United States Vs. England World Cup 2010 Preview: Seven Month Wait Ends Saturday

Two issues have defined the lead-up to what some (but none in Brazil and Portugal) consider the biggest match of group stage.

The first is injuries.  The United States have Jozy Altidore healthy, though it is unclear if he is "100 percent."  If he is not, the United States will be starting two hobbled players, with a limited Oguchi Onyewu - still coming back from knee surgery - scheduled to start in central defense.  And of course, the U.S. is missing Charlie Davies to a long-term injury.

England is in worse shape.  Their captain, central defender Rio Ferdinand, suffered a training ground knee injury and was taken off the roster last week.  Starting central midfielder Gareth Barry is out with an ankle injury.  Starting goalkeeper David James will be rested with a knee problem.

As much attention has been paid to the U.S.'s injury woes, England has it worse (though those have gotten enough attention, too).

The second big issue defining the big match's build-up:  Rivalry, and the U.S.'s interpretation of it.  For England, this is not a normal match, but it is certainly less of an affair than it would be if the Three Lions were playing Germany.  For the United States, there is no conceivable match-up that would be more important, with some of the supporters' intensity making the lead-up to a Mexico match seem benevolent.

As far as the group dynamics are concerned, the match will not define either's tournament.  Both teams are picked to go through regardless of what happens in this match.  For U.S. soccer culture, however, this could be a landmark occasion - it's biggest win in sixty years.

If they get it.  They are still underdogs - markedly so.  However, the gaps between the haves and haves not are closely collapsing, and many people on both sides of the pond might be surprised at just how little space exists between England and the U.S.

And to that end, one idea that could consistently work:

The United States have a clear advantage in attack down their left.  England right back Glen Johnson sometimes gets too ambitious going forward, and even when he is back, he can be beaten.  If Dempsey can consistently beat Johnson, it will force right-center back Ledley King to come support, should Dempsey move toward goal.  If Jozy Altidore runs near post, he will pull John Terry with him.  The vacated space could be used by Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley, with Clint Dempsey having the vision and skill to find them.  Should England's defense respond to the empty space, the first of Donovan or Bradley into the space could re-open the far post by running to the middle.

England

Team Preview
Team Data Card (PDF)

Matches

June 12 - United States
June 18 - Algeria
June 23 - Slovenia

United States

Team Preview
Team Data Card (PDF)

Matches

June 12 - England
June 17 - Slovenia
June 22 - Algeria

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