… It’s been no secret here that I am not enamored with the defense the United States has put together for this World Cup. I think their speed is a question mark, and their ability to counteract opponents’ speed and pace, along with questionable positioning that allows opposing players to be free in and around the 18, is a major concern heading into this tournament – the biggest concern the US has.
It is why, when I posted my picks for the tournament yesterday, I placed England at the top of Group C, ahead of the United States, with the reasoning that I just can’t pick the US to beat England. Do I want to see the US win? Absodamnlutely. I’ll be cheering like Hell for it, and when the US does win, I’m sure folks great and small will be here to remind me of it all.
But to look at it objectively, my big fear regarding playing England is that I’m just not sure how the United States is going to keep this opponent from scoring twice, or maybe even three times.
- US defenders Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, and Carlos Bocanegra are all on the north side of their 30th birthdays. You could call this veteran presence, but I worry if they can keep up.
- Cherundolo makes up for his age by only standing 5’6″. Only Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu stand taller than 6′, with both checking in at a relatively gargantuan 6’4″.
- I’ve discussed here before that I’m not a big Jonathan Bornstein fan, and I’m curious to see how much coach Bob Bradley relies on him Saturday. Then there’s Jonathan Spector, who just doesn’t seem ready for this type of primetime stage.
So, given these factors, how can the US shut down England? Can they man-mark the likes of Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe (if he’s used). Questionable. Can this defense coordinate well enough with the midfield to cover all the zones and hold off England that way? I’m afraid this will lead to trouble.
Can this defense handle the air within the penalty area? This is where having a healthy Onyewu and an on-point Goodson is absolutely critical, given that the US might find the 6’7″, 65-pound Peter Crouch lurking late in the match.
And this isn’t even getting into set pieces, where England should be dangerous with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the middle of the park.
Despite all that’s been presented here, it’s not an impossible task. Some great philosopher or marketer or some such thing once told us that Impossible is Nothing. The one thing in the United States’ favor is that while I fully expect them to concede goals Saturday – I also fully expect them to score. If you follow the NFL, this US side could be equivalent to the ’81 San Diego Chargers – you never really know when a score is coming on either side of the field, but you generally didn’t have to wait long. It won San Diego more games than it lost, but it never got them a title.
The key is, can the US defense hold out England long enough for the midfield to play to its potential and put forwards like Edson Buddle, Jozy Altidore, and perhaps Robbie Findley in position to make England pay? While I expect England to score 2 or 3, I also expect they’re going to need to score 2 or 3.
If the US defense plays its best game in quite some time, then yes, England can be had. But if I have to pick, I just can’t say with a good heart that I believe in the back line right now. It’s good enough to get the US past Algeria and Slovenia and to advance to the second round – I have no doubt of that.
Whether it’s good enough on Saturday, however, remains a question mark in my head.
I hope the US emphatically tells me I’m wrong.
Mexico 2-1 South Africa
Uruguay 1-0 France