We can also get drubbed 5-0.
But the U.S. can win their game next Saturday. Here's why.
- Bradley's Selection -- Coach Bradley knew he didn't have any scorers after Charlie Davies went down, and got some. Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez do stuff England hasn't seen. Dempsey has been given authority to try stuff. The team is scoring, and when you can score you can win.
- Capello's Selection -- Most World Cup teams are set up to win their first game. Bradley's team is set up to give England a go. Fabio Capello's team is set up to reach the final. It's filled with veterans, kickers. Outside of Rooney they lack runners, they lack athletes, people who can break down a determined defense and beat an outstanding goalie.
- Nerves -- England is going to have them. We won't. No one expects us to win this thing, except the 11 who go out to the pitch. They are playing with the house money. Bradley has told them the Slovenia game is the key to their success, but it's not. It's how they perform against England that counts, whether they can get a result, or at least show themselves capable.
The Confederations Cup was a turning point for the U.S. team. For three years they were playing the Bruce Arena style of free kicks, tough defense, and lucky strikes. This drove teams like Mexico, which are free-flowing passing outfits, crazy. That's what Coach Arena did better than anyone else ever, drive Mexico crazy.
Bradley doesn't drive Mexico crazy. He is willing to lose to Mexico if he has the flexibility to be competitive against everyone.
You win international tournaments by being able to do a number of different things well. Set plays and defense against them, yes. Getting numbers behind the ball and stopping shots, yes. But also creativity, trying stuff, getting leads and driving other people crazy.
That style was threatened when Davies went down. Charlie's loss is a serious blow. Neither Buddle nor Gomez is the same thing. But Jose Torres can combine with Gomez to shoot daggers, and Buddle has a way of getting open. Add these elements to Donovan and Dempsey and suddenly you have the tools to score the three or four goals it will take to beat an England, which isn't certain who its goalie is, which is having to re-tool its back line, and whom we know can get nervous when it falls behind in a big game. We can do it even if we spend most of the game on defense, with 11 men behind the ball.
It may not work. It may blow up in our face. But it's the best strategy we've got, given the players at hand. Rookies don't react to pressure the way veterans do. Talent doesn't worry the way proven ability does. This team can get an early lead, it can react when the other team strikes back, and it can even come from behind.
And best of all, if we lose 5-0 it's really no big deal, because the NBA Finals are still on.