2010 Retrospective: USA-England

In FFG’s final 2010 Retrospective article, we return to USA’s opening World Cup match. The clash with England, from the moment it was announced in December 2009, took on a life of its own. For England it was to be revenge for a humiliating loss in 1950; for the United States – an opportunity to show success against the Three Lions was no longer a fluke.

The uninspiring draw ended up as neither.

Note: FFG’s match retrospectives are not game recaps. We’re attempting to provide new insights and catalog interesting statistics. So if you’re not familiar with the match, check out our game summary and tactical analysis.

Goalkeeping error

In some circles, this match will always serve as an instructional video for how not to play goalkeeper. Robert Green’s flub of a Clint Dempsey shot has been called a true schoolboy error. But before Green mishandled the shot he was already out of position, as can be seen in the following picture.

On the left, Green fails to wrap his entire body around Dempsey's shot. Observe how his right leg is behind the ball, instead of to the side. In contrast, Tim Howard squares his body behind Emile Heskey's strike.

Neither shot pictured above was particularly impressive, marking Green’s error as plain laziness. If his positioning had resembled Howard’s, Dempsey’s shot would have bounced harmlessly forward, instead of backward into England’s net.

Cherundolo helps neuter Cole

FFG has been effusive in our praise for Steve Cherundolo’s outstanding World Cup. Against England, Cherundolo, working with Landon Donovan, neutered England’s left back, Ashley Cole.

At times the normally rampaging Cole couldn’t get out of his own half. He also didn’t win a single free kick (Cherundolo won three). Amazingly, Cole didn’t swing any successful crosses into the penalty area. The threat of Donovan and Cherundolo kept him pinned back.

Cole was the more efficient fullback when in possession, but he didn't get forward nearly as often as Cherundolo.

Cole wasn’t the only player to be troubled by Cherundolo. The right back so flummoxed left midfielder James Milner that manager Fabio Capello pulled him in the 31st. An illness earlier in the week might have meant Milner wouldn’t play the entire match anyway, but Capello wouldn’t have used an early substitution if Cherundolo hadn’t repeatedly flown past Milner.

Gerrard does enough

For the past decade England has possessed perhaps the world’s best pair of box-to-box midfielders, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. But due to their similarities, they’ve never meshed when lining up alongside each other. During World Cup qualifying, England manager Fabio Capello partnered Lampard with holding midfielder Gareth Barry, shuffling Gerrard to left wing. With Barry unavailable against the United States, Lampard and Gerrard again were forced to coexist in the middle.

Gerrard's eight interceptions were the most by a player from either team.

Capello appeared to ask ‘Stevie G’ to assume a heavier defensive. His unfamiliarity with the role showed. He only won two of four tackles, and during the sequence that ended with Green’s error, Gerrard failed to close down Dempsey before the American unleashed a shot.

But Gerrard did one thing better than any other player on the pitch: pick off passes. Additionally, Gerrard ended a number of US attacks with perfect clearances. Three of his four clearances were successful. He might not have been perfect, but his performance was good enough to ensure a point.

Onyewu and Crouch come out even

One of the game’s most direct battles didn’t occur until late in the second half. Striker Peter Crouch, whose height enables him to score a high percentage of his goals from headers, came on as a 79th minute substitute. The United States’ rock-of-a-defender Oguchi Onyewu immediately assumed defensive responsibilities for Crouch.

While this might be a bit of jingoism at play, FFG thinks the tall and massive Onyewu should always get the better of the slightly taller and much skinnier Crouch. But, as Ben pointed out earlier this week, Onyewu didn’t have a great tournament. Fortunately, he only made one major mistake against the dangerous Crouch, an error Crouch failed to take advantage of.

The two big men clashed five times. Four challenges occurred in the air – three of those were in the penalty area – and one took place along the ground. Onyewu won three of the five challenges, but he lost two in the box. On the first, he lost track of Crouch, an inexcusable mistake. Crouch, to Onyewu’s relief, sent his header wide. On the second, Gooch mistimed his jump and couldn’t put his head on the ball, though his presence was enough to push Crouch’s pass into no man’s land.

In all probability neither Crouch nor Onyewu left the pitch feeling like he got the better of the other. Their duel failed to reach the heights expected, much like the match as a whole.

Gringos, do you feel like USA-England was a bit anticlimactic? Did you expect more from the match?

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    Dempsey scored against Green this fall too. Poor guy. He’ll probably never be able to go to a pub again.

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