Soccer, an Englishman's View

Nick DaviesCorrespondent IJune 23, 2010

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20:  Landon Donovan of Everton during the Barclays Premiership match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on February 20, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images



I’ll be honest, the English understanding of Americans relationship to Soccer is one based largely on the adverts of Budweiser, specifically the one in which Budweiser propose an American takeover of the English Premier league into which they add “overtime multi-ball” and rename Arsenal “The Arsenal Red-socks” and Portsmouth “The Portsmouth Pirates”.


            At least this was the case until fairly recently. Fulham fans would undoubtedly tell me they had known since their own American, Clint Dempsey, became a stalwart in their team, but with the slow influx of quality American players into the European leagues we have been forced to take notice. As a Birmingham fan, the Aston Villa keeper Brad Friedel has earned my enmity and admiration in equal measure for the past few years, while his stand in, Brad Guzan, has also impressed during his all too brief opportunities. Indeed a brief look online will show you there were Americans plying their trade in several of the major European leagues, you can see for yourselves by clicking here. (It’s a little outdated (2008) but the players are largely still there or still in Europe)


            In the back of our minds the American league was one where players went for a final payday as they had in the 80’s and 90’s with the likes of Pele, Beckenbauer, Mathias and even our own aging David Beckham continued the trend in more recent times.


The real breakthrough came with the American team’s real star player Landon Donovan and his loan spell at Everton. It was known he had failed in the Bundesliga with Bayern (though Klinsmann the manager at the time has recently stated that Donovan was not afforded a real chance) but at Everton he shone, he complemented their attacking midfield section and he linked fearsomely with Steven Pienar and he claimed both goals and assists in the league.


 When England were drawn with the USA in their World Cup Group I was one of the few who did not see the game as an ‘easy three pointer’ but instead pointed to the impressive Confederations Cup campaign enjoyed by the States. I was in a rather severe minority. And indeed as I allowed myself to catch the groundless optimism with which England approaches all major tournaments, I saw our inability to beat the USA as a general failure by England, though on the night, despite the manner in which the USA scored I did concede a draw to be a fair result. (Seeing England’s performance against Algeria I think I now see it as a point gained rather than two lost.)


We have learnt some valuable lessons about the USA team so far in this World Cup,


1)      Heart. The USA team has fallen behind in both of their games so far, and I did not see a single head go down, just a hard-nosed determination to get back into the game, which they duly did.

2)      The Bradley’s. Bob Bradley is a highly competent coach who organised his team against England very well and organised a comeback against Slovenia with aplomb. His son Michael Bradley is an excellent midfielder, managing to offer cover to the back four with some hard tackling which also supporting attack with incisive passing, even chipping in with the equalising goal. Undoubtedly there were cries of nepotism when he was called up by his father, but no one can argue he has not made the position his own.

3)      Oguchi ‘Gooch’ Onyewu. This man is a beast of a defender. Emile Heskey might not have a silky touch, any finishing ability or clever movement, but he is mightily strong, but he bounced of this man, while Rooney has all of the above and could still not get the better of him. 

4)      Goalkeepers. Unlike the English pool of players, the American coach can call upon several top Goalkeepers, the current no.1 Tim Howard is highly competent and worthy of an international team.

5)      The USA needs a quality front man, Donovan being an attacking all-rounder, thankfully Altidore seems to be heading in the right direction to fulfil this criteria.

6)      Fans. Attended in Numbers and I heard them over the (God-awful) Vuvuzela, need I say more?


Yes indeed with the improving domestic league and successes of the international team it seems Soccer is on a steep rise in America; maybe you can start calling it football now?  




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