Commentary

Behold the experience of World Cup

The former player is confident the U.S. can give England a run for its money

Updated: June 11, 2010, 9:30 PM ET
By Cobi Jones | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

Editor's note: Cobi Jones is the all-time leader in appearances (164) for the U.S. men's national team and a three-time ('94, '98, '02) World Cup participant. He was a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy from 1996 to 2007 and is now an assistant coach for the club. He will offer his thoughts before and after every U.S. game.

Jones
Jones

Looking back now at my first World Cup experience, I didn't know what was going on. I was a newbie and I had no idea what to expect.

I didn't realize how big it really was. I had just come out of college at UCLA and then all of sudden we have security at training, police escorts to games and we're taking charter flights everywhere. I turned 24 in the middle of my first World Cup and it was quite an unbelievable experience. It's really hard for words to do it justice.

If I had any advice for the newcomers on the U.S. team it would be to enjoy the experience and make the most of the moment on and off the field.

The World Cup experience is more than just the game of soccer. It's an event. And it will fly by faster than you think. It will end and you'll be saying, "Wow, it's over already?" You have to remember to take it all in and enjoy it.

Once you get on the field, take that deep breath and remember that you have played in big games before and this is just another game with more people watching. There's no need to overwhelm yourself with thoughts, because you know that you're just as good or better than some of the players you're going up against.

[+] EnlargeCobi Jones USA Soccer
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty ImagesCobi Jones is one of the most decorated players in U.S. soccer history after spending a long career with the national team.

Playing England is going to be the biggest game of the group right away. Everything that you've been hearing or has been said is about England and the U.S. advancing out of group play, so this will be important.

All the guys on this team know they can play, and it's simply about going out there and battling and enduring the early pressure. It's about getting through those first 15 or 20 minutes, then settling down and being able to play a bit.

Everyone knows England is considered to be the better team, but the veterans on this team have shown that in any given game anyone can win. They proved that in the Confederations Cup last summer by beating Spain and giving Brazil a good run.

Tactically, the result of this game will rely on the ability of vets such as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey to be able to hold and keep the ball, and to make sure we're not retreating into a defensive shell.

The last thing we'd want is to be in a defensive position chasing the whole time. They need to keep the ball and not panic and allow the midfield to join the attack. Every coach will tell you that defensive running is a lot more tiring than offensive running.

The U.S. is the type of team that has the ability to surprise and come out strong and in an attacking mode. Donovan is a dynamic player, and they have guys up front such as Edson Buddle and Jozy Altidore, who are two strong strikers who can hold the ball and allow others players to join in the attack.

I actually wouldn't mind seeing the U.S. turn the tables a little bit and really try to come out strong the first five or 10 minutes and take it to England. I think they definitely can do some good things.

The U.S. has to be effective along the back, but this is one of the best back lines they've ever had. It's going to be very interesting to see.

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