Monday, June 16, 2014

#USMNT vs. Ghana - World Cup 2014

Let's start from the top:  Jurgen Klinsmann is correct, this is a must-win game for both teams. And while I agree with the writer of the linked article that Group G is not the "Group of death" (I reserve that title for Group D with Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica and England all having a chance to advance) this is a trouble group for the US and I just don't see them being all that competitive against the teams within.

For anything to happen for the USMNT however a win over Ghana is a must, and given the lack of quality in the US back-line in a World Cup that's already being marked by offensive play I just don't see the US withstanding a Ghana attack that includes some top level players including the Ayew brothers and top striker Asamoah Gyan who is faster than any US defenseman at any level.

The US is going to have to rely on Tim Howard who is still one of the better keepers in the world and will have to get in the way of some direct shots on goal often in this game.  One questions whether or not the US will have to refrain from sending their defensemen forward because of the threat of Gyan? Or will they be able to attack from the back in a game that is going to require that some goals be scored?

It's not as if the US doesn't have talent. While they have always lacked a true No. 9-style player, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey are a quality pair of forwards despite Altidore's much publicized scoring drought (broken, thankfully, in the last US WC warm-up game). And with the Black Star's star midfielder Messian questionable with an injury, you would think that Michael Bradley and Co. could have a little easier time of it controlling play in the middle 2/3rds.

But this is a World Cup where the Americans seem to be building for the future, one where Klinsmann is trying to show us that we still need player development beyond the current level.  Looking at the current roster as compared to the rosters from 2006 and 2010 it's hard to see much evidence of any progression whatsoever.

The USMNT is still missing a number 9 (the great white whale of American football), still has unproven players in both the defensive side and the midfield, still has a couple of stars who are asked to do things they're not ideally suited for, and is still waiting for their big breakout star. (In 2006 & 2010 it was the vastly overrated Oguchi Onyewu, this year it appears to be either Altidore, or possibly Julian Green)

Either way I think that this team, FIFA's silly world rankings notwithstanding, is going to find itself out of it's depth. I think the speed and offensive talent of Ghana is going to be the difference, especially when you consider the offensive flavor that is becoming dominate early on.  Both teems need three points here, only one is going to get them.

My bet is it will be Ghana at a score of 2-1.

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