First, welcome back to me. Things here at my institution of higher education have been, well, interesting over the past month or so. We’ve experienced an at once smaller yet larger version of what SEK wrote about regarding Middlesex, but at least that has ended somewhat happily. But hey, while we’ve been enjoying the fruits of seemingly interminable institutional reorganizations since I arrived here seven years ago, we’re number 1 in one “league table”.
More critically, there is the small matter of England v USA this evening (UK). Fabio Capello has yet to announce his starting XI. There are weaknesses to both sides. For England, they have limitations at the back, with Spurs’ Ledley King expected to get the start in central defense alongside John Terry. King did not look good in the warm up matches, and his match fitness has to be questioned. Whoever starts in goal for England will invite question marks. Joe Cole hasn’t played much for his former club, Chelsea, this season, and up front, Emile Heskey hasn’t always been Martin O’Neill’s favorite up front (though he did play in 45 matches in all competitions). Heskey’s strength is, well, his strength; he looks to be a good international striker with one small limitation: he doesn’t score goals. England will also suffer from the now legendary inability for Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to play alongside one another in the England midfield. England’s performance during their warm up matches was at best disinterested.
That said, the American’s weaknesses are more severe. Altidore has struggled to get a game at either Villarreal or Xeres, and while he made 28 appearances for Hull City, he struggled to find the net. At the back, Oguchi Onyewu, like Ledley King, is weak on match fitness. Our strength (as usual) is in goal, and Tim Howard will be tested early and often.
The English media have ranged from polite ‘this may be difficult’ to ‘it’s going to be a walk.’ My English friends and colleagues are less guarded, and more than one has suggested the US are in with a shout of an upset.
While I think we’re better, and our chances are better, than David Hirshey writes in the NYT (and while it’s not a risky argument to assert that not a single outfield player on the USMNT would make the English 23 man squad, I do think Donovan would at least get a look), if we’re relying on little more than “team spirit” to get past England, as Bradley predicts, I point out that this approach hasn’t worked well for the 2010 Seattle Mariners.
England will control possession, with the US relying on the odd set-piece and the break.
My hope: a draw. My prediction: 2-1 to England. As I’ll be watching it in my local with friends and colleagues, bravely wearing my 2006 USMNT Landon Donovan shirt (and depending on the support of each and every Welsh, Irish, and Scottish person in the pub), in the event that the US somehow manage a victory in this match, I’ll have to run and hide.
I’ll also have a spare shirt for the walk home.
UPDATE: I’m not an unhappy man.