June 12, 2010

South Africa to Santa Barbara: Day 2

Dont Tread on Me: U.S. vs. England


Follow the 2010 World Cup with the men's and women's UCSB soccer programs all tournament long on UCSBgauchos.com. "South Africa to Santa Barbara: The Cup is Coming" will provide daily commentary on the day's biggest storylines, featuring video interviews with Gaucho soccer players and men's head coach, Tim Vom Steeg.

To view previous entries click here.

Not since Paul Revere's "midnight ride" have the Yanks been this ready for the British.

The United States and England collide Saturday in one of the most anticipated matches of the 2010 World Cup.

The defectors versus the motherland. Wayne Rooney versus Landon Donovan. The traditional powerhouse versus a country still searching for its soccer identity.

With Algeria and Slovenia as threatening as a security guard without a walkie talkie, the winner of England-U.S. will put a choke-hold on the group, giving the victor ultimate control and helping them to avoid Germany, which will likely take the top seed out of Group D.

The U.S. has built quite a resumé since going winless and flaming out of the 2006 World Cup. In the 2009 Confederations Cup, The Yanks beat the top-ranked Spain before falling to Brazil 3-2 in the final, a match that saw the U.S. take a 2-0 lead into halftime.

"Right now I think the United States' style is about being very athletic but we have enough skill on the field to compete with better players," said UCSB men's soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg. "The combination of size, strength, and speed does allow us to pose problems for other teams."

In this fixture, the U.S. will be content to sit back, weather the Three Lions' pressure, and nail the English on the counter-attack. Considerable questions remain in the defensive third for the U.S. The defense proved porous in the three friendlies leading up to the Cup and center back Oguchi Onyewu has looked shaky since returning from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. When the U.S. does attack, the backs will find the feet of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey who will look to set the table for Hull City standout Jozy Altidore and the fleet-of-foot Robbie Findley up top.

What the United States cannot match is the on-the-ball skill of the English. The Three Lions will be keen to set the tempo, allowing wingers Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon to make runs off a bulldog of an attacker, Wayne Rooney. Outclassed at nearly every position on the pitch besides goalkeeper, the U.S. defense will have to be nearly perfect if it is to keep the likes of 6' 7'' Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey away from danger.

The U.S. will not be intimidated on Saturday, as 13 of the 23 players on the roster have appeared in the English Premier League at one time or another. The match is an opportunity to recapture the magic of 1950, when Joe Gaetjens' lone goal gave the U.S. a 1-0 victory over England in arguably the most shocking upset in World Cup history.

"The Red Coats are coming! The Red Coats are coming!"

And the British might just get ambushed once again.

While the U.S. takes on England, Coach Vom Steeg and the rest of the Gaucho soccer program are preparing for the 2010 College Cup being hosted by UCSB on Dec. 10-12 at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. Season tickets start at just $75 and include one ticket to all home men and women's regular season games and one College Cup All Session ticket. UCSB staff and faculty can purchase their season tickets for a reduced rate of $50.

Keys to the match:

United States- Are the Yanks healthy enough to compete with the likes of Ashley Cole and John Terry? Along with Onyewu's recuperation from a knee injury, Altidore, Dempsey, Jay DeMerit, and Carlos Bocanegra have all missed training time since camp opened in May. With the Three Lions attack going forward in waves, a central defense anchored by Onyewu and DeMerit must be fit to task. The Americans love to depend on their goalkeeper (ask Brad Friedel, who carried the U.S. from the goal line to the final eight in 2002) and this year will be no different. Tim Howard must be prepared to clash with Crouch in the air and keep his defense organized with the likes of Rooney and Steven Gerrard bearing down.

England- Don't get caught. Donovan loves himself a nice counter attack and the Yanks know where to find him. The speed of Lennon and Wright-Phillips will create problems for the U.S. defense on the outside while the likes of Rooney and Crouch provide the threat in the box. A major question is how manager Fabio Capello will choose to use attacking midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who essentially play the same position for their respective clubs and provide similar play-making qualities. If England scores first, it will be difficult for the Yanks' to recover.

Prediction:

England 2, United States 1

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