Terry, Hargreaves, Rooney, Ferdinand, Woodgate, Beckham, Bentley, Gerrard, Lampard, Walcott, Crouch, Owen and both Coles. These are some of the best players not only in England but in the world. Yet they will all be there tomorrow, ready to go against the overmatched U.S.
I don’t pity Capello when it comes to filling out the Starting XI.
How could he go wrong?
Bob Bradley, on the other hand, has some tough decisions that could greatly affect the game’s outcome. Unlike Capello, he does not have unlimited ammunition. He’s got to pick his shots, and yes, he must pick some fellas who will refrain from firing until they can see the whites of Hart’s eyes.
Yes, tomorrow night, the U.S. Men’s National Team will take on England’s Men’s National Team before a horde of screaming Brits at Wembley Stadium. All in all, it looks like it will be the Boston Massacre all over again.
The Battle of Bunker Hill, not so much. The Battle to Escape from Soccer’s Bunker? Perhaps. A win for the U.S., even though only a friendly, could vault the team in the overall FIFA rankings and give the U.S. some much needed momentum prior to World Cup qualifiers.
As is customary though, I will spend the time leading up to the big game by beginning to second guess Bob “Skeletor” Bradley’s decisions before he can even make them.
With that in mind, I started thinking about who I would put out there on the pitch for the U.S.’s most high profile friendly outside a battle with neighbor to the South, Mexico.
Now, Ives Galarcep knows way more about soccer than I. In the past, he has been almost spot on when it came to predicting who Bradley would put on the pitch for a big match. So, because I don’t have access to Bradley’s Starting XI (likely because it remains undecided and he doesn’t even have access to it yet), I will use Ives’ projected starters as my tableau:
Now, here is who I would go with:
Howard between the posts is a no-brainer. No argument there.
The defense is also pretty hard to find fault with. We are obviously going to need a four-wide line to keep Howard from being riddled with shots like Sonny Corleone. While I love Spector, and honestly would rather see him out there instead of Pearce, Dolo or even Carlos (who will likely Captain), he has a hip problem that will probably keep his back side glued to the bench.
At center mid, Clark has gotten the start in both previous games this year, and I fear Galarcep is right that he will be placed prominently in the middle for the third. I say “fear” because I just don’t believe the hype about Ricardo yet. I prefer the cool, defensive play of Maurice Edu. This is a big game and Clark could get frustrated early and blow it big time.
Edu is more calculated, and he plays better D, which the U.S. will need heaps of.
Obviously, Bradley is a no-brainer to be in the center as well. He had perhaps the most impressive season of any Yank abroad last year, and he needs to emerge as the team’s leader in the middle. He too often has a hot head though. If his passion gets the better of him early, it would be far better to stick someone in for him in the second half.
I must admit, if I had seen Beasley in the Starting XI a week ago, I would have scoffed that his injury would preclude him from playing. But apparently DMB looked fantastic for his Scottish side and now looks fit for the big dance with the Red Coats. Outside, I obviously think Beasley is waaaaaaaay better than Lewis.
But DMB is just back from injury, and there is no reason to overuse him too quickly.
Bradley loves Dempsey up top, but anyone who has watched Fulham knows Clint belongs out on the right, and not up top where he lacks any space to be creative.
Finally, up top is obviously where I disagree with Bradley. I like Wolff. The guy is not bad. He may be the most underrated American player of his generation. Let him have a go at England.
Let’s see if he has anything to prove.
One thing that won’t prove anything is sticking EJ up top. The guy has already shown he can’t get it done against top competition, and I see no reason why he should break out against a defense led by John Terry.
I also love Donovan up top, instead of out wide where he is less of a scoring threat. Yes, he lacks size. Yes, he will have less space up top. Yes, he usually folds like a lawn chair in the big ones.
But, and it’s a Sir Mix-A-Lot approved size “but”, he has looked unstoppable lately.
Granted, its easier to tear through the Dallas defense than the England Men’s National Team, but you have to go with the hot hand, and Donovan’s got it.
I would make three subs, all at the 60 minute mark, so long as injury did not force one earlier. Beasley would come on for Lewis. Clark for Edu (unless Bradley was doing his Chucky doll routine). Finally, I would stick Adu in for Wolff. Freddy’s the future, and the only way to ensure it’s a bright one will be to get him some experience.
Regardless, I predict a beatdown for the U.S. Here’s what I predict. By the end of the game, the Brits will be gleefully singing “God Save the Queen” and the Yanks will be singing “God Save Us From Theo Walcott”.