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World Cup 2010: Are We Ready?

BU men’s soccer coach on America’s chances, seriously

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Embarrassing. That adjective accurately describes the performance of the U.S. soccer team in the 2006 World Cup. Team USA went 0-2-1 and only scored twice (actually once, if you don’t count the goal Italy scored on itself).

Now they’re back, and their famously relentless head coach, Bob Bradley, believes he has the Americans poised to make a run in the monthlong 2010 World Cup, which starts today in South Africa. With stars Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey leading the way, experts are picking the United States to do something that major soccer powers consider mandatory: advance past the group phase of the tournament.

For Team USA, the contest starts tomorrow against long-standing rival England. No, the United States is not favored to win. To learn just how far the stars and stripes team is likely to go this year, BU Today sat down with BU men’s soccer coach Neil Roberts.

BU Today: Experts are predicting that the U.S. team will advance past the group stage this year. Besides the strong England team, who poses the biggest threat of sending them home early?
Roberts:
Well, if they do get out of the group, it isn’t going to be easy. You hope for a draw with England in the first game. That will be important. If you lose that game, you put yourself in a huge hole. Obviously to win would be great, but you have to get at least a draw. Slovenia is a very good team that people are overlooking. Algeria won’t be an easy win either. A lot is riding on that first game with England. If they lose, I don’t see them getting out of the group stage.

The final cuts for the U.S. roster raised some eyebrows. Did anything surprise you?
Obviously Brian Ching being left out was surprising. But he had been injured, so it was understandable. Injuries really hurt the final roster — Charlie Davies, who got in that car accident back in October, and then Ching hurting his hamstring. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a part of the game that a lot of teams are dealing with. Other than that, nothing from the roster surprised me.

This World Cup has some big individual names: Ronaldo (Portugal), Kaká (Brazil), Messi (Argentina). Who do you consider the face of the American team, and how does he stack up against the world’s best?
On that level? I don’t think we have anyone. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are very good players and are making a name for themselves internationally. But they simply are not up to the caliber of the players you named. I think until soccer in the United States gets on that level, we probably won’t have a player like that.

A serious issue for Team USA in 2006 was offense: scoring only two goals in three games (one by Italy against itself). Do you expect more offensive firepower from this team?
Unfortunately, no. I think this team will again struggle to score. I don’t think their midfielders are strong enough to score goals against the kind of talent they are going to see. The pressure is going to be on Dempsey and Donovan to create easy chances for guys like Jozy Altidore and Edson Buddle to score.

How far do you expect the Americans to make it in South Africa?
If they were to get out of the group, it would be great. I actually think if they get out of the group, it all depends on whom they match up against in the round of 16.

Who would you say is the favorite to win the whole thing?
In terms of a favorite, before Drogba got hurt I would have said the Ivory Coast was the favorite. With him out with a broken arm, I think it’s anybody’s. My guess is, it will be one of the big-name countries. Teams like Italy, Brazil, Germany — teams that have a lot of depth. It’s hard for smaller countries, who have had to play so many games with the same players, to stay fresh. The larger countries have so many talented players; they can constantly keep fresh legs and are coming into the World Cup rested. It’s a big advantage.

The schedule of games isn’t ideal for American viewers. Will you be waking up early to catch them?
It might seem early to college students. It’s not bad though. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot of American viewers. I will definitely be watching.

World Cup games can be seen at the 973 Commonwealth Bar and Grill and Game On! in Kenmore Square. Find a schedule of games here. Click on the link at the top of the page to convert to your local time zone.

Dan Mercurio can be reached at dmerc@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on World Cup 2010: Are We Ready?

  • Anonymous on 06.13.2010 at 11:51 am

    The world is watching. And so are Americans. Football is on its way of becoming America’s game. You should have seen the packed bars all over the country for yesterday’s game!!!

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