Feb 3, 2010

The only reason England might defeat the U.S. on June 12...

...is this man: Wayne Mark Rooney.

Yes, we know: Rooney is actually Irish and could just as easily be playing for The Republic like his brother. But there are two problems with this: 1. Ireland were cheated out of a World Cup spot and 2. Rooney, for whatever reason, chose to represent the three lions.

They can be very glad he did. Because if England do defeat their former colony in South Africa, it will undoubtedly be because of Rooney. The best player in British football presents the U.S. a "match-up" problem its defense is ill-equipped to deal with. And that's when American defenders are healthy. At present, two of its starting back four (Oguchi Onyewu and Steve Cherundolo) are injured. So is defensive midfielder Ricardo Clark, whose services would be sorely needed to contain the Man United striker.

All three are expected back in time for the World Cup, but that might not help much. The U.S. simply does not have anybody who can match Rooney's pace, strength and positioning. Few, if any teams do of course but defense happens to be our weakest link. Clark is perhaps the best equipped to at least shadow Rooney in midfield and try to prevent him from getting touches there. But the back four will need to provide cover in the defensive third. And neither Onyewu nor Carlos Bocanegra, the Yanks other starting central defender, are up to the task. Onyewu can match Rooney physically but he's too slow for the assignment. Bocanegra is a bit fleeter than the massive Onyewu but not much. And frankly Boca (who also plays midfield) does not seem all that smart as a defender, as indicated through numerous blown assignments and cases of "ball watching" in qualifiers.

Too bad, because other than that England has no real edge on the U.S. In fact, the Yanks are stronger on the wings (through Landon Donovan, mainly) and far superior at goalkeeper. England have problems of their own on defense, and we aren't talking about John Terry's personal issues. Clint Dempsey has proven through his goal scoring at Fulham that he can succeed against English (and other) defenders. Plus we remain unconvinced about the strength of England's midfield, with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard hogging all the limelight (and most of the possession).

So make no mistake: Rooney is the only truly world class player on either side right now. Among U.S. players, Tim Howard is almost there and Jozy Altidore certainly has the potential. So does Charlie Davies, but nobody knows how last October's accident will affect his skills over the medium term. And for England? Rooney's it, folks. Sorry, but Stevie and Frankie aren't world class anymore, if indeed they ever were. Okay, fine, Theo Walcott also has the potential to be world class but who knows about his health.

Of course lots can still happen between now and June 12. Rooney could get injured, or burn out, or lose his form. Charlie Davies could continue his miraculous recovery and return as his old self in time for kick off. Stuart Holden could emerge as another bonafide threat on the flanks. Who knows, maybe a defensive star will even emerge for the U.S. Eh, not so much. But for now, it looks like Wayne Rooney is the one key factor for which the U.S. have no answer. If England beat us, it will be because of him.


  1. This article is retarded. Rooney was born in Liverpool, and last time I checked, that was in England.

    As far as the "only reason" England could beat the US, that is retarded as well. People who write articles about international football need to watch more leagues than just MLS and EPL.

    England has 1) Better players in every position (except GK) 2) A better coach 3) More skill 4) More squad depth...... See More

    I could keep going, but I need to work out before I leave for work...

  2. Lots of reasons England my beat the USA, but yeah I agree Rooney will be very hard for us to contain. Worse yet, this season he has gotten accustomed to succeeding as a lone striker up top.

    You cannot give Rooney a yard, sometimes all he needs is 6 inches to fire off a deadly shot.

    That said the USA benefits from really good keepers. Also, one player that has proven he can go toe to toe with Rooney, at least in midfield: Clint Dempsey - I've seen him relish it. Clint can tackle the ball off Rooney cleanly and with aggression - if he is on the same part of the pitch.

    Of course if we block Rooney's shot you got Lampard and Terry who come up the middle and fire the scraps on net like missiles.

    It'll be a well fought match - hopefully the USA best are back and in peak form!