ASN columnist Brian Sciaretta shares his thoughts on last night's 2-2 draw with Portugal, with an eye toward Thursday's match against Germany and a focus on two superlative performers.
June 23, 2014
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, when the United States was drawn into this difficult group with Ghana, Portugal, and German, most American fans would have been satisfied with the United States securing four points from its first two games. Despite that, it is hard for fans to feel anything other than disappointment after a heartbreaking draw against Portugal.
Individual mistakes cost the team a win in an otherwise solid performance against Portugal. The most important thing now will be for the United States to put this in the rearview mirror and focus on Germany.
With an unprecedented amount of attention being placed on the World Cup in the United States, the U.S. team has responded well to the pressure and now has just one game separating it from advancing to the round of 16.
1. The U.S. must take care of business
If there is one thing that looks pretty obvious right now, it is that Ghana is a much better team than Portugal. Through the first two games of Group G, it’s not even close.
That is significant in that the United States shouldn’t rely on Portugal to defeat or—ideally—draw against Ghana in the final game. A draw between those teams, of course, sends the U.S. through to the round of 16 no matter what. A Portugal win likely does so as well, provided Cristiano Ronaldo and company don't make up a -5 goal differential.
The U.S. must approach the Germany game as if Ghana will beat Portugal, thereby giving the U.S. only one way to advance: drawing or defeating Germany.
Germany is a legitimate contender to win this tournament but the U.S. has played terrific soccer so far in Brazil. In fact, both goals against Portugal were entirely preventable. Earning a result against Germany is not entirely out of the question but two of its most experienced players, Geoff Cameron and Michael Bradley, will have to avoid the mistakes that proved to be costly against Portugal.
2. Fans Should Back Off Michael Bradley
Everyone by now has seen Bradley’s turnover that resulted in Portugal’s late equalizer. It is easy to blame him, but the turnover was 65-70 yards from his goal and the U.S. still had numbers behind the ball when Portugal took possession. The goal could have been prevented by numerous other players as well.
The reality is that Bradley’s overall performance was significantly improved from his outing against Ghana on Sunday. The fact that the United States was able to dictate play against Portugal and create many opportunities was largely due to the fact that Bradley was better in the midfield than in the opener. That doesn’t excuse his late error but it also suggests that he is still an essential part of this team moving forward.
3. Matt Besler’s Value Is Skyrocketing
The question also comes about at every World Cup is which player will see his stock rise the most. The answer so far is Matt Besler, who is shining at the game’s biggest stage. At 27-years-old, he is in his prime and his success in MLS is translating very well into the international game. There is little doubt that he has likely caught the eye of scouts at the World Cup.
In the past, Besler has said that he is happy in Kansas City and wasn't interested in moving abroad. If the offers are substantially bigger this time around, and let's see what he says.
4. Jermaine Jones Is Living the Dream
When Jermaine Jones announced his switch from Germany to the United States in 2009, many U.S. fans were excited that it finally had an elite defensive midfielder. That quickly lead to disappointment as he missed the 2010 World Cup with a long-term injury. When he finally returned to action and made his debut with the U.S., the reaction over recent years has been all over the map. Some thought he was great while others thought he has either turned the ball over too much or has picked up too many cards.
Jones, 32, made his World Cup debut one week ago in Natal, and he has been nothing short of a revelation.
In fact, he’s been the U.S.'s best player, without a doubt. His goal against Portugal was masterful but he has also thrived on the defensive side of the game, serving as the conscience of the Stars and Stripes.
Klinsmann has stood by his fellow German native through thick and thin, and clearly he was right to do so.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts on his thoughts below.