Thanks to sloppy goalkeeping and some intestinal fortitude (enabling the underdogs to battle back after an early goal), the United States earned themselves a much needed point against England on Saturday afternoon. And frankly, I am going to brag because my predictions never seem to come true, but you DID hear it predicted here at Not in HD first in the preview column.
I foresaw the 1-1 draw, as well as ten out of the 11 starters and their correct positions, with the exception of Robbie Findley. I guessed Edson Buddle, who entered the match late as a sub.
The key play of the game, which will of course become water cooler talk for the next week, was the goalkeeping gaffe by England’s Robert Green, on Clint Demspey’s bounding shot. One which squirted awkwardly behind him, gently rolling over the goal line. As fortunate as that play was, the play of the U.S. team gave us much to be encouraged by.
In the preview we talked about the importance of the training table, specifically for the tandem of Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu. My thoughts looked spot-on with a few slight
exceptions. Much was made about Onyewu not having played a full 90 minutes since November, but he was exceptional in the final 20 minutes of the game as he stepped up and consistently won challenges. Altidore didn’t seem hampered by the ankle, especially on his explosion around the corner, resulting in a great shot that deflected off the keeper and then the post.
(Although we must keep in mind that this was against the geriatric Jamie Carragher, who already had a yellow card next to his name in the book).
For my money, this guy was the man of the match. Steve Cherundulo made the last minute insert of James Milner look silly, after coach Fabio Capello was forced to remove him after a half an hour and ‘Dolo frequently did the same to Milner’s replacement, Shaun Wright-Phillips. He did well getting forward and seemed to jump start the U.S. attack from his right flank. The only worry is that he picked up a yellow card and we will have to keep an eye on his card accumulation with Jonathan Spector looming as a replacement.
3.) Coaching Edge
Capello waited until the last minute to name a No. 1 keeper and it came back to bite him.
I understand a coach that wants to wait to reveal his starting line-up for strategic reasons, but goalkeeping is more of a position of confidence and one that effects the other teams game plan minimally. He would have done better to name a starter before the friendlies and allowed him to build up confidence. Instead we saw nerves. Also his usage of Milner (only played 30 minutes before being subbed off) and Ledley King (taken off at half, presumably for health and fitness) can be seen as head-scratchers.
4.) Bradley and Clark
They paired well together, just as they have all qualifying. Minus the lapse in coverage on the opening goal, Clark and Bradley held their own against the tandem of Lampard and Gerrard. Donovan and Dempsey pulled inside often, leading to a few spacing issues, but overall the central midfielders’ energy was great, as they didn’t allow England to play downhill for the majority of the time.
5.) Next Up: Slovenia
This game may turn out to be more important than the England game, depending on the result of tomorrow morning’s contest. If Slovenia manages one (a tie) or three points (a victory), it will be essential for the U.S. to get a win, with the possibility of clinching a second round slot on the line. You may see Bradley change the lineup to suit a more attacking style, but expect to see the back line to remain the same.
Check back with me here on NotinHD.com, frequently for “One Touch: World Cup Observations” throughout the tournament.
As supporters of the red, white, and blue; we’ll take the point tonight, but unless we see another positive result Friday it will render tonight’s performance meaningless.