Monday, January 16th, 2017

A memorable win, but a long road ahead

What a game! After being knocked out of the World Cup the last two times by Ghana, the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team scored a huge win over the Black Stars.  The US desperately wanted and needed this win.  They hoped to get at least a point out of this match, but they got three.  It was an important step in advancing through a tough grouping that includes Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

The U.S. looked unstoppable — at least for the first 30 seconds — when Clint Dempsey scored on a nice move past a Ghana defender. After that, the team looked flat, often looking like they were just trying to hold on to the lead for the rest of the match. I’m not sure if they were complacent after scoring so early or they were not properly conditioned to play on the humid weather…or maybe it was worry over Jozy Altidore’s early injury? Either way, the U.S. looked more like a team that was playing to preserve a shocking lead than a team ready to win the World Cup.

The U.S. mustered only eight shots in the match and had a low pass-completion rate. Ghana controlled most of the possession time, and their speed and attacking prowess kept the U.S. on their heels the entire game.

A late, soul-crushing goal by Ghana’s Andre Ayew in the 82nd minute, tied the game at one and almost guaranteed the U.S. would settle for a one point draw.

However, the team displayed their resolve when Defender John Brooks headed in the go-ahead goal in the 86th minute.

U.S. Coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, had been criticized for deciding to bring Brooks to Brazil due to his inexperience and inconsistent play.  Now, everyone is glad he did.  The U.S. hung on and knocked-off Ghana in a game that will be remembered for a long time.

While the win was nice, Klinsmann and crew don’t have much time to celebrate. They have to face Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on Sunday night.  There are some key concerns heading into this match for both teams in what will prove to be a very important game.

Portugal comes into the game after a demoralizing 4-0 loss to the powerful Germans in their first group stage match.  As evidenced by the final score, this game was never close.  Portugal faces several challenges going into Sunday’s match with the United States.  First, they lost starting defender Pepe because of a red card and they lost another starter in D Fabio Coentrao to an injury.

Fortunately for Portugal, they have arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo who reportedly will be 100 percent for the game against the United States.

For the U.S., they will have to play without star forward Jozy Altidore who went down with a hamstring injury in the Ghana game.

They will also have to figure out how to defend a world-class striker in Ronaldo.  The US defense has been much maligned leading up to the World Cup but had a strong showing in the game against Ghana.

Good news also is that Defender Matt Besler who left the game against Ghana, will be fine for Sunday’s match.

This game will be very important for both teams. For the U.S., if Germany beats Ghana on Saturday, and they beat Portugal, they are guaranteed a spot in the round of 16.  For Portugal, a win would help them recover from the embarrassing loss to Germany and possibly get out of the group.  Either way, both teams desperately need the points in this game.

I think Portugal will come out strong and the U.S. won’t have enough left for another miracle….but it should be a fun game to watch!