AMERICA’S tough tacklers have warned England to expect a ‘good hard game’ – but insisted they will not try to deliberately wind up Wayne Rooney.
US coach Bob Bradley promised a robust approach in what American soccer chiefs yesterday described as the most exciting football match in the country’s history.
But he also expressed respect for temperamental Rooney – as well as England coach Fabio Capello, who once faced a US college team coached by Bradley.
The man now leading the USA’s sixth consecutive World Cup finals campaign once took a Princeton University team to AC Milan’s Milanello base, in the mid-Nineties.
They took on a team of Milan reserves, in a coaching session overseen by the Serie A giants’ then-boss Capello.
Bradley expects Saturday’s match to be a little less friendly, but vowed no dirty tricks – despite renewed questions about Rooney’s volatile temper.
When asked whether his players would deliberately target Rooney, he said: ‘No, we won’t enter all that.’
Bradley spoke of ‘a tremendous respect for Rooney as a player’, praising ‘his effort, his competitiveness, his movement’.
USA captain Landon Donovan predicted: ‘I think Rooney’ll going to be just fine on Saturday.’
But Bradley pledged: ‘It’ll be a good, hard game.’
Brazilian referee Carlos Simon has been accused of card-happiness, while also serving a brief domestic suspension following complaints about his officiating.
Bradley will advise his men to be careful, saying: ‘It’s important that there’s discipline.
‘We’ve seen in a number of World Cups, especially in the first round, that players must respect their opponents or else there’ll be cards given.’
The US have won a reputation for being among the most athletic, and physically robust of international sides.
Even US Soccer chief executive Sunil Gulati yesterday admitted American players tended to lack flair.
Bradley was assistant coach when the US were involved in one of the last World Cup’s most X-rated matches, reduced to nine men in a group game against Italy.
Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope were both dismissed in Kaiserslautern for wince-inducing challenges.
The violence was not all one-way – striker Brian McBride took an elbow-smash to the face from Daniele De Rossi, who was also sent off.
But while neither Mastroeni nor Pope are here this time, cards can be expected by the likes of the coach’s own son Michael Bradley.
The combative Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder’s tendency to collect bookings saw him suspended from the final of both the 2009 Confederations Cup and the same year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Premier League fans may still vividly recall US striker Jozy Altidore’s headbutt assault on Sunderland’s Alan Hutton, when playing for Hull City last season.
Donovan himself was involved in the incident which left Chelsea and England left-back Ashley Cole’s World Cup place in doubt last season.
While yesterday insisting he was glad to see Cole recovered in time from his ankle injury, Donovan said there had been no contact between the two players – nor with his LA Galaxy team-mate David Beckham.
But Donovan, who spent the second half of the season on loan at Everton, said he expected the club’s Scottish manager David Moyes to be cheering on the US.
The forward, who said any talk of an Everton return would be delayed until after the World Cup, said: ‘I’ve had no message from David Moyes.
‘But my guess is, learning a little bit about how the English and the Scots are, is that he’s rooting for us.’
While the England camp remains plagued by injury doubts, Bradley declared: ‘Every player in my 23 is ready to play 90 minutes if asked.’
That includes, he insisted, the ex-Newcastle Uniited centre-back Oguchi Onyewu, who missed most of his first season at AC Milan with knee ligament damage.
Saturday’s clash with England is the talk of the watercooler across the US, according to football federation chief Dr Gulati.
He added: ‘There’s more interest back home in this game than any the US has played for a long time – probably ever.
‘The national team has even featured on the front cover of Time magazine – anyone remember when that’s ever happened for soccer?
‘Certainly the watercooler talk is greater for this Saturday than I’ve ever seen for a World Cup.’