When the U.S. came to Connecticut ...

May, 27, 2010
It's been a busy week here at ESPN …


Landon Donovan spoke on our show "Press Pass" about the confidence he gained while playing with Everton and how it can help him in South Africa. He also warned England not to underestimate the U.S.

"I think [Fabio] Capello is a very, very good manager and I don't think there is any way that they would underestimate us. A lot of the English players now have played against a lot of our American players in their league, so they know a lot about us.

"In the past, perhaps they would have underestimated, but at this point I think they know very, very well that we're a team that's capable of beating them if they're not prepared."

Meanwhile, Jozy Altidore joined SportsNation for a playful swipe at us English, smashing a few china tea cups with the official World Cup match ball.


A few observations from game day at Rentschler Field:

• Jose Torres could be an interesting player to watch in South Africa. He is technically excellent and demands the ball -- useful assets to have for maintaining possession when closing out games.

• Clarence Goodson looks more dominant when attacking on his own side's set pieces than when defending those of the opposition.

• Oguchi Onyewu has a long way to go before he is back to the fitness and form he showed before his long injury layoff. Despite that, he had to be part of the squad.

• No such benefit of the doubt has been given to Brian Ching, which is surprising. Against the Czechs, his ability to hold the ball up allowed midfield runners to join attacks in a way that wasn't seen before his introduction.

• If Ching was unfortunate to miss out, Jonathan Bornstein was very lucky to be named to the World Cup squad -- not that Heath Pearce did anything to suggest he was a better option.

• The Czechs had four shots on goal, all of which went in. Brad Guzan was not directly at fault for any of them, but his failure to command his area allowed numerous crosses and knockdowns to pass across the face of his goal.


Wednesday was announcement day as 23 players were officially introduced as members of Bob Bradley's squad, live on "SportsCenter."

As I watched the events from the comfort of an air-conditioned room, I did wonder who, with temperatures in the 90s, decided that long-sleeved tracksuit tops should be the clothing du jour. Were there no polo shirts available?

The opportunity to talk to the chosen ones then followed for the media. I started my rounds with Clint Dempsey, who said that the announcement of the squad is a stress-reducer, as the players who make the cut are now certain of their spots and can focus on the tournament.

Dempsey was pleased with his form at Fulham -- "My goals have gone up each season I have been there" -- although he admitted to being frustrated that his role in the closing rounds of the Europa League was mainly coming off the bench. Learning to play as a line-leading striker, he said, is something he has been happy to do for the sake of the team.

The Texan also said he enjoyed being criticized, as it adds "fuel to the fire." However, he wouldn't budge when asked what his former coaches at New England, Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner -- a Scotsman and Englishman, respectively -- have said to him about the big game in Rustenburg on June 12.

Jonathan Spector praised the England wingers he might face that day, and also suggested he believes that Steven Gerrard is most dangerous when he has a free role underneath the strikers.

Steve Cherundolo, who is heading to his third World Cup, was under no illusions regarding the distractions that have to be avoided in South Africa:

"It is naive not to take in the atmosphere of South Africa, but you have to do that at the right time. … All of the B.S. before and after the game cannot change what goes on during it. The guys need to understand that and remain focused."

I was very impressed with Jay DeMerit, who offered thoughtful answers and spoke eloquently -- "Some of us that do it our own way, I wouldn't have it any other way" -- about his journey from non-league soccer in England to the World Cup.

Out of contract with Watford, the defender doesn't expect to return to the Hornets, but he would like to stay in England. A strong showing at the World Cup, he added, is the best way for him to shape his future.

A thing that made me go hmmm ...

I'm not going to kid anyone: Getting paid to write about and watch soccer is a pretty great way to make a living. For example, in addition to all of the Team USA-related goings-on at ESPN HQ this week, I also crossed paths with two legends of the game when they popped in to Bristol.

Dragging myself to the gym Tuesday was more rewarding than usual, given that I ended up having a chat with Jurgen Klinsmann, who was in town for the U.S. versus Czech Republic game. A very pleasant man, the German legend spoke positively about his home nation's World Cup chances, even in the absence of Michael Ballack.

Later on the same day came another treat. Those of you who have enjoyed the excellent "I scored a goal" series may have been wondering why there hasn't been an edition featuring Pelé (a scorer of two in 1958 and another in 1970). Well, your wait is almost over. The great man has told his story to ESPN. It was a privilege to meet him.

Oh yes, Danica Patrick was in the building, too. Yup, not a bad few days.



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