The United States’ preparations for their crucial first match against England have been aided by the return of Jozy Altidore this week. As Bob Bradley puts the finishing touches to his team he learn that, after returning to training only a few days ago, the striker will be fit to play against the Three Lions in their opening match of this summer’s
With an impressive 3-1 win against Australia last weekend which saw Robbie Findley line up alongside Edson Buddle, there have been calls for the same strike duo to start against Fabio Capello’s men. Buddle, 29, who netted his first and second goals for the national side in the win, has been singled out as one-to-watch by USA stopper, Tim Howard. He said: “It seems everything Edson touches is a goal and Robbie is creating so many chances. It is important the guys are clicking and those guys are at the moment.”
Meanwhile, the striker that has been on the lips of fans across the other side of the Atlantic is Manchester United and England ace, Wayne Rooney. Having been sent off in the 2006 competition after a stamp on Portugal’s Ricardo Carvalho, much talk has been of his temperament and how this could affect the United States’ game plan. Rooney was booked during England’s 3-0 win over the Platinum Stars for abusive language and referee, Jeff Selogilwe, admitted that should he continue to talk to referees in the same way at the World Cup he could be shown red.
Refereeing the match between the United States and England will be the Brazilian, Carlos Simon, crucially nicknamed ‘controversial Carlos’. Having refereed in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup’s Simon has been in more headlines of late. After officiating a match between Flamengo and Cruzeiro, in which he sent off a Flamengo player for diving, the team wrote to FIFA’s general secretary. In the message by Kleber Leite, the then Flamengo vice-president, they reported him for an “unambiguously inconsistent, unfair and inequitable performance.” Rooney then will have more than the USA back line to deal with if he is to produce the same quality of performance the world has come to expect.
Coming into the match both teams are looking high on confidence and form. The USA will look back at a year in which they not only beat European champions, Spain, in the Confederations Cup but also went on to reach the final before losing to Brazil. For Fabio Capello’s men, they will keep their heads high as they look back at a World Cup qualifying campaign which saw them score more goals than any other European team.
If the United States are to become a force within this summer’s tournament they will have to summon the courage and belief of their 1950 compatriots. During the World Cup in Brazil in the summer of 1950 the United States team went head-to-head with England and sent a shock blow across the footballing world winning 1-0. It was billed as the biggest upset in the history of international football before being nicknamed the ‘Miracle on Grass’.
Although Bob Bradley’s team will not quite be able to live up to this billing, if they are able to beat an England team brimming with confidence they will have to rely on Watford centre back Jay DeMerit. The defender knows what a victory would mean to the team’s confidence but also understands the legacy that could be left for the fans in years to come. He said: ”That is a fantastic marker for USA soccer, if we can build on the performance of last summer by beating a world power like England. It is chance to go into the history books like the 1950 side, and things like that prove what can happen. We haven’t watched any film of that 1950 win. I am not sure they have it available. But everyone knows the names of those players and, as a team, as a collective, we need to continue to believe.”