Chris Albright of the USA battles for a ball with Claude Davis of Jamaica back in 2006. Credit: Getty Images
Metro was able to grab former U.S. National team member Chris Albright, who is currently technical director for the Philadelphia Union, to break down this year’s Team USA squadand their chances at perhaps making some noise, and surprising some folks as the World Cup kicks off in Brazil.
How do you like Team USA’s chances in the so-called “Group of Death”?
I think that the game against Ghana is a must-win game for the U.S. That will really dictate the success of this team. They won’t have to recover in a hard matchup against Portugal or Germany. They’ll be able to focus their full attention on getting a positive result in those games, rather than pressing and forcing things on the field. It’s going to be difficult and they’re certainly not favored to get out, but that’s what’s great about the Group stage. There’s a lot of things that can happen and if luck’s on their side they’ll have a chance.
What do you view as the strengths and weaknesses for this team?
I think the team’s strength is its American spirit, as cliché as that sounds. They have an underdog mentality and understand that they’re playing against teams that have a much longer and stronger soccer pedigree. They know that they’ll have to give it everything they have and not take plays off in order to win. Clint [Dempsey], Jozy [Altidore] and Michael [Bradley] can all pull off big plays at any moment and a lot of times these games come down to the playmakers.
Our weakness is an inexperienced back line. They’re going to really have to come together as a unit and prove themselves on the biggest stage.
You’ve had a chance to practice with and play against Clint Dempsey over the years, how will he need to establish himself in these games?
Clint’s one of those guys that doesn’t necessarily have to play great for us, but you’re looking for Clint to make a play. Whether that’s a header off of a corner or making a dramatic play in the box, that’s something we’ll need from him.
Tim Howard, another guy you’ve had the chance to play with for a while, played spectacular against England in the 2010 World Cup which led to the 1-1 draw. Is he going to have to play this type of game against all three of Team USA’s Group G opponents?
Timmy is maybe our biggest strength. Goaltending in soccer is a lot like hockey. If you have a hot goaltender than you will always have a chance to win. If you look up and down this roster, he’s probably the guy you’d call the most World Class. It’s important to have him for the experience, leadership, technical ability, confidence and belief. I expect big things from Timmy as always. The sharper Timmy is the better we’ll be.
What are the scenarios where the U.S. can pull off an upset over Portugal or Germany?
Well we’ve done it before. We upset Portugal in the 2002 World Cup where we were lesser known soccer country and I’ve said this before but it’s all about playing strong on the back line and somebody making a play on offense. Great players will win you games and if we don’t have our great players show up then there’s no shot to upset Portugal or Germany.
What was your greatest experience from the 2006 World Cup?
Just being in that environment and to see something that you’ve never seen before. To be able to experience that with my family was a proud moment for me and it was really a culmination of every game I had ever played up to that point. You’re representing a nation of so many and you’re one of the 23 guys that’s able to do that. It really sums up a professional career to play for your country in a World Cup.
Do you think U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann coming out and saying that it’s ‘unrealistic’ for the U.S. to win the World Cup was justified?
I don’t necessarily love that comment, but Jurgen’s won World Cup’s himself so who am I to question him? I think you never want to put that bit of doubt in your player’s minds, even if he may be justified in saying so. It’s something that if I were him, I’d shy away from doing.
When it’s all said and done, who do you believe will bring home the World Cup trophy this year?
If not the U.S. than I’d love to see Brazil win it as the host nation. I’ve played with plenty of Brazilian’s over the years and they’re always great teammates and great competitors with a real passion for the game. It would be a nice thing to see.