United States Camp Focus – Bradley’s Men Uphold Status of Shock Contenders
The United States began their World Cup campaign with a historic draw against one of the superpowers of world football, England. With many people believing that the three lions would have a walk over in their first match of the tournament, Bob Bradley’s men fought courageously to give themselves a strong chance of qualification from the group stage.
The USA team began the night in disarray as Steven Gerrard gave England the lead within 4 minutes. Having clearly set out a 4-4-2 formation that gave Jay DeMerit the role of keeping Wayne Rooney quiet, it was the Liverpool and England skipper, Gerrard, who received a pass from Emile Heskey before slotting the ball past a flailing Tim Howard. The United States team picked themselves up from here though and were able to establish a rhythm and impact on the match. They created a number of golden opportunities as Jozy Altidore, getting the nod after successfully returning from a knock, headed inches wide from a Landon Donovan cross, before AC Milan defender, Oguchi Onyewu, met a Donovan free kick only to head agonisingly wide as well.
In the 40th minute Clint Dempsey changed the United States’ fortunes as he struck a ball with little power or pace behind it that somehow slipped out of Robert Green’s grasping gloves. From here on in neither team seemed able to establish a dominance upon the game. Although, Bob Bradley will feel unlucky not to have taken all three points after Hull striker, Altidore, burst into the left side of the box to blast a shot at Green’s near post. The England stopper redeemed himself by making a fantastic reaction save to fingertip the ball onto post. The most worrying moment of the match for the USA squad came from neither Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard nor Steven Gerrard. In fact it was a result of the lumbering Heskey.
In the 29th minute the Aston Villa target man slid feet first into Tim Howard which left the Everton keeper grimacing on the floor for several minutes. Having received an injection of painkillers at half time Howard returned in the second half to make six saves and hold the England team to only one goal. However, Bradley revealed after he match that Howard has a suspected broken rib and may be sent for medical tests in the coming days. The United States coach said: “Obviously he was sore, he did a great job of taking a tough hit and staying in it and playing really well. We will assess him later today and figure out then what we need to do from there.”
If, as suspected, Howard has broken a rib, there is unlikely to be a major panic within the camp. With the former Manchester United stopper picked as first choice, Bradley still has two Premiership goalkeepers to call upon in Marcus Hahnemann and Brad Guzan. A constant shining light for the USA throughout the match was LA Galaxy midfielder and squad captain, Landon Donovan. Creating constant opportunities for himself and others the former Everton player will have given Bradley more than enough reasons to believe his captain will be able to lead them to the knock out stages of the tournament. The result means that the United States sit third in the table with 1 point, behind Slovenia (3 points) and England (1 point). The United States fans and players will take much heart from such a well worked and deserved result. With Slovenia and Algeria, ranked 33rd and 31st respectively, the remaining fixtures will be unlikely to causes many problems.
Looking back at the 2006 World Cup will not give the United States many causes for optimism though. Gaining an unexpected 1-1 draw with eventual winners, Italy, the US finished disappointingly with losses to Ghana and the Czech Republic, failing to qualify from the group stages. Next for Bradley’s men though will be table toppers Slovenia who, after luckily escaping a 10-man Algerian team with a 1-0 win, are not likely to possess the speed, power and technical ability they faced against Fabio Cappello’s England team. The potential to shock the world is still a possibility, but can Bradley’s men reverse the memories of 2006?