We are roughly one week away from the FIFA World Cup Brazil. As George Vecsey’s brilliant Eight World Cups notes, “The whole world plays soccer.” And even in America, the sports is at an all-time high as the U.S. National Team heads into a tournament where twenty-three young men (ten from the M.L.S.) will play a set of games where international reputations will be made.
As we look at the U.S. roster, three players loom large in the national team’s effort to emerge from Group G (or the so-called Group of Death). As we anticipate the beginning of tournament play on June 12-13, let’s take a deeper look at the strengths, weaknesses and the recent performance of three men:
• Graham Zusi: Zusi is a winger that plays for Sporting Kansas City (SKC) of the M.L.S. His major strength is dead-balls. He took a great free kick against Azerbaijan early in the game that was flubbed by Wondo. However, he is not the fastest player –by a long shot. He may find it hard to breakaway from defenders and whip crosses into box. He been great lately, turning in solid games against Turkey and Azerbaijan. Zusi is key and one for U.S. soccer fans to watch.
• Michael Bradley: Bradley is a center midfielder for Toronto F.C. in the M.L.S. He is incredible at controlling the game from the midfield and is great passer of the ball. He bagged an assist against Turkey, but there are still many questions about how the U.S should use him in the diamond. We love his new SportsCenter ad, but there are still questions about how he will fare on the pitch in Brazil.
• Clint Demspey: He is a striker for the Seattle Sounders F.C. He main strength is being in the right place at the right time. He is also a great dribbler. His weakness is that he is not very strong and can sometimes be bullied off the ball. He grabbed a poacher’s goal to win the game against Turkey. The U.S. needs him to step up and prove that he can be a force at the international level in the weeks ahead.
In Vecsey’s written account of World Cup, he describes the “journey through the beauty and dark side of soccer.” For the U.S., he asserts that its best showing was in 2002 in the Asia Pacific where they reached the Round of Sixteen. Now, in Brazil in 2014, the question for U.S. soccer fans is whether Zusi, Bradley, Dempsey can the national team to the next level on the world stage.