Once upon a time, the US Men's National Team defeated the English squad 2-0.
The 1993 game was rough and tumble, with a lot of trash talking and spirited play from the US team. Only a few players on the 1993 team had actual European experience: Dooley played in Germany, Harkes was at Sheffield Wednesday, Tab Ramos played a bit at Real Betis, Stewart played in Holland, and Wegerle made Coventry City his home. Outside of a few other exceptions, most of the team were US Soccer Federation players who played on small-time clubs and were essentially oblivious on a personal level to the talent they were facing on the English side--which goes to show: sometimes when you don't know how out-classed you really are, that ignorance can be bliss. For the current US squad, the psychological understanding that you are in fact a "step below in class" to your opponent is hard to overcome when you know its true. Its easier to overcome psychologically when you don't really KNOW. Unfortunately for the current US Squad, they KNOW all to well that they are out-classed and often play like they know it-unlike the 93 team who didn't know, didn't care, and in fact were so insolent towards their opponents that they actually "talked trash" (in the words of John Harkes) . They talked so much trash that their English opponents were actually getting frazzled. One can hardly imagine the current US squad of mostly 20 year-olds doing the same. In so many ways, the current team lacks the "ballsy nature" of the 1993 team, even while its overall talent is for the most part, better.
The difference comes down to leadership and attitude: John Harkes was a starter in 1993 in the English League and in many ways a stand-out for his team at Sheffield Wednesday before moving to Derby in the summer. There is really no equivalent to John Harkes on the current US squad-and there certainly is no current match for the hutzpah, fearlessness, and self-confidence (justified or not) that Harkes, Wynalda, Lalas, Ramos, a young Meola and the rest of the homers in the 93 match brought to the US team. It was a blind confidence and brass that many of the current US squad have lost or never had because of what they KNOW all to intimately about their English opponent.
While in many ways US players must continue to go overseas to get better competition and improve, it still shows that having a solid base of ignorant homegrown talent who play in the US is essential to overcoming the feeling that "we're suppose to and going to lose to England." Ignorance can overcome reality and change that to :"we're suppose to lose, but we'll show them."
USA vs England Player Match Review
Eddie Johnson: Yes, I know I have been a strong critic of EJ for a while now. But EJ showed that he is willing to work hard on the field Wednesday. He's willing to tackle, come back for the ball, make smart lay off passes and try to be a team player (which is much more than I can say for the timid play of Josh Wolff).
Onweyu: Both goals were not his fault. Gerrard's second goal was played into the empty space were Bocanegra should have been. All and all, Gooch had a decent game against Rooney and Defoe, and held his own against Gerrard and others. He also cleared a number of crosses by being in the right spot.
Cherundolo: I thought his back door defense was smart and his play aggressive. There was no fear in Steve's play.
Hejduk: Now that's the type of aggressive/confident play we need. Always moving forward, but always getting back in time on defense. Work ethic personified.
The Bad and Ugly; The Indifferent -
Bocanegra: I can see why he had been left out of the Fulham starting line up for the past 3 months. He was often out of place (Gerrard's run through an empty central spot where Boca was absent led to the second goal) and his horrible coverage of Terry on the Beckham free kick led to the first. Early in the game he had a horrible first touch where he gave up the ball and then failed to pursue because he lost his footing.
Josh Wolf: Apparently Wolf is too good to tackle for loose balls, nor did he come back to the ball for passes, get open in slots, pursue lost balls with vigilance, and was generally non-existent in the first half. Early on, he pulled out of a 50/50 tackle. After receiving a good pass from EJ in the box, he immediately gave it away with poor dribbling. He should never play for the US again unless he plans to come out and give it his all. All going to show that his paltry number of goals playing up front for division 2 German side this season (who just let him go) should have made it very clear to Bradley that Wolff is not the answer to our up-front woes. Wolff=Pathetic.
Pearce: You don't get out-muscled in the box by 5 foot 5 inch, 120 pound, Jermaine Defoe. Ever. Period. He did have a few decent offensive moments and was generally solid down the wings, but I think we'll need more from our backs in the future.
Clarke: Where were you for 50 of 65 minutes? Here and there he wasn't bad, but generally invisible.
Bradley: Where were you for nearly 90 minutes, outside of giving up the ball? There were some bad passes, and just plain dissapearing going on in this match.
Beasley: While I liked DB's effort and spirited play, I thought his free kick and corner service was atrocious-outside of one kick. Not as embarrasing as Adu's Free kicks however.
Dempsey: Lost the ball in the back twice, missed a great give-and-go to Hejduk, and generally seemed overwhelmed with no one to pass to. Early on he won some great freekicks for the US, but was generally ineffective as the game grew older.
The rest either didn't have much time, or didn't stand out. I will say Freddy had a decent shot, but outside of that was fidgity on the ball. Edu lost a bad one in midfield that nearly led to another goal. Eddie Lewis was fine, and had a moment. Howard was reliable. Guzan looked nervous and played that way.