As promised, a quick follow up regarding the USA soccer team. Their report card would probably be a B+, and a win against Algeria guarantees them a place on the knock-outs.
Starting slowly. Simply, the USA are rubbish in the first few minutes. Onyewu and DeMerit are sprited, brave and tough but conceding early against Algeria will allow the Greens to simply shut up shop and, as England found, they can be tough to break down. If I were Bob Bradley I would add the reserve keeper to the starting eleven, split them into two team of six and have them play on the pitch for fifteen minutes before the game starts so the defense, in particular, can get used to the pace, noise, communication and sharpness they will either need or be up against.
Being the favourites. This USA squad takes being the plucky underdog to the extreme. In the Confederations Cup they didn’t start playing until it was nearly mathematically impossible to qualify, against Slovenia they had to go two goals down before sparking into life. Against Algeria they are the favourites. They must play like it.
The attack. Findley is suspended which puts a lot of pressure on Altidore, pressure which he must rise to. With his strength and speed it is key that he stretches an Algerian defense that opened up chances for England’s Emile Heskey, a player with similar attributes but less goal-scoring potential. Altidore has to make them pay.
Landon Donovan. He lived up to his pre-match promise that the team would not fade as they did in 2006 by single-handedly forcing his team back against Slovenia with a goal that, had it had an emotion, would have been “angry”. If he is on top form – and, again, he must be – he is capable of being the difference between the two teams, especially when back by…
The midfield. Bradley Jnr.’s passion and determination manifested themselves into a superb second half showing on Friday. Combine this with the creativity and speed of Donovan and Dempsey and the USA have a midfield capable of taking the game to Algeria. Most importantly, unlike England, his midfield all know their roles backwards and inside out, and seem happy playing along side each other. Those attributes give them the best shot at doing what England could not – breaking down the hardworking opponent.
Resiliency. No questions there. They showed it in spades. If things do not go well from the start, this team knows they are capable of digging in, and fighting their way out. Wednesday at 9.30 is going to be a fight for the remote in my house and as nervous about soccer as this nation has ever been….
Oh, and did I mention? THEY WERE ROBBED. Hideous, cowardly decision. The USA must either let that go, or carry it into a positive force. On Wednesday we will see how….