By Kevin Koczwara and Ryan Fleming
The United States and England was the Yanks and Americans biggest hyped game in a long time. Media outlets and fans were talking about it as if we were back in 1778 and Americans were fighting for their independence again — independence from comparisons on the soccer field/football pitch. And the game didn’t disappoint, except no one left a winner.
The United States got lucky when England goalkeeper Robert Green fumbled Clint Dempsey’s half-chance on net, tying the game before half at one. England looked the better side for much of the game, especially in the attack, but the Yanks grit and fight in the defensive end was great to see.
The United States will have to work on spacing their squad and moving the ball from the middle of the field to the wings. Too many times Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were forced in from their wide positions to the middle of the field to receive the ball, not allowing them to get free into space, because neither Ricardo Clark or Michael Bradley could control possession or make positive passes into the attacking third.
Bradley may want to think of changing his shape and giving the two holding midfielders some help in the middle against Slovenia — a well organized side — by adding José Torres into the mix a little more. If the Yanks can control play more and Dempsey and Donovan are allowed to express themselves in space more often, then the U.S. could certainly see themselves in the knock-out stages of the tournament.
As for England, they need to figure out their goalkeeping situation. Robert Green certainly struggled with Dempsey’s lackluster strike, but he did make a good save later in the game on a streaking Jozy Altidore, who should have done better with his shot. Ledley King’s groin injury has to be a concern for Fabio Capello as he picked the Spurs center back to be Rio Ferdinand’s replacement in the middle of the England defense after the captain picked up an injury. Now Capello could be short another center back, leaving him only three on the roster (John Terry, Jamie Carragher, and Michael Dawson).
England will need to be better in the back than they were at times against the Americans because the competition only gets harder.
Coming into the game many thought it would be “the game of games,” at least pundits and some supporters made it seem that way. Certainly one of the most anticipated games of the tournament, England vs. USA portrayed aspects of weakness on both sides.
In reference to the United States’ game, I really wasn’t impressed by anything they did. That is, anything beside not totally collapsing after Steven Gerrard put the Three Lions up only minutes into the game. The Yanks played tough, though sloppy, but just well enough not to concede a second goal.
One of the major concerns for the U.S. coming into Friday’s game was the condition of keeper, Tim Howard. Howard was hit, cleats-up, by an onrushing Emile Heskey. The English forwards effort sported no ill will by any means; a play that could happen every game. Fortunately, for the Yanks, Howard was just diagnosed with sore ribs and is expected to start in Friday’s contest.
Another aspect that stood out was the total lack of communication by Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Oneywu. Throughout the game, the two made innocuous balls seem threatening or at least interesting when the play should have been handled more feasibly. Good communication doesn’t happen overnight, but the sooner the Yanks start talking, the easier situations will become for the team.
In regards to England, the Three Lions just need to finish their chances. Rooney has to have space made more available to him, that’s another thing the Yanks did well. They cut off Rooney’s room, forcing him into awkward positions. At the keeper position, Capello did the right thing to stick with Green after he gave up an embarrassing goal. Green faced the situation like a man and Capello did too. Green was solid in the second half, stopping Jozy Altidore from close range, to keep the game tied.
It’s early and the first round is a round full of nervousness and miscues. Team’s that settle down first are those who have the best chance to advance.
Ryan Fleming and Kevin Koczwara are the writers and editors for The Soccer Guys.