The United States begins its World Cup adventure against England on Saturday. England is one of the tournament's favorites and is expected to win Group C. Things could get interesting though if the US can find a way to get a positive result against the Three Lions.
In order to do this, I believe the US should go right at England and attack early and often. The US has nothing to lose going into this game as they are the underdogs going in anyway.
After watching the three US friendlies leading up to the tournament (I attended the Turkey game in Philadelphia), the defense has been the biggest concern. The defense has looked shaky and has conceded some bad goals. This makes going on the offensive and attempting to take the game to the English even more important. This will help take some pressure off of the defense.
The US can't sit back and allow England to dominate possession, their attack is too strong. Players like Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard will pick the US apart if they do.
Also, England lost starting centerback Rio Ferdinand for the tournament due to injury and their goalkeeping situation is a bit up in the air. This means England may be a bit more vulnerable than expected at the back. If the US attacks England's weakened backline and get an early goal, they could really set the tone and get the English on their heels a bit.
Obviously, Tim Howard will be between the posts for the US and he will be integral. He is a very good keeper and since he plays his club ball with Everton, he is very familiar with the English team. This can only be an advantage for him and the US.
The US will play a four man backline and I believe it should be Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Steve Cherundolo from left to right. Cherundolo played well in the friendlies and can push down the right wing well, as displayed by his assist on Edson Buddle's second goal against Australia on Saturday.
DeMerit and Onyewu were both a bit shaky during the friendlies. These two must be strong in the middle or it could turn into a long day for the US. Bocanegra will provide a strong defensive presence on the left to go along with his great leadership as team captain.
In the midfield I believe Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey must play out on the wings. This is where they are most effective, and they can open the game up this way. There has been talk about one or the other moving to a forward spot along side Jozy Altidore but this would weaken the midfield. This is something that the US can't afford. They need the midfield to be their strength against the strong English midfield.
In the center of the midfield, Michael Bradley is sure to start. His partner will likely be either Ricardo Clark or Maurice Edu. I personally would choose Edu, as I think he brings a bit more to the table. Whichever one Coach Bob Bradley pairs with his son, the duo will have the huge task of trying to neutralize Gerrard and Lampard, two of the world's best. The battle in the midfield may prove to be key as it looks to be the strongest position for both teams.
Up front, Altidore looks ready to start after overcoming a minor ankle sprain that kept him out of the Australia friendly. His absence gave Edson Buddle a chance to shine and he did just that. Buddle scored two goals versus the Aussies and this should give him a good chance to start again. Buddle provides good size and speed to go along with his brimming confidence. A hot striker can help a team do well in tournament style play and Buddle has been blazing all season for the LA Galaxy and now the national team.
If Buddle can keep up his strong form and Altidore doesn't drift out of the game like he sometimes does, the two could form a dangerous partnership. They could certainly cause problems for whoever is replacing Ferdinand next to John Terry. Those eleven would make up my starting team against England on Saturday.
Bocanegra Onyewu DeMerit Cherundolo
I feel like based on form this starting XI would give the US the best chance of getting a positive result. This group along with some strategic subs by Bradley using guys like Robbie Findley, Stuart Holden, Herculez Gomez or Ricardo Clark would give the US a good chance of getting a draw or possibly even a surprise win. The US will need to bring its "A" game on Saturday to get a positive result but it's certainly within their ability. Now all we can do is wait and hope that the magic of 1950 can happen again.
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