Saturday, June 21, 2014

USA - Portugal Round 2

Off to the rain forest tomorrow for the second of the U.S.'s matches.  Ronaldo and the Portuguese await looking to revenge their loss in South Korea during the 2002 World Cup.  The good news is that's there's not much at stake for the Yanks, just clinching a spot in the knockout rounds with a win.

Today's draw between Germany and Ghana didn't help the U.S. much.  The good news is that due to it, they can clinch with a win tomorrow.  The bad news is that with a draw tomorrow Ghana is still alive and could pass the U.S. with a win over Portugal combined with the U.S. losing to Germany.  The draw also keeps the Germans from automatically qualifying before their game with the U.S., so they'll be coming in looking for a result in that last game.

Portugal is down defenders Pepe (due to his idiotic red card) and Coentrao (injury) along with forward Almeida (injury).  It also appears that Ronaldo will not be 100% but who knows if Portugal is maybe playing games with that injury.  Rui Patricio (GK) and Bruno Alves (defender) have also sustained knocks and their status is unknown.  If the U.S. was healthy I'd really like our chances, but we all know about Jozy being ruled out for this one (and probably the whole World Cup), Dempsey's broken nose, and the fact that Cameron, Bedoya, and Besler all grabbed hamstrings during the Ghana game so the U.S. is hardly indestructible Captain Americas.

I think the U.S. should get at least a draw tomorrow though, and a win wouldn't be a shock.  Portugal looked horrible against Germany and we just saw Germany struggle with Ghana.  I'm not suggesting U.S. > Ghana = Germany > Portugal, that's too simplistic, but it does appear that Portugal has had the weakest performance so far in Group G and now they're missing more players.  If everyone but Jozy is healthy enough to play then the U.S. will be in better shape.  The key will be Michael Bradley.  He has to play better than that performance Monday night and help the team keep possession in midfield.  That will reduce the pressure on Johannsson/Wondo/Diskerud, whichever one starts for the injured Altidore, and be able to keep the ball away from Ronaldo and Nani.

The last factor is the travel and weather.  This better not be an issue for the U.S.  Weather reports tomorrow are similar to Houston and with more than half the team having played multiple season in MLS, a long trip to hot and humid Houston is par for the course.  That should give the U.S. the advantage late in the game as the Portuguese will hopefully start to wilt in the rain forest environment.

This team has an ability to focus under JK when the chips are on the table and I think that we see that again tomorrow as they pull off a point, and if the breaks go our way (not the type of break Dempsey got on Monday though) we can get 3 points and a spot in the knockout rounds.

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