Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. fired up to face England in World Cup opener

JOHANNESBURG — When the United States played its final home tuneup game in Philadelphia before leaving for the World Cup, a couple of elderly gentlemen were introduced to the players before the start.

Harry Keough, 82, and Walter Bahr, 83, know what lies ahead for the team today in Rustenburg. They've been there, done that.

Keough and Bahr — father of former NFL kickers (and soccer players) Chris and Matt — were starters on the U.S. team that scored one of soccer's all-time upsets, astounding the globe by defeating England 1-0 at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.

Now, 60 years later, it is England that once again will line up on the opposite side of the halfway line, this time at 44,000-seat Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

England comes into the tournament as a legitimate contender, a team of experience, strength and potential. The United States is an underdog, but the pressure is all on England. If the Americans lose, it was to be expected. If the English lose, the consequences are incalculable.

"I understand this is a really, really important moment for the country, but I am relaxed," said England's Italian-born coach, Fabio Capello. "This team has improved a lot. We've found a spirit. Things are good now."

Capello can afford to be calm; at every position he has starters that are seasoned professionals, some of them world class. Every one of his 23 players performs weekly in the English Premier League.

The United States can't compare, at least not man for man. But as a team, and on the right day, who knows?

Capello, who said he wouldn't disclose his starting lineup until two hours before kickoff, can field an attack with speed and power, through Wayne Rooney. England also can attack in the air, through Peter Crouch and John Terry. It can attack from distance, through Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. It can attack down the wings, through Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson.

It could, in other words, be a long night for the U.S. defense and for goalkeeper Tim Howard.

But Howard plays for Everton in the Premier League and is one of the world's best. And he is fired up, to say the least. After being the backup to Kasey Keller at Germany 2006, it is his time to shine.

"It's going to be pretty incredible," Howard said. "I don't know what's going to be better — (being) at the bar back home with friends watching (the game) or actually playing in it.

"I think our country is going to stop (for the game), I really do. Everyone is going to stop and be watching."

If Capello opts to start Rooney and Crouch up front, it presents the United States defense with two problems. Rooney has the speed, guile and power. Crouch, at 6 feet 7, is an obvious aerial threat. Both are first-class finishers.

"You see that a lot in soccer nowadays, where you have a big guy and a smaller guy running off of him, so it's not something we've never seen before," U.S. defender and captain Carlos Bocanegra said.

Fellow defender Steve Cherundolo acknowledges the multiple threats facing the back line.

"That's the objective in this game," he said, "to keep you on your heels, to create mistakes. When you have one good player next to another good player next to another good player, one of those good players is going to be open eventually.

"So that's an advantage that England may have, but if we do our job right, if we help each other out, if we play as a team, we won't make many mistakes, and I really like our chances."

The Americans will have their most experienced forward starting for them. Coach Bob Bradley said Jozy Altidore, who sprained his right ankle June 2 during training, will start.

"It was always our sense it was a minor injury," Bradley said.

U.S. fired up to face England in World Cup opener 06/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis


    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  2. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  3. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”
  4. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. laughing right along after comical dive

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Souza being Souza.

    That seemed to be the best way to describe the entertaining — and comically bad — dive Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. attempted in Friday's game, and the good humor he showed in handling the fallout, including a standing ovation his next at-bat from the …

  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi had to battle without his best stuff again, which is becoming a more common occurrence, leading to long at-bats — including 13 pitches to Kennys Vargas in the fifth — and running up his pitch count to 118 without finishing the sixth.