Americans should be wary
There's no shortage of positives Bob Bradley can take away from their opening game against England: the form of Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo, the work rate of Michael Bradley, the reliability of Tim Howard, his Herculean threshold for pain, the collective ability to dictate tempo and so on. Confidence should be high heading in to this afternoon's all important Slovenia match, but before we get ahead ourselves and start looking to the 2nd round, a few disconcerting statistics to be mindful of:
-The U.S. have played an Eastern European team in every World Cup since 1990. Their record: 0 wins - 0 draws - 5 losses - 2 goals for - 13 against. The rundown on our ugly Eastern Block history: 1990 Czechoslovakia 1-5, 1994 Romania 0-1, 1998 Yugoslavia 0-1, 2002 Poland 1-3, 2006 Czech Republic 0-3. Let me use a highly technical term to summarize: ewwww.
-The U.S. have only kept one clean sheet in 20 World Cup matches, that coming against hated rivals and well known opponents Mexico. A clean sheet isn't as crucial as a win (or at the very least a draw) but consider the number of games in which the U.S. has scored more than 1 goal in the modern World Cup: 3. If we give up one, we can't exactly rely on offensive fireworks to get us the required result.
-Slovenia have won 7 of their last 8. Though that should be tempered with the fact that they've beaten the likes of New Zealand and Qatar.
As ever, nothing should be taken for granted when it comes to the U.S. National Team.
Hand of Clod to Calamity James
It appears that Rob Green (dubbed to have the 'Hand of Clod' or 'Tainted Glove' by the English media) will be replaced by another bumbling English custodian, David James. There seems to be a revolving door policy for Keystone Cop goalkeeping for England. As if Paul Robinson's air kick wasn't glorious enough, Steve McClaren enlisted Scott Carson to help ensure England didn't qualify for Euro 2008. Scott Carson was replaced by Rob Green whose gift to Americans is apparently enough to see a man nicknamed "Calamity" find his way back between the sticks. All the while, the English Premier League goalkeeper of the year sits on the bench because he doesn't have enough "international experience." Apparently Joe Hart hasn't sucked enough in an England jersey to merit consideration. There is a 2 clanger minimum to don the gloves for the Three Lions.
Meanwhile, Algeria are bottom of the table after a goalkeeping error of their own. If things continue down this path, the (relative) deluge of goals that started yesterday might continue today. It won't be the magic of Messi that ignites the glut, though; it will be ineptitude in gloves and a sweater.
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