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Yes We Can

June 10, 2010

It is now time to address that burning question on all of our minds: How will we do against England? I don’t think the match is going to be a real tactical chess match. The US will play the same 4-4-2 we have been playing, and our starting line-up will be fairly predictable. England will very likely play in the 4-4-2 they have been playing all along (which naturally turns into more of a 4-2-3-1). What it comes down to is match ups in crucial areas of the pitch. I’ll go through and highlight the concerns and advantages in each are of the pitch.

The Goalkeeper

It isn’t a stretch to say that goalkeeper is the strongest position on the US team. Tim Howard is simply incredible. He is not quite the caliber of Buffon or Casillas, but he comes in just below them. When he is having a good day, it really doesn’t matter what the defense is doing in front of him. When he is having a bad day, he is still better than half the keepers at the World Cup. England has three quality keepers (sure, two of them don’t have much experience at the international stage, but who are we to judge such things), but only David James comes close to the brilliance of Tim Howard, and then only on his good days. This is an area that is certainly an advantage for us.

The Defense

Our defense has looked awful during the build up for South Africa, there simply isn’t any way around it. We have given up at least one goal in each game, and over the three friendlies we have shipped 6 goals. I understand that we haven’t been playing fully fit players, or our first choice defenses, but that doesn’t excuse our defensive record. With the Cherundolo and Bocanegra likely to start for us, England’s speed on the wing is going to be our first problem. Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips will present us plenty of problems, and their delivery in the final third is much more reliable than that of Theo Walcott (who was sadly omitted from the squad). This is an issue because of the amount of space we continually gave Australia’s Joshua Kennedy at the far post. Peter Crouch is nothing if not prolific in an England jersey. Oh, and tall, very, very tall. Then there is Wayne Rooney that we will have to deal with. In the Turkey friendly, Tuncay gave us fits by playing in the hole, and that is exactly where Rooney is likely to be playing. Jay DeMerit, along with all of our center backs, has to show the discipline not to follow him or chase after him. Clearly, our defense will be a major issue for us on Saturday.

The Midfield

In Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, we have two talented and hard working midfielders. As they will likely be starting on the wings, this is great for us. For one, Donovan’s pace on the right will force Ashley Cole to think twice before he goes rampaging forward, and Dempsey’s presence will hopefully do the same for Glen Johnson. But Dempsey and Donovan also do a great job of tracking back, which will be helpful against England’s pacy wingers. Let’s not forget that both are serious goal threats, and link well with the attack. That being said, both tend to drift inside on offense, which could leave England plenty of space on the flanks to counter-attack. In the middle of the park, Michael Bradley is a great player, and will have the advantage of being the only real holding midfielder on the pitch, as Gareth Barry seems to have ruled himself out. If he plays alongside Ricardo Clark or Maurice Edu, this advantage could be immense. With a Lampard and Gerrard pairing likely for England, two defensive minded midfielders could help us grab control of the pitch, especially with Bradley’s passing. All in all, midfield is our strength on this team, and we should match up well with England.

The Attack

Jozy Altidore is a big, physical striker. This is great for us, because John Terry has been in poor form recently, and Ledley King has horrible knees and is known as a more “cultured” defender. Jozy can outmuscle and outrun anyone when he is on form, and we have to hope that he is. If Robbie Findley plays alongside him, they will likely wreak havoc on England’s back four. As mentioned above, both Johnson and Cole are attack minded full backs. This leaves a lot of space for Findley to exploit with diagonal runs, spreading the defense. Not to mention that with Jozy’s size he can easily occupy two centerbacks as well. I may be exaggerating the talents of both of them, but if they can open up gaps in the defense, Landon, Clint, and Michael can score.

All in all, I think the England match will be extremely competitive, with a number of scares on both sides of the ball. Both teams are coming in winning, and both teams seem out of form despite their wins. Who can pull it together the best may come out the winner, but I’m not so sure either team will pull it together. Ultimately, I think though England scores first, we draw 2-2. Both defenses can be leaky at times, and both teams have a lot of goal scoring capability.

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