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Friday, October 8, 2010
U.S. team primed for Poland

By Charlie Corr

The U.S. Men's National Team hosts Poland on Saturday at Soldier Field for its second post-2010 FIFA World Cup match.

Former Chicago Fire and current U.S. head coach Bob Bradley's squad is coming off a 2-0 defeat to Brazil on Aug. 10 in New Jersey. The Americans are facing Poland for the first time since a 3-0 victory on March 26, 2008, at Wisla Stadium in Krakow.

Eric Lichaj
Downers Grove native Eric Lichaj will play for the U.S. team vs. his parents' homeland of Poland on Saturday.
"Poland is a team that has done a good job in terms of trying to pressure opponents and also has the ability when they win the ball to go quickly in the attack," Bradley said. "So our ability to also pressure them becomes a battle to see which team is able to put the other team on the defensive and take control of games, especially in the midfield."

Bradley has brought in 13 players who were part of the U.S.'s World Cup squad, including five who played in every minute of the Cup: goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielder Michael Bradley, forward Clint Dempsey, and defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo.

Also with the U.S. squad is Downers Grove native and Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj, whose parents were born in Poland.

"Eric, for a young player, is physically strong, has good speed, good power, and I think that he continues to improve," Bradley said. "He's a young player that we have high hopes for."

Following up its disappointing showing against a young and lively Brazilian side in August, the U.S. needs to find its finishing touch and vastly improve its possession.

"The possession thing is interesting because I think that if you look at the last few years we all know there are games when we're able to dictate the terms a little bit more," Bradley said. "We now are able to have more of the ball, possess the ball, move the ball well, and we're more confident. And we've shown that. Yet there are other days when you play against an opponent and on that day they manage to win that part of the game.

"We've tried to be a team that understands on different days how we can win the game, but nonetheless continue to grow, continue to improve, to continue to improve technically and tactically."

Dempsey naturally will be a focal point on the attack. He has been vital both up front and in the midfield, and his dual roles with the national team and at Fulham are quite similar.

"He's an attacking player, comfortable of playing in the midfield, but also equally comfortable playing up front, playing underneath another striker," Bradley said. "The bottom line is Clint is an important player in terms of being a little bit different in his ability to maybe make a chance for himself or a teammate, where he can come up with a play that'll produce the unexpected and make it count for something big, for a goal."

As Bradley goes through the early phases of this four-year cycle in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, it is apparent that he is going to sort through any potential new talent with a fine-toothed comb.

"On one hand, there's a need to start the process with some younger players that we think potentially can help the team," Bradley said. "But at the same time, it's done with the sense that some veteran players continue to play really well. Carlos is a good example at St. Etienne this year. His team's off to a great start, he's played very well and he continues to be a very important part of our national team."

Recognizing McBride: Former U.S. and current Chicago Fire forward Brian McBride will be acknowledged on the field before the match. The Arlington Heights native, who tallied 30 goals for the U.S., announced that he is retiring following the Fire's 2010 campaign.