May 4, 2006

linchpins for Success at World Cup

The USA is currently ranked 4th in the FIFA standings (that's world, people), the highest ranking ever for the States. That's cool and possibly a keeper stat, but it's not as telling as much as would be imagined or desired. Brazil, at number 1, is in a world of their own. It will take a monumental effort on the opponent's part to dethrone the soccer titans of the world. Country's ranked between 2-10 are basically the same caliber. This should not discourage however. The US team is finally as good as, if not better than the England side(a personal wish of mine would be a 2-0 win against England's starting XI), Portugal, Spain, and maybe even Italy and the Czech, which happen to be our group stage opponents. Drumroll please...the linchpins for success for the US team this summer in Germany are as follows: (i'll try to avoid the absolute obvious elements)
  1. No more injuries!!! We are not terribly deep when it comes to world-class talent. Truthfully, world-class talent may not even characterize every starter we have. An injury to the likes of Donovan, Beasley, or Reyna could spell disaster, which being interpreted is "not getting out of the group stage"
  2. No own goals!!! (This is a flashback from the '02 Cup when Jeff Agoos (bless his heart) netted one for the other team against Portugal, nearly costing us 3 vital points against a world power. ) I don't see the US team scoring 3+ goals against either Italy or the Czech, so an own goal would prove costly.
  3. Avoiding extraneous lineup adjustments. The best starting XI should play every match with only a switch or two depending upon the opponent (maybe). In 2002, Arena used several different starting lineups, which I honestly believe disrupts flow and consistency, at best. To his credit, Arena has almost too much talent sitting on the bench. There are guys that can contribute. But it's Arena's job to play the best, and to make only those subs which are vital.
  4. A dominant Central Midfield. Guys like Ballack, Ronaldinho, etc. can totally change the match with their 5-star play. We will see how well our defensive unit fares against the world best.
  5. Set-piece goals. The US undoubtedly have some of the largest defenders in the Cup. Onyewu is HUGE. Between him, Bocanegra, McBride, we should have several goals off restarts. Most times, not enough priority is placed on set pieces. I would venture to say that behind Germany, and maybe another country (just room for mistake), the US is as good as they come in the air.
  6. Finally, some good bounces. I'm not a believer in fate, nor am I a fatalist, but sometimes you just gotta get the bounces. We'll see. It should be a good Cup.
All this comes from a soccer player, referree, self-proclaimed analyst, and fan. These views may not necessarily be objective or fair by nature. But I do issue a promise, I will not be like some (Billy Packer, Eric Wynalda) who rub their "points of importance" in others' faces. (sorry, just a pet pieve).

May good futbol result from training in Cary, NC and crescendo in Germany! Go USA!!!