By Kevin Koczwara
I recently wrote about the Americans keys to victory on Saturday when they open the World Cup against England. They weren’t ground breaking keys, but they are important, and should not be taken lightly.
Now I am going to expand on the keys to the game for the Yanks and look at three players the U.S. Men’s National Team needs to show up in a big way on Saturday.
1. Jay DeMerit — The Watford center back was a major part of the Yanks resurgence in the Confederations Cup last summer. His no nonsense defending, hard work and ability to win the ball in the air helped the USMNT move past Egypt and then upset the world’s best team, Spain before falling to Brazil in the final.
DeMerit will have to be on top of his game against England because the English attack is being lead by some of the best in the world: Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. DeMerit needs to be in position all game to out body and out play Rooney and company. His experience in England — albeit the lower leagues — should help him cope with the physical nature of England’s strikers.
Peter Crouch, Emile Heskey (who you don’t really have to worry too much about), and Rooney all pose physical problems in the air and have skill. DeMerit will have to work hard against the big England strikers — Rooney plays bigger than his height.
Jermain Defoe poses the most difficult task for DeMerit. Defoe has bundles of pace and he can finish with the best in the world in front of the net. Demerit will have to be on his toes if and when Defoe is on the field for England because if DeMerit isn’t in good position he will get burned. If Demerit plays well, then the Yanks will have a chance to beat one of the World Cup’s favorites.
2. Jonathan Spector — The West Ham right back was beat often this season in the English Premier League by plays like James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard, and Wayne Rooney — many times Spector was played out of position on the left side of the defense, but the point remains the same. Spector will need to shut down his side of the field and help solidify the defense against England if the USMNT hopes to get a positive result against England, and it is possible that they can.
Spector is the Yanks’s best defender on the flanks, far and away the best. He needs to display the type of game that he was playing last summer at the Confederations Cup when he was whipping in crosses and marking his assignments tight. If Spector can play a good game and keep the left side of the England midfield busy with overlaps and quality crosses, then the Yanks will have another weapon at their disposal.
3. Clint Dempsey — Dempsey is the Yanks wild card in the deck. He is the boldest of all the United States players on the field, willing to try whatever is necessary to score. Dempsey’s time in the EPL at Fulham, and his success there, should help the attacking midfielder when he squares off against England.
Dempsey has shown that at times he can aggravate his teammates and his fans when he tries to do too much, but at other times he looks like a genius on the field with his tricks and risks. If the Americans hope to beat England then Dempsey is going to have to take the type of risks that make him who he is when he laces up against England. The U.S. will surely be playing to counter England’s attack and that is the perfect time to take chances on net and suites Dempsey’s skill set perfectly.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.