Monday, June 7, 2010

Mr. Abigail Clancy-Crouch
Could Feast on Frail U.S. Defense

Forgive me for getting all-American with today's post, but Peter Crouch is going to be my early favorite for World Cup MVP because Crouchie is gonna bag himself a goal or two on Saturday. There, I said it.

That's more of a statement denouncing the pitiful state of U.S. defending than praise for the gangly Crouch's finishing abilities. I'm scared for Saturday's match. I'm scared because I can see this getting real ugly, real fast for the U.S. against England in the group stage opener for both teams.

The U.S. defense has been exposed for months by much lesser opponents than England; most recently by Australia on Saturday. Granted, the U.S. beat the Socceroos 3-1, but every cross into the area was an adventure, every header an agita-inducing moment. Mr. Abigail Clancy-Crouch may not be a star, but he sure is a finisher in the air at 6-4. Oguchi Onyewu had less vertical lift against the Czechs two weeks ago in Hartford than George Costanza did in his "Jimmy" shoes; what's he gonna do against Crouchie?

And we haven't even gotten to the always shaky Jay DeMerit, or relative newbie Clarence Goodson. This is porous. Tim Howard will have a case for a civil suit for non-support if Gooch can't play anywhere near 100%.

It's a shame because the U.S. is finally putting some biscuits in the basket. Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Jozy Altidore (if he plays) et al are scoring goals (seven in three warm-ups for the tournament). There's some cohesion in moving the ball forward, and yes, some finishing. But the U.S. isn't going to win any shootouts starting on Saturday when Jonathan Bornstein, Heath Pearce and Carlos Bocanegra, as well as a 50% Gooch are your last line of defense.

The U.S. is so desperate for success at this World Cup that when it's exposed, it's going to be horrific, I fear. The letdown is going to be crushing, especially for a side that has no excuses at this World Cup given the soft group draw and progress the team has made overall.

Thankfully for the U.S., Algeria and Slovenia should make for six points and passage to the second round. But history in the World Cup has not been kind to the U.S. and if Saturday's match ends up being the Crouch Air Show, there are no more slip-ups to be had. Every point will be precious and every touch of the ball critical.

Here's hoping for the best.

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