Saturday, March 22, 2008

US National Team to Play England

It was first announced a couple days ago, and the US men's national team will play a friendly against England at Wembley on May 28.

It's good to see that USSF and coach Bob Bradley are scheduling big-name opposition for the US. Playing against some of the world's better teams is something that the US doesn't get to do in CONCACAF and in the long run, especially for World Cup 2010 and beyond, it is important to face countries like England, even if it is just in exhibitions.

Playing smaller countries inside CONCACAF, especially on US soil, and other relative lightweights like the US had done previously under former coaches Bruce Arena and Steve Sampson, doesn't help the US develop as a soccer nation. It's easy to beat Cuba or Guatemala and Canada; those are teams that the US isn't going to see in the World Cup and ultimately, that should be the focus in this country, not smaller tournaments like the Gold Cup and Confederations Cup.

You have to play tough opponents to prepare for the World Cup and the US has done that recently. In the past six months, the US has played games in Switzerland (1-0 victory), South Africa (1-0 victory), against Sweden (2-2), and against Mexico in a pro-Mexican environment (2-2), and will play in Poland, in England, in Spain, and possibly against Argentina in the near future. These are the type of games in which the US can improve and allow their players to get some much-needed significant international experience.

Playing England will be a good test for the Americans, competing in front of a huge crowd in a country with little respect for soccer in the States. I think England will benefit as well; surely the US is a step above the likes of Andorra, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, three of England's competitors in World Cup 2010 qualifying.


Anonymous said...

Actually the US played a number of tough games against top 10 type nations under Sampson and Arena. It was just recently that had stopped.

MJ said...

I would beg to differ with you on that. The vast majority of US opposition in friendlies over the past 10 or so seasons hasn't exactly been world-class.

Year-by-year (since 2004):

2006-Latvia, Venezuela, Morocco, Jamaica, Germany, Poland, Guatemala, Japan, Norway, Canada.
With the exception of the Germany and Poland games, every single game was played on US soil and only Germany could be viewed as a "tough game".

2005-Scotland, England, Honduras, Columbia. Home games all, except for Scotland. Only one "tough game" in there, as Scotland were rubbish in 2005.

2004-Poland, Honduras, Mexico, Poland, Haiti, Holland, Denmark. In Holland and in Poland are the only "tough games" there.

Trust me, the list goes on and on. Check for a full list of US games and since 1994, I promise you, the opposition in friendlies hasn't been that good.