A World Cup viewing guide from Darien soccer coach Jon Bradley
So, you've caught a case of World Cup fever.
You can tell because British announcers have been blaring from your TV more in the last week than they ever have. Also, since June 12, your definition of a "long ball" has slowly changed from something flying over a fence to something soaring down the flanks. And maybe you even wanted to call it "futbol" once or twice.
Well, good for you.
After the United States' victory over Ghana Monday, there's hardly ever been a better time to go cuckoo over PKs and set pieces or become a temporary expert on them. For if the Americans manage to beat Portugal and/or garner a reasonable result against Germany, they should earn knockout round berths in consecutive World Cups for the first time in their history.
Of course, there's a long way to go.
And for that, Darien High School boys soccer coach Jon Bradley has lent his actual soccer expertise to guide our World Cup viewing experience. A coach in the area of 13 years, Bradley took the time to answer some basic questions about the prospects of the U.S. team and his thoughts on the eventual champion.
What do you make of this year's youthful U.S. roster and the cut of star Landon Donovan?
"I think the Donovan was really more a personality issue than anything else. And I think the U.S., on paper, has a great chance of getting out of the group. I'm not sure how they'll handle the environment, the weather, and the travel. It will be big strain on the U.S. How quickly they can handle the pressure in the tournament is important."
How do the Americans match up with Portugal Sunday?
"I think with Portugal, (Cristiano) Ronaldo's the key to the game. The U.S. doesn't have a superstar that can change the game. I think teams are evenly matched, and the injury he's got is very tough to play through. It could play into U.S.'s favor. After playing one game, he's not going to be perfectly fit for game two. I think U.S. has a great chance.
"When they play Portugal, it's got to be half-pressure. Don't let them play out the back and prevent the service game to Ronaldo. If Ronaldo gets a ball at his feet and he's running at you, that's going to cause problem for 90 minutes. They've got to keep up the whole pace, and don't let them get comfortable. "
Why is Germany such a strong, tough opponent?
"Based on ability, they've got no weakness from one to 11. They're very strong in the back, they've got a comfortable midfield and lots of players with ability to score. The U.S. can't go into the Germany game needing points."
How about your native England?
"A lot of young players are in there. In the back, England looks like it's going to struggle. They should have a capability score a couple goals a game. I'm hoping Mr. Rooney has enough to get us through. Eventually he's got to shine in one of these games."
Who are your favorites to win the cup and why?
"Holland or Germany and because of their ability to score in multiple areas. They're not relying on a star. With Germany, there's so much attacking power and they're so tough in the back. They don't leak many goals. So much speed, they're so dangerous. Holland has had a slow period the last few years, changed their style and management, but the change looks good."