USMNT face Portugal with Round of 16 place within reach

Jermaine Jones

Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

MANAUS, Brazil — The U.S. Men’s National Team has a golden chance to move into the Round of 16, but in its way stands arguably the best player in the world, and a talented team in desperation mode.

With Germany and Ghana having played to a 2-2 draw on Saturday, the U.S. heads into its second Group G match against Portugal knowing three points will book an early ticket to the knockout rounds of the World Cup. The Americans enter Sunday’s game at Arena Amazonia with plenty of confidence after its 2-1 triumph over Ghana, but they also aware the Portuguese will be keen on rebounding from an underwhelming 4-0 defeat to Germany and eager to avoid an early exit from the World Cup.

Leading the charge for Portugal is none other than reigning Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, the international superstar who is dealing with some lingering left knee issues but still seems certain to play given what is at stake. Much of the talk leading up to the rumble in the jungle is how the Americans plan on dealing with Ronaldo and his array of weapons, but Jurgen Klinsmann’s side has insisted throughout the week that there are more players on Portugal’s roster to worry about.

“We are (not) playing only against Cristiano,” said midfielder Jermaine Jones. “I think it’s important for us that everybody stays 100 percent concentrated. We have trust in Fabian Johnson on the (right) side, but Portugal has not only one player. They have a lot of good players, so we have to be completely, 100 percent with the whole team to stop this team and win that game.”

Jones and the Americans have a point. Ronaldo might dominate the headlines anywhere and everywhere Portugal goes, but it has other players capable of making a difference. Nani, Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles are just some of the skillful veterans Portugal has at its disposal.

Still, stopping Ronaldo — or at least limiting him — is paramount for the Americans if they are hoping to secure an early place in the Round of 16.

“He’s the single hardest-working player I’ve ever been around on and off the field,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was teammates with Ronaldo at Manchester United earlier in their careers. “His work ethic is incredible. I think if you pay too much attention to Ronaldo, somebody else will beat us. … Of course, he’s the main man. He’s the main man of this tournament, so we have to know where he is and we have to try and collectively get around him and get some help and support each other defensively.”

Ronaldo will draw a lot of focus, but the midfield battle will also be key. The U.S. struggled against Ghana to hold onto possession, which allowed the Black Stars to send waves of attacks that the American back line did well defending for large stretches.

An improvement will be needed in that area, especially from midfield maestro Michael Bradley. Bradley was admittedly not up to his usual high standards against the Ghanaians and it is vital to the U.S. team’s chances that the veteran delivers a better showing with more accurate passing against a Portugal side that said on Saturday that it intends to attack.

“This is now the moment where you can prove yourself, this is moment where you can step up and play those guys and put them in place,” Klinsmann said. “We want to put Cristiano and his team in place. We want to get out there with all the energy we have, with all the discipline that we’re going to bring and all the aggressiveness we’re going to bring to the plate and make it our game.”

A more possession-based game would also suit the Americans in this one, as it would prevent how many touches the ever-dangerous Ronaldo has while also allowing them to have the opportunity to break down a Portugal defense that is missing two starters and possibly three.

Star Real Madrid center back Pepe will miss the match due to a red card received against Germany, Fabio Coentrao has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with a thigh injury and central defender Bruno Alves is a game-time decision due to a thigh issue of his own.

While a weakened Portuguese back line bodes well for the U.S.’s chances, Klinsmann also has an injury of his own to worry about. Jozy Altidore is out for the match with the left hamstring strain sustained in the win over Ghana, and it seems that either Chris Wondolowski or Aron Johannsson will replace Altidore in the lineup.

Both Wondolowski and Johannsson possess different qualities and neither is in the exact mold of Altidore, leaving Klinsmann with an interesting decision to make. Klinsmann could go for the more technical and speedy Johannsson or the more physical and hardworking Wondolowski.

“We think we have a very good replacement for Jozy Altidore and not just with one player, (but) with a couple,” Howard said. “Jozy is obviously a big loss for us, but we can fill that gap and we feel confident that whether it be Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski or Clint (Dempsey) up there on his own, we feel confident in our ability.”

The Americans are equally as confident with regards to playing in the conditions that are expected in Manaus. The forecast calls for rain and humidity on Sunday evening, but the U.S. is taking a page from its first match by not worrying much about the weather.

No, the U.S. team’s focus is strictly on trying to overcome Portugal and advancing to the next part of the tournament.

“(It’s) just another motivating factor,” Howard said of the Germany-Ghana result. “It gets us through the group and the group and if we already didn’t want to win or felt like we didn’t need to win, that gives us everything we need and more. We are going to go into the game and fight tooth and nail, but that’s a good result for us to know that if we can win we take care of business and the rest is history. It’s exciting.”

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69 Responses to USMNT face Portugal with Round of 16 place within reach

  1. William the Terror says:

    And now … we wait.

    • Don't mind if I Freddy Adu says:

      extremely nervous already

      worried about our ability to keep CR7 off the score sheet

      • Patrick2 says:

        It is 4:41 in the morning…and I’m thinking that in 10 or so hours the USA puts one more sword into European Snobbery (Costa Rican style)….or Cristiano goes into Godzilla mode :-/

  2. Tony Meola says:

    I

  3. The Other Jeff says:

    Germany fans pulling for a US win so they face a US side with nothing to play for. Gotta love it.

    • Matt on the beach in Fl says:

      The parallel universe comes into focus

    • KenC says:

      Are you sure? If the US wins, we’ll have 6 pts going into Game 3. Germany will have 4 pts. The winner of the group will get a the 2nd team in Group H, which is better than having to play Belgium. So, the US will have something to play for, because there’s a decent chance to go to the Round of 8, if they can win the group.

      • Bitman says:

        But with a 4 day turnaround, Klinsmann would be sure to substitute more liberally than if it was life-and-death.

        Wouldn’t he?

  4. QuakerOtis says:

    Is it tomorrow today?

  5. GW says:

    Compare weather forecasts and Manaus seems a lot like Houston.

    What is Wondo’s record scoring against the Dynamo in Houston?

  6. thebicyclecafe says:

    A draw or better and we’re through. If we draw, we can just kick the ball around with Germany for 90 minutes. Loew and Klinsi hold hands and sing Kumbaya as both teams dance into the round of 16. Germany wins the group, US goes through. Win/Win. :)

    • Diego's Maradoughnuts says:

      Portugal tried that in 2002. It did not go well for them.

      • thebicyclecafe says:

        Diego,
        That scenario was not the same. Before the final game, South Korea had 4, USA had 4, Portugal had 3, and Poland had 0.
        USA played Poland while South Korea played Portugal.

        If South Korea colluded with Portugal, one would end up with 5 and the other with 4, which would not be a guarantee for Portugal given that the USA could have gotten 5 or 7. (Remember the last group stage games are played at exactly the same time, so there was no way SK or POR could have any assurance).
        So, in the absence of any certainty, Portugal had to play for a win, and as a result South Korea had to also. (A Portugal win would have eliminated South Korea with a US draw or better). Simple game theory.

        Fast forward to 2014… if the USA were to tie Portugal, then regardless of the Ghana/Portugal result, a USA/Germany draw would see both teams through. Not contingent upon any other result.
        Would we risk missing the round of 16, in order to play for the chance to play #2 from group H? (might not even be decided at that point, since Group H final games come afterwards)
        I doubt it… I would think that logic suggests a gentleman’s agreement with Germany and a friendly day for both teams.

        • Don't mind if I Freddy Adu says:

          Get real man

          There will be no “Gentleman’s agreement”

          Just as the US did not allow Panama to win

          • Matthew R says:

            +1 Thank you

          • thebicyclecafe says:

            Haha, don’t get me wrong. We would be looking a gift horse in the eye if we didn’t go out there and beat Portugal tomorrow. That way we have a legitimate chance of topping the group.

            All I’m trying to illustrate is that there is an interesting scenario that could occur if we do draw Portugal.
            Look, we had nothing to gain by letting Panama win or tie, other than screwing Mexico over. The fringe players were still trying to prove themselves at that point. You don’t think Davis’ awesome cross to Zusi played a part in his making the 30 man prelim roster?
            But Germany and USA would BOTH benefit tremendously from this. I just don’t see the same mentality going into a game when both sides know that a draw would have both into the round of 16.
            Of course, all this is just meaningless jibber jabber. We go all out and trash Portugal and nothing else matters.

    • QuakerOtis says:

      There would still be first place to play for, and the much easier game against Russia/South Korea that goes along with it.

      • foooo says:

        Even after the surprise results in this world cup… even after Belgium’s uninspiring win against Algeria, people are still assuming they know which teams we are likely to face if we make it to the second round. When are we going to learn that there are no givens in the world cup?

        • QuakerOtis says:

          Fair enough. But you can’t call them “surprises” without the assumption that the odds were against that result…

        • KenC says:

          Yes of course, we know that Belgium isn’t a lock, but still it would be better to win the group, given the chance, and play the 2nd team in Group H, even if it’s highly rated Belgium. Obviously if the Belgiums were to finish 2nd in their group, that would indicate they aren’t playing as well as they had been, so either way, go for the win.

    • Don the Jewler says:

      What? A draw might not be enough, that would leave 3teams with 4 points and a German team playing all out and Ghanna playing against a Portugal team with nothing to play for. We need to win

      • thebicyclecafe says:

        No, two teams would have 4 points (USA/Germany) and two teams would have 1 (Portugal/Ghana).
        The max Portugal or Ghana could end up with is 4, in the scenario of a US/Portugal tie. Not saying we should…. but with this is mind, there wouldn’t really be much motivation for either team, knowing that we would both be through with 5 points. Plus with the two coaches being old friends, German-American players…. you have to wonder…..

      • MikeP. says:

        Yes!This is what I was thinking during the Ghana vs Germany match.Ghana looks good and could easily beat Portugal.It seems like a must win tomorrow unless we want to risk having to beat Germany.This is a very real possibility.When Ghana went up I was stressed to say the least.Hopefully we can control our own fate and defeat a depleted Portugal.I would really like to see the 4231 with Dempsey up top,Zusi and Bedoya on the wings.Bradley in the middle of the three,and Beckerman and Jones in the two.The back line should stay the same.I thought Beasley played great against Ghana.He has to have some cover though.I think when he does, the speed that he can dispossess and move forward is vital.I am nervous,excited,and super pumped!Time seems to be moving slowly right now.Four o’clock mountain time can’t come soon enough!Go USA and I BELIEVE!

        • Bitman says:

          I would really like to see the 4231 with Dempsey up top,Zusi and Bedoya on the wings.Bradley in the middle of the three,and Beckerman and Jones in the two.

          This. If the game was tied in the 70-75 minutes range, would Klinsmann dare bring in Yedlin or Green?

          • MikeP. says:

            Green should not see the field based on what we’ve seen from him so far.Yedlin seems like an amazing athlete with a lot of speed but raw.I could maybe see him coming in at right back and pushing Johnson up to midfield.Bedoya could be tired by the 70th and if it is tied then we might need some more creativity.

  7. Dennis says:

    A draw would leave the US and Germany with 4 pts. The US needs more in that case, either we must tie or win vs Germany or Ghana-Portugal game must tie or either team win by a smaller goal difference than the US (who if the result of that game matters would be no better than 0). If Portugal wins the Ghana Portugal game, it is probably good for the US since they have the worst goal difference in the group.

    Straight up the US can do it with a win.

    • Philip S. says:

      By my calculations, if USA v Portugal is a tie, we could even afford to lose vs Germany and still progress, provided that: (1) Ghana doesn’t beat Portugal, and (2) if Portugal does defeat Ghana, the total margin of victory combined by both Germany and Portugal in their respective third games is less than 5 goals. Portugal’s awful goal difference makes this a possible scenario. Not that I want us to just tie Portugal!

      • jefpal says:

        If it were 4 goals, then it would go to second tiebreak — total goals scored — and we could be out if, say, Portugal scored 3 or more against Ghana.

  8. nk says:

    Apparently Rui Patricio, Portugal’s starting goalkeeper, is also out, per ESPN

  9. espada says:

    Sounds like the Panama situation all over again if we win against Portugal. I looked at a possible bracket and I’d actually want the US to go for second if they get the chance.
    Going for first means we do get either Russia/S Korea, but then there’s a high chance we face France in the quarters and then Brazil in the semis if we get that far (NOOOO thanks).
    Going for second means that we could go against Belgium, which does look winnable considering their quality against Algeria the other day and then Argentina/Switzerland(idk) in the quarters, with Argentina looking baad in the game with Iran. If we somehow go through them, then we could face either Chile/Netherlands/Croatia/Mexico/Costa Rica in the semis, assuming we get that far and get out of the group.

    • Don't mind if I Freddy Adu says:

      Don’t get ahead of yourself, friend.

      We have not qualified for the KO stage yet; reminds me of 2010 when people we saying the semis were a real possibility since Ghana and Uruguay were “beatable”

      One match at a time

      • espada says:

        Hey, one can dream haha. Though, if you want a few ways to beat Portugal, here:
        - Mark Moutinho out of the game
        - Hope Portugal wilt in Manaus
        - Attack them on their left rear like Germany did
        - Track Ronaldo
        - Hope Bradley has a better game

      • JAC1950 says:

        Freddy Adu, Thank You. As you said, OGAAT!

    • Gary Page says:

      Yeah, but if we come in second in our group and play then beat Belgium, we would then have to play Argentina and Messi. So much has to happen for either of these contingencies to come to pass, but I would prefer France to Argentina in the knockout stage.

      • espada says:

        Really, I see France being the better team than Argentina now. I saw the Iran-Argentina game and I wasn’t impressed. Also, even if the US would take first and get to the semis, Brazil (or another tough South American team) would be waiting….

        • MikeV says:

          I agree, give me Argentina over France.

          • Patrick2 says:

            Honestly, anybody over France….those dudes are under-rated and on a mission. Big. Fast. Strong. Technical. And for the first time since they won the France World Cup, united and diva-less. Throw “Surrender Monkey” insults at them at your own risk.

          • jigones says:

            Lmao. You would rather face Messi and Co because they played “badly” against teams that have practiced parking the bus for years. Argentina could turn it on at any moment and score 5. Plus they have the Messi factor. You go play Argentina, I’ll take France.

      • GW says:

        I have yet to see a match in this tournament that wasn’t really hard for both teams. If you are going to work that hard you may as well win.

        And at this point it should be obvious to everyone that there is no unbeatable team here. Australia allegedly the worst team here could probably have tied the Netherlands.

        And Germany just scraped to a tie with Ghana, a team we just beat even though we were quite handicapped.

        The point is playing the runner up is likely to be just as hard as playing the Group winner so you might as well win the Group.

        • Jesse D says:

          In this tournament the difference between any two teams seems small. On a given day a lesser thought of team can beat anyone. Iran probably has some legit complaints about referring that could have give them a victory over Argentina. Not a result many would expect.
          Worry about the next stage if you get there, we are way ahead of ourselves. Portugal is the sole focus for now.

  10. Fast Eddie says:

    A question please. All of you are only
    Talking about getting out of group. Don’t you think the fans of Costa Rica and Mexico have their sights higher than that?

    I know I do.

    • Jack says:

      No, Ives just covered it in his recent podcast. The most Costa Rican fans wanted was the team to just show well. Getting out of the group is really far above expectations. With all the struggles in qualifying, I don’t think there was a great deal expected of Mexico either. Considering how little time Herrera’s really had to turn this team around, just getting out of the group I’m sure will be seen as a success.

      • Fast Eddie says:

        Funny about Costa Rica only wanting to show well, not getting out, just makings good effort.

        That’s exactly what a lot of people here said about the U.S only a couple weeks ago.

        • Brian says:

          Funny thing about tournaments like this…if you dont get out the group, you can’t go much further. One step at a time.

  11. Dennis says:

    I think that none of us have seen the USMNT players nearly as much as JK and his staff have in the last 6 weeks (or ever for that matter). That staff gets to see the players in a lot of situations that they are not thrown into in games (for instance how much have any of us seen Davis or Greene in the last 3 weeks? much less seen them in the open field in transition or tracking back to defend, or not.)

    JK will have to use what he has seen from the 22 players available to select the starters who he thinks will have the best chance to win against Portugal. Like it or not, JK already made the determination that Boyd was not the best replacement for Jozy. Right or wrong, that is one of those decisions JK will be judged upon after tomorrow. (It is, of course, impossible to reset the clock and play the game with Boyd as a replacement, so we will never really know if that choice was the reason the USA won vs Portugal.)

    • Amr says:

      Boyd is still learning how to translate his club form into the international stage so that is why Wondolowski takes the cake.

  12. KingGoogleyEye says:

    Jones flexing his beast muscles. Looks deadly.

  13. Shawn says:

    If we win the group we face Russia

    If we come in 2nd we face Belgium.

  14. Byrdman says:

    Side issue: But thought now might be a good time to consider and burn hours til game time. Here’s my question, with so many players pretending to be injured consistently, trying to waste time, what can be done to avoid it? I know it would change the game, but what about putting a restart clock in place. out of bounds or touch line you have 20 seconds to begin play. After a foul maybe 35 seconds. Adjust the time as they were arbitrary numbers, but is that just a ridiculous idea?

    Or what about, if you are so injured that the trainer has to come on to the field, you have to leave play for an set amount of time. 5 minutes or so. So your team would be a man down. This would force guys to try to stay in the game as opposed to pretending to loose a leg everytime somebody walks by you, only to bounce back up after they get you off the field and yell to be allowed back on.

    I know these are crazy ideas, but the time wasting is atrocious to watch. Based on what we see most games, the team physios are grosely underpaid. These guys are able to fix broken legs, dislocated shoulders, torn acl’s, concussions, etc… solely by the magic spray bottle, and/or rubbing a little ice on it, all the while carrying water bottles to the “un-injured players”. Any way, feel free to roast my ideas, but better yet, maybe someone else has a ready good idea. I’d love to hear it.

    Enjoy the game tomorrow.

  15. Matt says:

    Any US fans have a spot to meet in Rio for the game?

    • Robbie says:

      Thinking of just getting a table near the espn broadcast area on the boardwalk and making a beach/wc watching day of it. Other spots I hear are shenanigans in ipanema or the fan zone in copa. We will be the group of 4 going nuts. US white jersey and US training kit + 2 ladies in tbd. What were you thinking?

  16. Bitman says:

    Nervous as I am about this game, I sure hope we don’t have to wait 30 seconds to score again :)

  17. blokhin says:

    the Ghana-Germany tie kind of burns the bridge for the U.S.-no going back now to the original Win, tie, hope for German mercy plan. Germany will be going all out…

    • Patrick2 says:

      +1

    • Bitman says:

      Not really. Draw Portugal, and both the US and Germany advance with a draw in their match against each other.

      Going”all out” for Germany would mean risking getting hit on the counter and losing the game (as almost happened with Ghana), and perhaps failing to qualify if something crazy happened in Ghana/Portugal.

      A draw against Portugal, in other words, would give the US a very big chance to advance.

      • GW says:

        A US- Portugal draw leaves the US with 4 points and a +1 goal difference.

        If Ghana beat Portugal 2-0 they have 4 points and a + 2 goal difference and they advance.

        Do you really think Ghana can’t do that?

  18. Alex says:

    This US team bores me… *snore*

  19. Peter Bering says:

    Ronaldo is severely injured and will either be very limited or not play at all. Portugal is now an easy opponent. After the lucky win over Ghana the US is thus in for some more luck and should qualify easily. A trait of this WC is again that the best players from the most successful clubs are exhausted and fail against teams with inferior but fresh players. This is good for teams like Costa Rica, Mexico and the US.

    • Patrick2 says:

      So…ummm if the US, Mexico and Costa Rica get through….what do we do with the the Concacaf-tsunami awesomeness? I probably go catatonic, which would be REALLY inconvenient because I have a very decent job interview next week.

  20. CorkSoccer says:

    Anyone know a good soccer bar in New Orleans? Heading there now.