U.S. vs. England play-by-play

May, 28, 2008
Greetings from Bristol, Conn. It's actually my first day back at work after a semi-hiatus and for the benefit of those without access to ESPN Classic or the ability to discreetly watch ESPN360 while at work, I will be writing a live play-by-play blog during the U.S. vs. England game. The teams are set to kick off at 3 p.m. ET, so if all your other options to follow the game have fallen through, you can catch it right here.

Both teams are close to full strength, with England missing only Michael Owen and Micah Richards, while the U.S. will be without the services of teen sensation Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan.

The big news emerging this week out of London is of course the appointment of Chelsea's sure-footed John Terry as England captain. Some U.S. fans might object to Terry's inclusion on the basis of some rumored indiscretions on his part several years ago which involved a nightclub, alcohol, some American tourists and some allegedly poor-taste Sept. 11 comments. The rest of the world will simply object to Terry on the basis that he's just not that likeable.

For the U.S. the big debate that's raging across the nation (other than whether or not 2-year-old Suri Cruise is too old to be using a bottle) is, who will replace Landon Donovan in the U.S. lineup? Will it be Freddy Adu (part of the Holy Trinity of U.S. teen phenoms along with Greg Oden and LeBron James who look twice their age) or Josh Wolff (who once outscored Thierry Henry in some nameless U-23 tournament in France many years ago)?

As for the game itself, it's likely to be a very close contest between two teams that are very similar in style. There's a chance that both could start by fielding formations that are reliant on the presence of dual defensive holding midfielders. Assuming liberal substitutions, we could see as many as six defensive midfielders take part in this game, or as some would put it, two less than Rafa Benitez fields in his usual Liverpool starting 11.

Anyway, I'll be back here when the game starts with the play-by-play.

I have been informed by two very reliable sources that Landon Donovan will not be playing in tonight's game. The U.S. lineup that will take the field is:

GK: Tim Howard

D: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Heath Pearce

M: Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Rico Clark, DaMarcus Beasley

F: Josh Wolff, Eddie Johnson

For England:

GK: David James

D: Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole

M: David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Owen Hargreaves

F: Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney


Both teams have taken the field and the national anthems are under way. Kelly Rowland sings the U.S. version, while the U.K. version sounds like a recorded version off a speaker phone. First points go to the U.S., even though Rowland makes a mess of the song.

3 mins: So far the ball is just pinging about the field, both teams have yet to settle down. Cherundolo and Gerrard collide in the middle of the field and Cherdundolo gets up gingerly.

5 mins: Just in case you're wondering, nothing of note has happened. Just lots of aimless long ball punts and no possession by either team.

7 mins: Beckham hacks down Hargreaves on the right side. The U.S. have a good opportunity for a dangerous free kick, but Beasley's cross is easily headed out. Jermain Defoe goes on a semi-dangerous run but the U.S. get back in numbers and clear.

9 mins: Both teams have been unable to string more than three passes together, it's been a less than beautiful start.

10 mins: Ricardo Clark is called for a foul on Gerrard. Beckham crosses, but the referee tells him to take it again. Just as well since Gerrard was open at the far post to knock it into the net. The retaken free kick skims across the goalmouth but there aren't any English players close enough.

13 mins: The quality of the game has yet to pick up, but at least it's not raining -- John Terry will be relieved.

14 mins: Hargreaves is dominating the central midfield at the moment, the U.S. is struggling to gain possession. Fortunately once the ball leaves Hargreaves, the other English players have given it away.

15 mins: Hargreaves combines with Beckham to dispossess Beasley on the edge of the English box. Rooney breaks with the ball and almost sends Defoe clean through save for a timely Onyewu interception.

17 mins: The game is starting to settle, and England is starting to control possession although it has yet to trouble the U.S. defense which looks solid.

18 mins: Dempsey tries to dribble out of danger just outside his box, a bad mistake as Gerrard disposses him and squares the ball to a wide-open Beckham. Beckham's shot from just outside the penalty area is high and over though.

19 mins: Did you know that if you want Kim Kardashian to show up at your local party and you've got $25,000 to spare, then you are in luck? Apparently Reggie Bush's girlfriend will show up for the fee and then proceed to do absolutely nothing. Kind of like Frank Lampard when he plays for England. I say this because, at the moment, it's not readily obvious that he's on the field.

22 mins: Rooney with an explosive burst down the right after Bocanegra loses his footing, but his cross is behind Gerrard who has to reach back to get it and can only muster a weak shot.

23 mins: Ashley Cole is taken down on the left and earns England a dangerous free kick. Beckham pulls the free kick back to an onrushing Gerrard whose shot is headed clear by Dempsey.

24 mins: The U.S. hasn't offered much going forward yet, but Beasley earns them another free kick out on the left side. Beasley takes it and flights it into the box, where a poor header by Lampard goes straight to Eddie Johnson. Johnson chips it back across the area but it's too high for Onyewu.

25 mins: The U.S. threaten again, Johnson with a nice give-and-go, breaks into the box but his shot is weak and doesn't trouble James.

27 mins: Another free kick in a good spot for the U.S. after Wes Brown brings down Dempsey for no reason. Unfortunately the cross by Beasley doesn't even make it into the area and is cleared by Beckham.

28 mins: Almost half an hour gone and you get the impression that outside of free kicks, the U.S. will have a hard time posing an offensive threat. Teaming up the Fulham pair of Demspey and Johnson up front probably doesn't help since the two have combined for all of zero goals together at club level. Then again, England hasn't been much better in the attacking third either.

30 mins: A long hopeful ball from England into the U.S. box where Defoe tangles with Onyewu and goes down. Defoe appeals for a penalty but is either the most optimistic man on earth or deluded ... or both.

32 mins: The U.S. are starting to come back into the game a bit possession-wise, harassing the English players when they have the ball.

33 mins: Jermain Defoe shows exactly why Tottenham discarded him. Gerrard breaks free down the right and squares a perfect chance for Defoe on the six-yard box. Defoe should score, but can only succeed in poking it wide.

34 mins: Fans of quality TV will be pleased that CW has announced that it will dig into the archives and remake "Beverly Hills 90210" as opposed to coming up with any fresh new concepts or talent -- it's a good thing that the U.S. soccer team doesn't follow the same philosophy. After all it'd mean doing things like recalling veteran retread players like Josh Wolff to its lineup ... oh wait.

37 mins: GOAL 1-0 England. John Terry shows that he's better with his head than his feet. After yet another needless free kick give-away by the U.S., David Beckham lines up and drifts in a perfect cross which Terry nails and beats goalie Tim Howard to his lower left.

39 mins: Ashley Cole breaks down the left, squares it to Defoe who cuts inside Onyewu, who takes him down just outside the box. Dangerous chance for England. Rather surprisingly Gerrard takes it and tries a piledriver that goes straight into the wall. After a series of deflections and poor clearances, Hargreaves tries his luck from 25 yards out and blasts well over.

41 mins: Cole again with a long pass down the middle which finds Defoe who turns and fires wildly over from 25 yards out.

43 mins: Cherundolo is booked for dragging down Defoe as he (Defoe) was about to burst free onto a long chip by Beckham. Another dangerous spot for an English free kick just outside the box, but Beckham's shot hits the wall.

HALFTIME: England 1-0 U.S.

The half comes to an end, with England well in control of the game. The U.S. has been poor so far and the midfield duo of Bradley and Clark has been bypassed with ease by England, while the wide midfielders Beasley and Wolff really haven't gotten into the game yet. As for England, Fabio Capello's men have lacked quality in the final third, but have controlled possession. Some changes in the second half are in order for the U.S. -- possibly bringing on Adu and taking off either one of Wolff and Beasley.

While we wait for the restart, I'm browsing the news headlines and see that health researchers have discovered that "Energy drinks are linked to risky behavior among teenagers," a none-too-shocking discovery that ranks among such gems as "The U.S. lacks quality forward options" in the running for Most Obvious Statements of the Year.

The teams get under way in the second half, David Bentley is in for David Beckham.

45 mins: Beasley feeds Pearce on the left who squares it back to Eddie Johnson in the box who unleashes a fierce left-foot shot which flashes wide of David James' post. James was beaten and didn't move. Much better from the U.S.

Brad Guzan is on for Tim Howard as well in the U.S. goal. He's been poor so far for Chivas this season so that's a surprise. Frankie Hejduk is in for Cherundolo. Good to see the U.S. address its offensive issues.

49 mins: The most spectacular moment of the game -- Wayne Rooney attempts an overhead kick from a Bentley chip and fails to make any sort of contact. The fact that it's been the best piece of action says it all really about the quality of this performance from both sides.

50 mins: Gerrard sends Defoe clear with a nice pass which carves open the English defense, Defoe could have broken in on goal but opts for a shot that Guzan saves.

51 mins: Moments later, Defoe has another great chance. A cross from Terry which he chests down and hammers goalbound but straight at Guzan. Defoe should have done better, the U.S. catch a break.

56 mins: Frank Lampard is going off for Gareth Barry. U.S. fans will be disappointed to see that happen -- Barry might actually contribute something to the game. Wes Brown is off as well for Glen Johnson.

58 mins: GOAL. 2-0 England. See, I told you U.S. fans were right to be worried about the Lampard sub. A beautfiul one-timed pass from Barry which splits the U.S. defense and sends Gerrard free. Gerrard bursts into the box, calmly looks up and slides the ball past Guzan into the bottom right corner of the net.

63 mins: A long hopeful cross from Bentley on the right almost sets Wayne Rooney free in the box for another goal. The U.S. defenders misjudged the ball and let it pass but Guzan comes out and snaps it up just before Rooney arrives.

65 mins: Dempsey tries to get something going and dribbles past one man before being tackled. The loose ball falls to Bradley who sends in a low cross that Wolff can only head wide from about half a foot off the ground. He might have been better off trying to volley that in, either that or talking to John Arne Riise for heading tips.

66 mins: Another free kick wasted by the U.S. Beasley with the ball on the right side sends in a poor cross that doesn't even clear the first defender. It's been like that all night from Beasley.

67 mins: Freddy Adu and Eddie Lewis in for Beasley and Wolff. If nothing else, at least they both cross the ball better. For England, the totally wasteful Defoe is off and the big man with the good touch, Peter Crouch, is on.

69 mins: Almost another goal for England who break down the right. The ref waves play on after Hargreaves is hacked down and Crouch crosses to Gerrard who sends in Rooney at the six-yard box who opts to hook a cross when he should have shot.

71 mins: Freddy Adu with his first touch, a little back flick to Hejduk who is tackled by Gerrard. The U.S. get a corner when England can't clear the throw-in cleanly but the corner amounts to nothing.

74 mins: Adu with the ball pushes forward and chips it to no one. He might have been expecting Eddie Johnson to run onto it but Johnson had already turned around.

75 mins: England have slowed the pace somewhat and seem content to knock the ball around. Joe Cole is warming up.

77 mins: Eddie Johnson wide open in the box, but unfortunately and rather inevitably is offside. Maurice Edu is on for Rico Clark, while Joe Cole is in for Wayne Rooney.

80 mins: Adu passes to Eddie Lewis who cuts inside and beats Joe Cole on the right and clips a dangerous cross into the English box and forces David James to push it away. Ashley Cole off, Wayne Bridge on for England.

83 mins: The English fans are in very good cheer right now, singing merrily away. Let's face it, it's a rare feeling for England fans today -- it's been about 12 years since the last time their team dominated anyone like this at Wembley.

87 mins: Freddy Adu gathers a loose ball, breaks forward and strikes a pretty good shot with his right foot which James pushes away falling down to his right. Not a bad effort and the first real save James has had to make all night.

88 mins: A cross from Barry from the left finds Bentley who hooks it back to Crouch who chests it up in the air and tries a very ambitious overhead kick which goes tamely wide. In the meantime Nate Jaqua comes on for Eddie Johnson. That's a game-changing move right there.

90 mins: FULLTIME: England 2-0 U.S. The ref blows and the game ends mercifully for the U.S. fans who saw their team completely outclassed today by an England team that hasn't exactly set the world on fire lately.

It's hard to really identify a man of the match for the U.S. since pretty much everyone failed to impress today in what was a dire performance. In terms of bright spots, at least Adu looked lively when he came on and probably deserves a start against Spain.

The U.S. will need to get better in a hurry and fast if it's going to produce a respectable result against Spain and Argentina, who have far superior ball control and cutting-edge offense than England.

Jen Chang is the U.S. Soccer editor for ESPNsoccernet. He also writes regularly and is a contributer to Soccernet podcasts. He joined ESPN Studio Production in 2004 and earned a Sports Emmy award, before making the move to ESPN.com in 2005.



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