Beckham's spotlight continues to shine on American game
The United States coach welcomes the publicity that the England midfielder has given Major League Soccer. Mike Rowbottom reports
Wednesday 28 May 2008
It will be no surprise to Bob Bradley, coach of the United States team, if the opposition at Wembley tonight contains the man whom he believes has done more than any other to raise the profile of the game across the Atlantic.
As far as Bradley is concerned, David Beckham is doing what it says on the tin by becoming a part of the Los Angeles Galaxy side currently contesting the Major League Soccer title.
"What he has done is bring so much more attention to the game as a whole," Bradley said on the eve of a match that will serve as preparation for his team's World Cup 2010 qualification programme, which starts next month with two matches against Barbados.
"There are so many non-soccer fans in the USA that are now more aware of our game because of his presence. For many years good things have gone on when it comes to soccer – we have made our mark in World Cup final stages – but it doesn't always get the attention in the US, where the coverage is so competitive. We've got great teams in many sports.
"But when the spotlight of Beckham goes on I think people take more notice of the things that have been happening in our game.
"I expect we will see him at Wembley. Fabio Capello still feels he can play and help the team. His run of form so far in MLS has been good and his pure ability to deliver passes and open up the field is something that all managers would love to have."
Bradley was less expansive, however, on the question of whether Beckham's LA Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan would emulate the Englishman by earning his 100th international cap at Wembley.
Should the 26-year-old midfield veteran get the nod after arriving yesterday following his side's 3-1 weekend win over Kansas City, he will become the fourth youngest player in world football to reach his centenary, following the achievements of South Korea's 24-year-old Cha Bum-Kun and the 25-year-old Saudi Arabian pair of Sami Al-Jaber and Mohammed Al-Deaya.
Bradley, who will name his team today, acknowledged that earning that honour at the home of English football would be "a special way of doing it", but added : "Decisions get made with many things in mind and he is still in the midst of his season. We have other games coming up so we have to do what is best to go forward.
"If you look at the teams we've played in the last 18 months and before that, we have tested ourselves against top teams and have tried to play more in Europe which is important. We've played Sweden in Gothenburg, Switzerland in Basle and we've just come off a good result against Poland in Krakow.
"We treat these games as opportunities to gain respect and we take them very seriously. It is a chance for our players to step up and show where we are. We are excited about our Wembley game."
The Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, one of eight England-based players in the squad, insists that the US team will not be reacting to the Wembley atmosphere "like a deer in the headlights", even though they were unable to train at the stadium yesterday.
"We're probably the underdogs but we've put in some good performances in the last 12 months," said Howard, who expects to play alongside Everton colleague Phil Jagielka tonight. "We're ready for it and up for it. We step on the field expecting to win, we are not a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. We're going to fight them, and give as good as we get."
Howard said he expected England's newly-appointed captain John Terry would be similarly alert in the wake of his Champions League final disappointment. "He was distraught that he missed the penalty but that is as far as it goes," he said. "I don't think it will have any effect on him for Chelsea or this game. He'll pick himself up and probably will be the most ready of any player because that is the type of person he is."
Star spangled: Five of the most successful US imports
BRAD FRIEDEL Liverpool, Blackburn
The most successful US import. Rarely featured at Anfield but has made more than 350 appearances for Rovers to date. Helped side win 2002 League Cup.
KASEY KELLER Millwall, Leicester, Spurs, Southampton, Fulham
The goalkeeper enjoyed prolonged spells as No 1 at Leicester and Spurs after playing more than 200 games for Millwall.
CLAUDIO REYNA Sunderland, Manchester City
Former US captain moved south from Rangers in 2001. Limited success at Stadium of Light and Eastlands, suffering from knee and hamstring injuries.
BRIAN McBRIDE Preston, Everton, Fulham
Hard-working striker who spent time at Deepdale and Goodison before finding regular spot at Fulham.
CARLOS BOCANEGRA Fulham
Defender made more than 130 appearances in four seasons in west London prior to his release last week.
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