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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

US vs. England

For those of you not paying attention (see: All of you), tomorrow is the first of three high-profile friendlies the US Men's Soccer team is playing against some stiff competition. At 3pm Eastern tomorrow, the US will face off against an England squad playing at home in the confines of (New) Wembley Stadium in London. While this match is technically a friendly and does not count for anything, that does not mean there is nothing on the line in this game.

For one, assuming Landon Donovan makes an appearance in this game (He will start, trust me), it will be his 100th cap for the Senior team. Considering he is still only 26 years old, this is quite an achievement and it is all but certain he will eventually pass Cobi Jones' all time mark of 164 caps. For a figure as polarizing as LanDo has been, along with the career goal scoring mark he already holds it is another way to cement whatever legacy he will end up having (Great story here).

Secondly, this match, as well as the next two against Spain and Argentina, serve as tune-ups for the important matches starting next month: World Cup Qualifying. While most everyone expects the US to more or less cruise through at least the first round of qualifying, they still have a number of roster issues that need to be hammered out soon, mainly those at the attacking positions. These games should help them figure out combinations and positions that work best for the options they have.

Then again, speaking of their attacking options, it makes it difficult when you leave the one player with the most potential off your roster entirely, one Jozy Altidore. His absence from the roster for these three games is a head-scratched at best, a complete abomination at most. Instead we are left to examine forwards such as 31-year old Josh Wolff, who was just cut from a second-tier Bundesliga team, Nate Jaqua, who has only two caps to his name, and Freddy Adu, who has yet to really acquit himself with the Senior Team. For now it will likely be LanDo and Clint Dempsey up top, though i still like LanDo as an attacking Mid and Dempsey as a right winger better, so who knows.

The return of The Beazz! Run DMB, or DaMarcus Beasley, is back in action. After a knee injury and surgery last fall, Run DMB returned to his club last week and scored a goal in a 3-2 win, and will return to the US team on this tour. With the options we have trotted out there in his absence, i know i am not the only one who will be relieved to see the fastest man on a pitch back wearing the #17.

And finally, we have the whole US-England dynamic. While not a rivalry anywhere near as intense as US-Mexico, a Yanks-Brits rivalry has great potential, especially with LanDo and Becks both playing together in LA for the Galaxy. One of England's greatest embarrassments was a 1-0 loss to the US in the 1950 World Cup, a result which was so inconceivable at the time that the papers in England printed the score as 10-1 England. With the US's recent success on the road and in Europe, England may not have as big as an advantage as they think playing in London.

So to recap, the game is tomorrow on ESPN Classic at noon 3pm Eastern, or around noon AZ time. Tune in or record it, it should be a good one. I'll have a recap and a preview for the Spain game up before that one as well. Go support the soccer folks!

(Prediction: 2-1 England, with the US missing a couple of good chances at a tie)