Fabio Capello's selection problems were put into perspective yesterday when England's opening World Cup opponents, the United States, produced such a disjointed performance in their penultimate warm-up that coach Bob Bradley admitted his brain was temporarily scrambled.
Following their 4-2 defeat in Connecticut late on Tuesday night to the Czech Republic, who have not qualified for South Africa, Bradley admitted: "I have so many things flying through my head right now. I've already said live on TV that Gooch [Oguchi Onyewu] played 90 minutes when we subbed him in the 65th minute so you can imagine where I'm at. At times it was a little bit crazy and I think in the process of trying to put so much into it we at times left ourselves wide open."
In mitigation Bradley, seeking to finalise his squad ahead of reducing it to 23 (overnight, UK time), omitted many of the Americans' leading players, including goalkeeper Tim Howard of Everton, Fulham's Clint Dempsey, LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan, and his own son, Michael Bradley. Also absent were injured defenders Carlos Bocanegra, the captain, and Jay DeMerit, of Watford.
Nevertheless, when Rangers' Maurice Edu took advantage of a 17th-minute error by Petr Cech to put the US ahead it seemed Bradley's problem would be who to leave out. Instead he is pondering who to include.
"It's a night when you can only imagine the emotions players are going through but we're at a point where tough decisions have to be made," Bradley added. On a positive note Onyewu made his first start since rupturing a knee tendon in October and Bolton's Stuart Holden made his return from a broken leg suffered in March. Holden, who was injured in a tackle with Manchester City' Nigel de Jong during a friendly against the Netherlands, played 24 minutes of Bolton's final Premier League game earlier this month. He played the full 90 minutes against the Czechs and said: "It was a big step forward for me. It's just a case of getting more games under my belt and improving my fitness. I don't think I'm far away, to be honest."
The Czechs, beaten 2-1 by Turkey in New Jersey at the weekend, levelled from a set-piece through Tomas Sivok with Aston Villa 'keeper Brad Guzan poorly positioned and Onyewu beaten in the air.
With Bradley making five half-time changes the Americans lost their shape and went behind soon before the hour to Jan Polak. Hercules Gomez equalised soon after from a Holden corner but Martin Fenin and Tomas Necid secured victory for the visitors in front of a 36,218 crowd.
The Americans' next fixture is with President Obama in the White House today before a final warm-up on Saturday against Turkey. They play England on 12 June in Rustenburg.Reuse content