JOHANNESBURG – Last week, Carlos Bocanegra lightly admonished a reporter who suggested the US may not have known as much about Slovenia as they did England because there weren’t as many Slovenes in the English Premier League.
But as the US captain pointed out, plenty of them play in Germany and France, where a good number of Americans also ply their trade. The same goes for Algeria, the US’ win-or-go-home opponent in their group-stage finale in Pretoria on Wednesday.
While Les Fennecs may not be as glitzy an opponent as England, perhaps, the US are well aware of their strengths and have seen them up close and personal. Algeria’s players star across the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and even the Premier League, and the Americans have studied up.
Perhaps no US player is as knowledgeable about the Algerians as Michael Bradley. Not only is he the son of studious head coach Bob Bradley and a near savant-acolyte for scouting in his own right, but the central midfielder has played against several Algerians in Germany.
And one is his own teammate at Borussia Mönchengladbach: striker Karim Matmour.
“When you look at the players they have, they have lot of guys who are skillful on the ball, they get it in dangerous areas, run by guys or be creative in their own way and get shots,” Bradley told reporters at US base camp on Monday.
“Certainly Karim is good at that. His ability to use his speed and run by defenders to get shots and crosses, I know that well – I play with him every week. That’s something we need to keep an eye on.”
Bradley also said the US must be wary of Karim Ziani, who plays his club ball at ‘Gladbach rival Wolfsburg. The wily left midfielder “is a creative player who can stay wide, he can come inside and find dangerous spots,” according to Bradley.
The Americans also know a handful of other Algerian starters from playing against them in familiar leagues: from England, Portsmouth left back Nadir Belhadj; from Scotland, Rangers center back Madjid Bougherra; from Germany, Bochum right back Antar Yahia; and from France, Valenciennes right winger Foued Kadir.
“We have a good feel for their players,” Bradley said. “They’re comfortable on the ball. They’re still an athletic team that is fit and mobile, and so we know it’s going to be a difficult game.”
MLSsoccer.com managing editor Jonah Freedman is reporting from South Africa all this month.