Wayne Rooney is, without a doubt, the engine that drives the Three Lions. He's, in my humble opinion, a top three player in the world right now and playing at the level of Lionel Messi and C. Ronaldo. He's their catalyst and their prince.
But if you asked me to name the second most important player on the English side, I'd have to say Rio Ferdinand.
Ferdinand is still one of the best fullbacks in the world. He's long, quick, excellent in the air, and sticks to opposing players like stink to Beckhams' new cologne.
He's also an organizer. The one who seems to keep the defensive side communicating and in proper positions.
Now that he's gone for the World Cup, the US could have a massive opportunity.
The English defense could already be considered slow-of-foot. Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, and Eddie Johnson are good tactical players, but not world-class speedsters.
It could bode very, very well for an opportunistic US squad.
Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey, Jose Altidore, and perhaps Robbie Findley, all possess tremendous pace. They are up and down players who attack space and can run by, and around, slower defenders.
The absence of Ferdinand could provide a tremendous opportunity for the US. Ferdinand typically marks the faster opposing player while he plays for Manchester United.
God Help England if Jaime Carragher now has to take on that role.
The US-England game just got very interesting.
I'll be interested to see if Bob Bradley, the US coach, makes any adjustments due to Ferdinand's absence. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts Beasley and brings on Findley if the US can't summon some kind of pressure in the first 30 minutes.
The English squad should still be very strong on set plays and excellent at attacking the air.
It's on counter-attacks that I think the US could see some valuable opportunities. Donovan, especially, is a viper when it comes to quick counters and running past his defender. I'd look for England to take the air out of the ball, control the mid-field, and look for Rooney to make long runs.
I still have no idea how the US will contain Rooney. The guy is a beast. Even a healthy Onweyu doesn't have the pace to stick with Rooney. I think their best bet is to pressure the English mid-fielders and make Rooney get the ball further out than he's accustomed to. The only problem with that strategy is that Gerrard and Lampard are world-class players who can't be easily controlled.
Still, the US does have a dangerous counter-attack and, I believe, a lot more speed than the English side. Hopefully Bradley will realize that and not try and get into a slug-fest with a brawler, but rather stick and move and outbox the Brits.
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