I have a theory about the US team. I think we match up much better against more technical sides than sides that can match our athleticism.
Against technical sides like Italy and even Spain that play at a more measured pace, we match up very well. The first half during the confederations cup when we had 11 men against Italy, we were able to go toe to toe with the Italians. The same can be said about the 2006 World Cup game against Italy. But against athletic teams like Brazil, Ghana in 06, teams that combine both - athleticism and technical skill - are an absolute disaster for us. So with this in mind, assuming we are in pot 4 with the Asians, what teams do we most want to avoid in the World Cup draw on Friday?
1. Holland. If we could avoid being drawn with one team in this tournament it would be Holland. Since the Dutch are not seeded and are in pot 2, getting drawn with them almost automatically becomes the group of death (unless you get South Africa). But regardless of their pot, I would put them just after Brazil as a team I am most afraid of. The Dutch play fast flowing football that I think would have us on the back foot from the get go. They combine the pace and technical quality that we just can't really compete with.
2. Portugal. The situation is ditto to Holland. Portugal is also in pot 2 and will likely make up a group of death. While Portugal has a few more wholes than Holland, handling Ronaldo, Simao, and others will be a real struggle. Getting paired with the Portuguese will really hurt our chances of advances.
3. Brazil. I think Brazil is the other team, along with Holland that we most want to avoid. the two teams in the tournament that I would most like to avoid. We saw what they could do in the confederations cup. They were more of a handful for us than Spain due to their overall athleticism. Capello called them the best team in the world after the England game, pointing to their athleticism. The one advantage with Brazil is that they would likely beat everybody, leaving the race for second wide open.
4. Ivory Coast/Ghana. The African teams really scare me, especially Ghana and Ivory Coast. While African teams have been seen as tactically deficient in past tournaments, the improvement in African football can't be denied and the quality of talent is remarkable. These are athletic skilled teams that are going to be jazzed playing on their home continent.
5. Spain. Our win over Spain was historic and we are unlikely to repeat that feat. That being said, we demonstrated an ability to neutralize Spain's interchanging passing and shut down Xavi. We clogged the middle and forced their attacks out way and headed away cross after cross. This could be a recipe to eke out a draw. But another advantage about Spain, similar to Brazil is that they should beat up on the rest of the group.