The USA is the habitual underdog in football, and England is the habitual underachiever. Those two virtues make the upcoming friendly exceedingly interesting.
The history between these two nations goes as far back as 1607, when the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock. The animosity between these two nations did not start until 1776. The Americans have won all of the wars, but have not enjoyed the same success on the pitch. The USA has only beaten England twice, once in 1950, and most recently in 1993, but never in England. The other 6 times the two sides have played, England has won, usually in emphatic style. In 1964, England beat the Yanks 10-0 in New York. Luckily for the Yanks, the level of play in the US has improved substantially since that 10-0 drubbing.
Nineteen of the twenty-two players called in for this game are European-based. The US does not have any superstars, but the squad is full of very good and consistent players. It all starts in the back with Tim Howard. He is the keeper for Everton, and he is is one of the best in the EPL. The defense is physically imposing in the middle, and consistent and methodical on the wings. Oguchi Onyewu, one of the US’s central defenders, is coming off a championship in the Belgian League with Standard Liege. Onyewu is a towering 6 feet and 4 inches tall, and has scored in the US’s previous two friendlies against Mexico and Poland. His partner in the middle, Carlos Bocanegra, is also a physical defender. At 6 feet tall, he will also pose trouble for the English attackers. The wings are manned by Steve Cherundolo, and Heath Pearce. These two play in the Bundesliga, and are used to dealing with capable attackers from the wings. The defense will pose problems for whomever Fabio Capello selects up top.
The midfield should also provide trouble for England. Damarcus Beasley, if fit, will be on the left. His speed is tremendous and could cause trouble for either David Beckham or David Bentley. Either Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan will be on the right wing. Both are tricky players who carry the ball well. They are also adept at making darting runs to the middle and distributing from there. Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley will most likely be in the center of the pitch. Clark is a hard-nosed midfielder who is not afraid to let his presence be known. Michael Bradley is one of the most sought after commodities in Europe. At 20 years old, Bradley scored 20 goals for Heerenveen, and has garnered interest from teams in England such as Everton, Blackburn, Sunderland, and Middlesborough. He is a relentless worker and will give plenty of trouble to whomever is in the center for England.
The forward position is one where the US pool is shallow. Eddie Johnson will most likely be partnered with either Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey. Bob Bradley decided not to bring Jozy Altidore, the 18-year-old phenom who is the bright hope at the forward position. He has been linked to Real Madrid, Chelsea, Villareal, and Manchester United. His absence leaves a significant void. If you watched Eddie Johnson at Fulham, you will know he too often plays the ball back and dives all over the pitch. However, he is known to be a streaky player. If he is able to hit a good run of form, he could cause trouble for England. Landon Donovan has also played well recently. He has scored 8 goals in 8 games this year for the Galaxy. If it is Clint Dempsey up top, he might play a more withdrawn role, with Johnson directly in front of him. Dempsey is not a true forward, but has shown himself to be more than capable of playing the role. He was the lone scorer for the Yanks in the previous game between the US and England.
The US should be able to exploit the left side through Damarcus Beasley and make trouble for England. If they can do that and take their set pieces well, the US could be leaving Wembley with a win. The US was able to score all three of their goals in their previous game against Poland from set pieces. Oguchi Onyewu is difficult to handle on set pieces and even John Terry could have trouble because of Gooch’s significant physical advantage. If the US is able to stop the English attack, control the central midfield, and attack the left side with Beasley, they have a chance of surprising England.
Will the underdogs surprise the underachievers? What will the final score be? Have your say.