What are the expectations for the team?
Bipolar. Is this the embarrassing 1998-2006 team, or the surprise package, we-can-finally-play group from 1994 and 2002? We no longer have a problem qualifying, serving up an acceptable number of scares but always getting through. The question now is: Can we produce at the big show?
Is the coach popular?
We have now come far enough in the game that Bob Bradley’s decisions are regularly questioned and his head called for when the team stumbles. The biggest knock? He sticks with players for far too long. DaMarcus Beasley of Rangers is one obvious example. Interestingly, few question the choice of his son Michael as a starter in central midfield.
Who are the best and worst interviewees?
Charlie Davies will be the best if his recovery from a terrible car accident in the autumn continues and he makes the team. At press time, Bradley had not called him into the training camp at Princeton University, but hadn’t ruled him out either. Worst? Everyone else.
Is the team likely to have any unusual goal celebrations?
World Cup goals are such a rarity for the US that I would expect true, unalloyed joy, rather than something silly and pre-planned. If Jozy Altidore gets one after his season at Hull, he may collapse from emotional exhaustion.
Are there any personal rivalries in the squad?
We’re well ahead of England in this category. John Harkes cuckolded striker Eric Wynalda and was dropped from the team by coach Steve Sampson in 1998. Many blamed our poor performance in France on the affair. I don’t. We were horrible. Harkes will be an ESPN studio analyst and it will be interesting to hear his comments on John Terry’s copycat manoeuvre. That said, some Americans have quickly realised that our 12th man is the British tabloid press. We need wage no psychological war when the newspapers from back home are doing everything they can to unhinge England. I personally plan to phone in invented tips on WAG whereabouts and activities.
Have the team recorded a song for the World Cup?
None yet. Clint Dempsey is the rapper to do it.
What will the media coverage be like?
ABC/ESPN are airing all the matches, as they have since 1994. For the first time, the networks will produce all their studio programming in the host country, a total of 65 hours. ESPN sparked controversy here by naming Martin Tyler, Derek Rae, Adrian Healey and Ian Darke for the play-by-play (or match commentary, in proper English), bouncing Americans to radio or off the air completely. I guess we will only get football if it’s described in that same proper English, with all the proper words.
Will there be many fans travelling to South Africa?
People from the US – many of whom perhaps won’t be supporting the US – have bought more tickets than anyone but the South Africans themselves. We don’t sing. Rich Zahradnik