Familiarity breeds intrigue for USA and England

How US' knowledge of English opponents could affect the outcome

RUSTENBURG, South Africa — Game time is just hours away, and the US say they’re ready to go in this, the tone-setter of their entire World Cup experience.

A win over England probably isn’t the objective. A draw would be a very positive result. A loss, while painful, wouldn’t be as hard to swallow as long as the Americans show well for themselves and are simply beaten by a better team—and not by a lack of effort. As we’ve said all along, the US should advance to the knockout rounds if they defeat Slovenia and Algeria.

That said, the US won’t be more familiar with an opponent than the one they face Saturday. England are a team full of recognizable faces. And that’s not just because Premier League games are on American TV every weekend.

Thirteen players on the US squad either play their club soccer in England or are veterans of English leagues. For them, no advance scouting is necessary.

“They know what we have to offer, we know what we have to offer,” said US captain Carlos Bocanegra, who previously played for Fulham, on Friday. “It’s no secret, really, between the two teams. We’re familiar with each other.”

Will that mean Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey have the keys to cracking the England defense and beating either David James or Robert Green in net?

That Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit have the knowhow to stop Wayne Rooney? Or that Jonathan Spector will neutralize some of England’s flank speed from Ashley Cole?

“Is [our familiarity] going to have a huge impact on the game?” posed Landon Donovan earlier this week. “Probably not. But having some comfort that way will be helpful.”

The US have all the scouting they need. That—plus playing in a stadium in which they staged their epic turnaround in last summer’s Confederations Cup—means they have no excuses than to leave it all on the field.