There is plenty of optimism for the United States and its World Cup aspirations from local soccer coaches.
That’s not to say you can expect the United States to win the World Cup for the first time.
But the consensus was that it is good enough to advance past pool play.
The United States is in a four-team bracket with England, Slovenia and Algeria. The top two teams in each of eight brackets advance to the next round, which involves single-elimination play.
The consensus was that the United States should beat Slovenia and Algeria to finish no worse than second behind England.
The Americans open against England at 2:30 p.m. today.
“I certainly think their group is such that they have an excellent chance to get into the next round,” said University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley. “In the last tournament they played in South Africa [Confederations Cup], they beat Spain [2-0] and led Brazil 2-0 [before losing 3-2]. So they’ve proven they’ re capable of beating the best teams. They could have their best World Cup yet.
“But in order to do that, they need to be at the top of their game, collectively and individually. Their big players have to come up big. [Midfielder] Landon Donovan will have to be dynamic and do his thing and [goalkeeper] Tim Howard will have to stand on his head. He will have to make the saves they have to rely on him to make. And he can’t make any mistakes.”
“I really think it will be disappointing if they don’t advance past pool play,” added Husson University women’s soccer coach Keith Bosley. “If they can get a draw against England, that would be tremendous. We have a fantastic goalie [Howard]. He’s one of our most inspirational leaders. If he stands on his ear, he can carry us through. We’re pretty solid through the midfield but who’s going to score the goals for us? We need an inspirational playmaker out of the interior midfield or out of the back.”
“We’re good enough to be dangerous,” said University of Maine-Fort Kent men’s soccer coach Bill Ashby, who feels the United States can advance past pool play. “We have a legitimate team. We’re unproven because we’ve got kind of a young team. But they have the technical ability to play with most teams. We’re a little weak in the back. [Defender Oguchi Onyewu] is coming back off an injury. But we’ve got one of the better goalkeepers in the world. And our midfield is good.”
“They’re athletic and incredibly well organized,” said Bangor High School boys soccer coach David Patterson. “They don’t have a world class player like [England’s] Wayne Rooney or [Portugal’s] Cristiano Ronaldo. But they buy into the team concept and, at that level, it can be very important. Teamwork plays a huge part.
“I’ve seen teams with a lot of superstars not do well in the World Cup.”
Patterson agreed that the top players must live up to expectations and, “in the back, they will have to very, very solid tactically and they’re going to have to play smart.”
Patterson also said the United States has a legitimate chance to upset England because the pressure is all on the heavily favored English.
“The U.S. has nothing to lose so I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a go at it,” he said.
Orono High School girls soccer coach Cid Dyjak feels the United States can get through to the second round “but they’ve got to find some goals. We’re going to have to score off the counter attack and use the speed of [strikers] Jozy Altidore and [Robbie] Findley.”
He is concerned about the defense and how they handle crosses.
“Our backs haven’t looked good [in matches leading up to the Cup],” said Dyjak.
University of Maine assistant women’s soccer coach Jackie Gebhart said, “We’ve reached the point where we should be getting out of the group [and advancing]. We’re ranked in the top 20 all the time. I like our forwards. We have a lot of good young talent. But our defense is really struggling.”
She said if they advance, Howard is going to have to be “the best player on the field” in the single-elimination games for them to move on.
Newly named Husson men’s soccer coach Jeff Gettler likes the United States’ chances to beat England.
“England has so many distractions,” said Gettler.
Jennifer Myers, the Ellsworth High School girls soccer coach, feels the United States is improving with every World Cup “but we still have some catching up to do [against the powerhouses].”
One of the keys to the improvement is that several Americans are now playing in some of the world’s best leagues like the English Premier League.
Who do the coaches expect to win the World Cup?
Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and England were the top choices with Holland, France and Germany also mentioned.
“I think six or eight teams could win it,” said Patterson.