JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Robbie Findley sounded quiet, slightly unsure, as he leaned into the microphone and answered only the questions directly asked of him, and nothing more.
Findley's reserve was understandable. He was sitting next to World Cup veterans: goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender Steve Cherundolo.
In such company, deference was easy.
But given the possible shift in the U.S. team's attacking scheme - presumed starting forward Jozy Altidore sprained his right ankle during Thursday's training - Findley's speedy, attacking game could move him from the bench to the starting lineup.
"We're excited about all the guys we have," Howard said. "We all hope Jozy will get better - we think he will - but we're not losing sleep over it."
On Saturday, the United States plays Australia in its final exhibition match before opening the 2010 FIFA World Cup against England next Saturday.
Altidore is officially listed as day-to-day. Howard and Cherundolo seemed confident the injury is mild, although Findley's more pronounced role, or the possibility thereof, was actively discussed.
It's an unlikely spot for Findley, 24, who was a long shot to make this World Cup roster. He has made only five appearances for the U.S. Men's National Team and has never scored an international goal.
During the club season, Findley, whose cousins include NBA guards Mike Bibby and Eddie House, plays for Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. Unlike his family members, Findley plies his trade in relative obscurity.
The Findley buzz began after his second-half performance against Turkey in last week's send-off match at Lincoln Financial Field.
At halftime, Findley came on for midfielder Benny Feilhaber.
"In the second half of the Turkey game, everyone got to see why he's effective - not only going forward, but I remember plays where he was chasing down forwards towards our own goal," Cherundolo said. "For a defender to see a forward do that, it's magic."
The United States, trailing by 1-0 at the break, eventually won, 2-1, with Findley notching the assist on the first goal.
"It would have been nice to get a goal, too, but I was effective in different ways," Findley said.
Findley's inclusion on the U.S. senior national team has been slow. He made his first appearance in 2007, in the final minutes of a friendly against Switzerland. More than 16 months later, he trained with the team for its World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago - a country with which he has dual citizenship - and El Salvador. Findley's parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean nation, to the U.S.
On May 28, U.S. coach Bob Bradley selected Findley for his 23-man World Cup roster. Bradley cited Findley's speed, his ability to space the U.S. attack, as the reason.
On March 3, 2010, in a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands, Findley started and played 68 minutes. Findley pointed toward that match as a personal game-changer, saying afterward he shifted his on-field mind-set.
"I wasn't as comfortable as I wanted to be," Findley explained of the Netherlands match.
So he watched game tape, lots of it, and spoke to his U.S. teammates.
"They told me to do what got me there: be aggressive and go at players," Findley said. "I went with that as my main focus in the Turkey game."
Toward the end of Friday's news conference, Findley was asked who was the United States' fastest player. The question had some backspin, especially since Findley, at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, is considered one of the team's fastest.
"I don't know," Findley said. "I'm not too sure."
The question shifted to Howard, then to Cherundolo.
"Probably Robbie, yeah," Howard said.
"I'd say the same," said Cherundolo.
In about a week, when the World Cup opens - and if Altidore's ankle isn't ready - the U.S. will need Findley to be anything but quiet and unsure.
Injuries mount. Ivory Coast may have lost its captain, Didier Drogba, when he broke his right arm Friday in a 2-0 warmup victory over Japan in Switzerland. The 32-year-old striker was taken off 15 minutes into the game and rushed to a hospital. Drogba told teammate Kolo Toure that he will miss the tournament, but coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said the team hadn't officially ruled him out. . . . England's captain, Rio Ferdinand, was ruled out of the World Cup after injuring ligaments in his left knee during practice Friday. Tottenham defender Michael Dawson, who was cut Tuesday, is expected to replace Ferdinand on the roster. . . . Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar missed practice for a second straight day because of a back injury. . . . Italy's playmaker, midfielder Andrea Pirlo, is resting at home in Milan with a calf injury that could force him out of the competition.