Sleeping With The Enemy: USA v. ENGLAND! A World Cup Special Casually Moderated Discussion Between Two Old Foes

World Cup Fever has taken over the universe and we here at Casual Hoya are not ashamed to do whatever and whoever is needed to keep our loyal casualites/casualties up to speed on the latest news.  For starters, we have put together a panel of soccer EXPERTS to get you up to speed on the epic USA vs. England match on Saturday. But first, some introductions.

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Representing the Tories is SirHoya, who wants everyone to know that despite his US citizenship and immense love of this country (and support for all its teams) - on this stage, for this prize, his corner of this foreign field is, forever, England.  He also cries when watching this: Carlsberg Team Talk TV Ad.  You can easily spot SirHoya at all Georgetown games, he is the guy yelling "Donkey" at all the refs.

Representing the Yanks is Rocktavius, proprietor of Stars and Gripes, the greatest US soccer blog on the planet.  Nothing will get in the way of Roctavius and his favorite sports teams.  He once walked two and a half hours, from Crystal City to the Irish Channel Pub, in the worst snow storm DC has seen in a century, all the while holding his head up high and a cutout of Joe Biden.

Enough with the Introductions, Bring on the Hijinx!

England looked poor in its last tune up. Does the US have a legitimate chance to win this game?  Will Steven Gerrard finally step up at the national level?  Will the loss of Rio Ferdinand hurt the Three Lions - or help them?

Sir Hoya:

Across its final warm-up games, England has specialized in pissing away whatever luck the footie gods were planning to grant us this year.  Such as getting dominated at home by Mexico (we had 8 shots, they had 23) but still running out 3-1 winners.  Or beating Japan 2-1, thanks to two Japanese own goals - the first time ever that England has benefited from two OGs (note: OG's are own goals, not original gangstas)  in one match.  Luck like that would have come in handy during a round-of-16 penalty shootout against Germany, or even to squeeze past Slovenia in the last group game.  But no - we deploy it in goddamned friendlies.  WTF?  Nice one, lads.

Does the US have a chance?  England has some serious weaknesses (our fullbacks are the only players able to cross a ball, our central defenders are cart-horses rather than thoroughbreds, and we're a one-man-show up front.)  However, the US defense looks in dire shape and could get caught out by Mr. Rooney, if not Mr. Heskey.  The not-so-secret weapon for the US is Clint Dempsey - admired in England, and strangely held in ambivalence by his countrymen after a stellar season for Fulham, including wonder-goals against European powerhouses such as Juventus and, um, Stoke City. Clint and Landykins Donovan are wasted played as either out-and-out strikers, or as wingers.  Coach Bradley could mix things up and have a fighting chance against England by playing Altidore up-front, with D&D tucked in behind as inside-forwards, licensed to charge through the channels or cut out to the wings.  Then stick three defensive midfielders behind them to shore up the sieve at the back.  I'm an idiot when it comes to tactical nous, however - for such insights, I would defer to the genius of Rocktavius.

With Rio out, Gerrard is captain - maybe that will finally shake him from his international torpor.  And sadly, Rio has been a shadow of his former self for years now, mainly due to injury.  No great options to replace him - but his loss is not the crippling blow of a Rooney absence.

Rocktavius:

Am I supposed to be honest and realistic here, or delightfully delusional?  England hasn't looked good since qualifying ended last fall, and some of the long-term problems that Fabio Capello seemingly put to rest have come back to the surface.   While the results from warm up fixtures mean little, Capello has clearly not been happy.  He hasn't settled on a line-up, mostly due to injuries, and you get a sense that the old English doubts are starting to creep in. 

In terms of the United States' chances, I don't think most observers would consider it a complete shock if the US won.  Unlikely, yes, but shocking?  No.  I'd give the US a 25% to win, and 10% to tie (we do not do well playing for one point).  Realistically, England wins at least 6 of 10 times.

Gerrard already has, no?  As good as Rooney was throughout qualifying, Gerrard was the catalyst.  That said, much his performance in SA will depend on how Capello lines him up.  If he's forced to revert back into a partnership with Lampard in the center of midfield, it could be a frustrating tournament for Stevie G.  He's effective when the reigns are off, and he's allowed to roam.  Defensive duties and positional discipline are not counted amongst his considerable talents.

Rio's absence hurts them-significantly.  Capello took gambles on the roster with the defense.  Rio's strong, reads the game well, and doesn't give up fouls.  Now, Capello must decide who will start alongside John Terry, although in fairness, Terry has no problem with multiple partners.  Unfortunately for Capello, his choices are a guy whose knees are in such poor shape that he can't train or play more than once a week (Ledley King); a bloke who hasn't played for his country in four years, and was included on the roster as cover at right back, where he's not particularly good (Jamie Carragher), and a kid who's never worn the England shirt (Michael Dawson).  I'd say that's an issue.  

With nationalized health care coming to the US, does this mean our kids will all have horrible teeth, too?

  

 

 

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Danger's my middle name.  via s3.amazonaws.com

Sir Hoya:

Oh, you have so much to look forward to!  Hospitals riddled with MRSA!  The magic of waiting lists for, well, everything!  Regarding the teeth - this should only be an issue if the introduction of UK-style healthcare comes with lashings of Cadbury products.

Rocktavius:

It is a fear.  A deep, significant fear.

With a potential second round matchup against Germany looming for the second place finisher in the group, how important is this game?

Sir Hoya:

I have no doubt that even with a win against the US, England would conspire to screw the pooch against Algeria and/or Slovenia, and end up facing the old foe.  And, inevitably, lose to them on penalties (as England goal poacher extraordinaire Gary Linekerput it, "football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.")  It's just the way it's gonna be - why fight it?

Rocktavius:

I'm not sure Germany will win Group D-Serbia could easily come out on top.  This game is important for the US, but it's not make-or-break for the tournament.  One point would be a good result, and would put them in position to advance.  

Can Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard co-exist in the central midfield together?

Sir Hoya:

They could if England employed an approach which both took advantage of midfield riches, and compensated for attacking poverty.  Play with 5 across midfield - so Barry or Carrick do the defensive midfield duties and the likes of Lennon, Joe Cole, Milner and Wright-Phillips on the wings, leaving Gerrard and Lampard to alternately charge forward and support Rooney, from the kinds of positions that bag them hatfuls of goals for Liverpool and Chelsea.  Don't play them as left wingers or defensive midfielders, for crying out loud.  However, I doubt this will happen in my lifetime, so to answer your question, no.

Rocktavius:

No, and Sir Hoya is currently curled up in a ball on his floor, crying and listening to Joy Division, as he realizes that his nation's hopes hinge on Gareth Barry's ankle ligaments.

In reality, the Gerrard-Lampard axis can work in the group stages, but won't get them past the quarterfinals. They need defensive cover, and badly.

Who should start in goal for England?

Sir Hoya:

A position that used to be the rock of any England side and an embarrassment of riches has more recently proven to be simply an embarrassment.  The glory days of Banks, Clemence, Shilton, heck, even Seaman, are long gone - for this tournament, it looks like Capello is going with the only three guys who haven't completely wrecked their international careers with idiotic displays (and James only makes that cut because he's such an old git these days, and the "Calamity James" howlers, while not eradicated, are mercifully rarer.)  I think the coach will pick James.  I'd prefer to see Hart, and would take Green over James.

Rocktavius:

Brianna Scurry would be the best of their lot.  Unfortunately, she's an American (and female), and is thus ineligible.  So I guess they're stuck with Robert Green and David James' corpse.

Why can't the Brits cook a damn egg properly? It's really not complicated.

   

Sir Hoya:

The servants used to do a splendid job.  But then we gutted the class system, and that tribal knowledge disappeared.  Dodgy eggs are the least of your worries at the typical greasy spoon, however.

Rocktavius:

Finally, a legitimate question. But really, what do the British cook properly?

Ever since the World Cup was held in the US in 1994, we've heard that it was only a matter of time before the US adopted soccer and became a force to be reckoned with on the international scene. It's now 2010, and even after the formulation of the MLS the US still seems to be a middling participant.  What gives?

Sir Hoya:

Don't lose the historical perspective (although as someone wise once said, the difference between Brits and Americans is that we think 200 miles is a long way and you think 200 years is a long time).  The US national team was a shambles for decades before the 90s - it failed to qualify for any World Cups (from a relatively easy region) between 1950 and 1990.  Sure, the US hasn't won it yet, or made it back to the semi-finals - but the game's mother country has only made one semi since winning it all in 1966.  The US is definitely upper-middle-class, with aspirations of social advancement that will be satisfied sooner rather than later.  Sorry  Mexico - the one thing you had over the States is slipping away.

Rocktavius:

Patience. The US has steadily improved since 1994. When it comes to soccer, we're still a developing nation, and have a long way to go. There are a lot of things that bode well for the future-demographics, economics, infrastructure, and a growing profile for the sport. The current team is the deepest we've had, and probably the most talented. Youth development is on the right track, and the decision to hand it over to Claudio Reyna was an inspired one. We'll get there, yet.

Will Jozy Altidore headbutt anyone? Is he the real deal or not?  Can he give the US a scoring threat outside of Dempsey and Donovan?

 

 

Sir Hoya:

He didn't set the world on fire while playing in England this year, although he was on a woeful Hull City team.  Meanwhile, Dempsey was on fire, and Donovan had a useful stint at Everton.  However, he is the best option the US has for the tip of the spear.  And leave the headbutting to the pros, Jozy - at least until the US makes the final.

Rocktavius:

No, maybe and yes.

Let's get serious here. How long should we expect the US team to last? Is just getting out of their group going to be considered a success or do they need more than that?

Sir Hoya:

A pattern has emerged in US World Cup performances, since returning from the 40 year wilderness.  A woeful tournament performance (1990, 1998, 2006 - combined one point) followed by a respectable-to-good showing and a narrow 1-0 defeat to a powerhouse (1994 - 2nd rd vs Brazil; 2002 - QF vs Germany).  So - despite the inadequacies of the squad - the US is due another positive outcome.  Or at least getting dumped out by Argentina in the QF.  What qualifies as success?  Something between losing in the 2nd round to Germany, and the QF to Argentina.

Rocktavius:

It would be a failure to not get out of the group stage, period. Reaching the Quarterfinals would be an exceptional display, and proof positive that we're steadily improving. So, I suppose losing in the first knockout game would be a sensible "expectation." It will not be easy to get out of this group (Slovenia scares me), but if they do, watch out. If the backline can find some cohesiveness, this team has the talent (and coaching) to do some damage.

Michael Bradley has a bad habit of being ineligible for incredibly important games, do you expect the same from him in the World Cup?

Sir Hoya:

This is simply a cunning ploy by his father to avoid charges of nepotism.

Rocktavius:

Yes, a bit of a temper on that one. Perhaps it's because he resembles a paler version of a young Dolph Lundgren?

Actually, after being benched for two games last September for his attitude, he responded well. He only picked up four cautions the rest of the season-quite reasonable for an aggressive, physical midfielder, and a pretty good sign that he's maturing.

You hear a lot about Jozy, Donovan and Dempsey, but rest assured that Michael Bradley has more to gain from this tournament than anyone on the United States roster. He's one of the most promising, young box-to-box midfielders in Europe, and with a couple big games, the powers will come calling. He'll keep his head on straight.

Can you explain what a Scotch Egg is?

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Scotch eggs - an acquired taste.

Sir Hoya:

That's above my pay grade.  However, it and the Welsh Rarebit have long suffered under the yolk of English rule.  Heh.

Rocktavius:

No, but if it involves Johnnie Walker at breakfast, I'm interested.

More important English contribution to popular culture: James Bond or ‘The Office'

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Kind of like Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute except with funny accents.

Sir Hoya:

Truth be told, Bond is more a British than an English character.  Remember, only 2 of the 6 Bonds are actually Englishmen (Moore & Craig).  Connery is a professional Scot, Dalton is a sheep-botherer, Lazenby is from the penal colony, and Brosnan is Irish.  Thus, the answer would have to be The Office.

Rocktavius:

Oasis

Who makes better shirts: T. M. Lewyn or Brooks Brothers?

Sir Hoya:

While they are the "American" option (although owned by the venerable British institution Marks & Spencer from 1988-2001), I must go with Brooks, as I adore their non-iron offering.  The only brand I'll buy.

Rocktavius:

Go Away

Who cares about these teams?  We all know the one thing that most observers will care about are the WAGs of the players.  To that end, pick your top 3 WAG's on both sides and let us know who really deserves to win this match.

  
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The beautiful game

Sir Hoya:

Ing-er-lund:

Carly Zucker (Joe Cole)

Abbey Clancy (Peter Crouchinho)

Montana Manning (Aaron Lennon)

USA! USA! USA!:

Bethany Dempsey (Clint)

Bianca Kajlich (Landypants)

Um?...we'll loan you Victoria Beckham

The answer is clear.  English WAGs - the original and still the best.

For further proof of our prowess in this arena...

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Rocktavius:

I agree.

As for who "deserves" it? The team with that's best prepared and makes the fewest mistakes deserves to win. But as we know, the World Cup can be a cruel, cruel monster.

For the US, it's a bit tougher call. Dempsey's wife is quite attractive (see SI swimsuit issue), as is Gooch's (Google her). One would assume that Feilhaber has an attractive lady by his side, no?

What is less likely to succeed over the next month?  Gerrard and Lampard together in the middle, or your current joke of a political system?

Sir Hoya:

I'm just glad to have an Englishman back in No. 10 again.  Although, we do only win the World Cup under Labour governments.

Gerrard for PM?

Finish this puzzle.  Rooney: Chris Wright (fighter, skilled, will out-work you).  Lampard: Austin Freeman (steady, consistent, understated style).  Gerrard: ___.   ____: Henry Sims.

Sir Hoya:

Gerrard: Greg Monroe (all the talent in the world and a master passer - though it never quite comes through at the crucial time).  Heskey: Henry Sims (allegedly good for the team, though individual contribution rarely bears that out)

Is this it for England?  The Golden Generation?  If not now, do you lose hope?

Sir Hoya:

After 44 years of hurt?  Mate, there's not much hope left to lose.  Regardless of the generations, we get to every World Cup thinking that this is the one.   And it always ends the same way (penalties or outrageous luck/cheating from our opponents).  I'll be riding this wave the rest of my days...

Who is your favorite Spice Girl?

Sir Hoya:

Baby.  Always has been, always will be.

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If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends,
Make it last forever friendship never ends,
If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give,
Taking is too easy, but that's the way it is.

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