pass on this. (Note: I’m not in love with Jose Torres unlike some American fans. He still hasn’t shown me enough to trust him in a big match like this.)
So there’s my arguments. I would be VERY surprised if Donovan played upfront since Bradley hasn’t experimented with that in about a year. Edu starting would also be a shocker since Bradley leaned on Clark during the recent friendlies.
But will piss me off is if I look at the television and I see Findley’s name in the starting lineup. I think Buddle could start and I’d be OK with it, but Findley! The guy who has struggled to score in MLS? The guy who missed two wide open goals last week? Please don’t do it to me Bradley.
Five things to watch against
5. Gerrard and Lampard — The great English football question of the last decade is: How to play Lampard and Gerrard together? It looked like Capello answered this qeuestion by inserting Gareth Barry into the mix, but Barry out England is back to square one. If the two seem like they’re not on the same page early, it will be great news for the U.S.
4. Oguchi Onyewu —I think Onyewu is going to be fine for the first 60 minutes or so, but after that Bradley might have to make a bold decision. I think it’s likely Onyewu is going to hit a wall at some point in this match and his play is going to rapidly decline. If this happen, Bradley is going to have to bite the bullet and get him out of the game. It sucks using a substitute on a center defender, but Onyewu has played a full game since last October.
3. Is Heskey playing? — OK, I understand Rooney prefers to play with Heskey and English fans seemed to have tentatively accepted he’s worth playing because he makes the players around him better. But, Peter Crouch would kill this U.S. team. Against a defender afraid his knee is going to blowup every time he jumps, Crouch would be unstoppable.
2. The first 15 minutes — The U.S. really needs to come out of the gates strong. After 15 minutes, England needs to know they’re in a brawl and they’re going to have to play really well to win. But if Rooney scores a goal in the eighth minute, or if its clear Clark is no match for Lampard or Aaron Lennon is embarrassing Carlos Bocanegra, then it might be a really long day for the U.S.
1. Landon Donovan — The U.S. has never had a player that could carry them against a great team. They do now and he will probably have to do it.
Prediction: England 3, U.S. 1 (REALLY, REALLY HOPE I’M WRONG)
The other matches
The good news for South Korea and Greece is they got to play a more interesting match than France-Uruguay (hope I didn’t just jinx it). The South Koreans have more talent and they’re my super dark horse in this tournament. North Korea got two goals against Greece a couple weeks ago, so I think South Korea will get one.
Nothing will surprise me in the Argentina-Nigeria match. Argentina has tons more talent but we saw with France, even if you got talent, if you struggle in qualifying it can continue in the actual tournament. Still, Argentina has got to win this match, right?
Predictions: South Korea 1, Greece 0
Argentina 2, Nigeria 0
Bets: Parlay — Argentina win (-250) and Germany win (-250) — $10 — $9.60
Matches: (0 pending, 0 wins, 1 loss, $10 lost)
Props\Parlays: (1 pending, 0 wins, 1 loss, $5 lost) I be the over in the Fra-Uru match. It’s going to be a long month.
Future: (10 pending, 0 wins, 0 losses, $0 made)
Not going to be at a computer directly after the England-U.S. match, so start the discussion on this post!