The USA deserves to be ranked a laudable 14th in the world. During Sunday's 3-1 win over Australia, their confidence in attack confirmed they will present problems in England's opening World Cup match on Saturday. Nonetheless Bob Bradley's side must achieve solidity to restrict opponent’s six places above them in the FIFA standings.
That came to mind when the USA defender Jay DeMerit looked ahead to the game in Rustenburg. "I have played against Wayne [Rooney]," he said. "So far, so good." Either the centre-half is suffering from a faulty memory or believes damage-limitation is satisfactory. In two matches in 2007, including an FA Cup semifinal, Rooney scored three times against DeMerit's Watford.
There is no particular shame in that but it suggests that the USA have to come up with more rigour. "He's a fantastic player," DeMerit said, "and this season he's been in the best form of his life. If he takes that into the World Cup, he will be a difficult opponent for anybody.
"The team know that you try to wind Rooney up. But I think he's learned over the years, with people telling him that's an easy way to get at him. I don't think it's as easy to wind Rooney up as people think it is. The preparations for him in particular, of course, are going to be high. We just have to make sure we make his day as difficult as possible."
Bradley did not send out his strongest line-up but an alteration here and there seems unlikely to transform the defending. There is still a lot of work to be done on the organisation of the side when they are not in possession.
There was menace, too, from a source that even the England staff may not have given much consideration to. At the age of 29 and while earning merely his third cap, Edson Buddle scored twice, his first goals for the USA. There have been interruptions to his career and in 2005 Major League Soccer banned him for a month after he refused to take a breathalyser test.
Buddle's inclusion against Australia may have been prompted by an ankle injury to Jozy Altidore, who scored only twice for Hull while on loan from Villarreal last season.
Injuries have hindered Buddle, but his first name, too, is a burden. His father was mistaken in the belief that calling him Edson after Edson Arantes do Nascimento would spare the boy mocking comparisons with a footballer otherwise known as Pele.
It is certainly too soon to suppose that Buddle will be a force at this tournament but the watching England general manager, Franco Baldini, will not have liked the sight of his goals, which came from a confident shot and a header. Without Rio Ferdinand, England will need to lay new plans for countering the American and other strikers.
"We can score goals," Buddle said. "We have guys who are lively up top. They can get into the holes and hurt people." He himself has come good with LA Galaxy and is grateful to his injured teammate David Beckham. "He's given me a lot of good advice and, hopefully, he'll give me some more before the [England] game," the striker said with undue optimism.
"His big advice has been to tell me to keep moving to get on the end of crosses. David's been a massive influence on me. If you can't score with David on your team serving up the ball, then you might as well forget it."
The USA will be heartened by Buddle's impact at the weekend, even if the service was less distinguished.
© Guardian News and Media 2010
Keywords: 2010 FIFA World Cup