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U.S. Players and Media React to World Cup Draw

ASN is in Kansas City for the MLS Cup final, where American soccer dignitaries gathered to watch the World Cup draw Friday morning. Here is what they had to say about it.
BY Liviu Bird Posted
December 06, 2013
6:54 PM
KANSAS CITY, Kan.—It doesn’t get much tougher for the United States than a 2014 World Cup draw against Germany, Ghana, and Portugal. While players gathered at Sporting Park for the official MLS draw event put on a brave face, media members were far less kind about their chances.

General consensus is that the U.S. will have to perform at its best to have a chance of making the knockout rounds. But don’t take it from us--take it from players and experts watching in frigid Kansas City (and elsewhere, in a couple cases) whom we asked for reaction to Friday’s draw:

CLINT DEMPSEY, Seattle Sounders forward
“It’s difficult teams, but that’s what the World Cup’s about: playing the best teams. The trick is to get out to an early start, hopefully, and try to get out of the group. After that, anything can happen. … Maybe it’s an opportunity to get them [Ghana] back. … We’re due a win.”

JERRY HAWKINS, U.S.-based writer for German outlet Kicker.de
“From the Americans’ perspective, of course, it’s the Group of Death, but I don’t think Germany really considers it that way. They’re probably fairly pleased with what they got. The exciting part about it, of course, is that they’re going to be going up against Jurgen Klinsmann’s new team, and the whole perspective will be Klinsmann versus Low, the German coach who used to be his assistant. I think from that perspective, it will be an exciting draw. The Germans are pretty thrilled about that, but I think they’re much more worried about the other two teams in the group than the USA.”

FIIFI ANAMAN, Ghanaian freelance soccer writer (via email)
“The fact that many will see Ghana and the USA as the underdogs in this group is inescapable. Any German team will make it out of any group. They're that good at tournaments. In fact, apart from the 1938 World Cup, they've never been eliminated in a preliminary group phase. Portugal will ride a lot on Ronaldo's form, assuming he hasn't lost the current steam by then. The dependence will make them beatable—if their opponents play as a team and with the right preparation and organization. From a Ghanaian perspective, there's a general feeling that the USA game is the most realistic shot at building a base to survive on. That—and it's nicely set up as the first—will be the most crucial game.”

BRIAN STRAUS, Sports Illustrated soccer writer
“I think it’s just kind of poetic that the U.S. is going to wind up playing Germany, because of the history with that country and because of Jurgen’s ties to that country, and then a third round against Ghana, after suffering two eliminations at their hands. It just kind of had to be this way, and it’s going to be fascinating and gripping and, in a way, this is what the U.S. wanted when they hired Jurgen—to take the next step against teams like this. Does it make it a lot harder to get out of the first round? Of course. Will the U.S. play three games rather than four or five? There’s a very good chance of that. But what a three games they’re going to be.”

BRAD EVANS, Seattle Sounders midfielder
“You jump into a position, and you want to play against the best. Obviously, he [Cristiano Ronaldo] is the best. Certainly, if I happen to be there, it would be a great challenge, a great opportunity. Stick to your guns and do the best you can. … I actually think it’s better that it’s all tough teams. There’s no easy points to be had, and I think that’ll be valuable come the third game. If teams keep knocking points off each other, it’s one of those groups where anything can happen.”

MATT BESLER, Sporting Kansas City defender
“I’m excited to see who we get to play. Now, we get to start preparing specifically on the teams we face. It’s going to be a challenge, but we knew whatever group we got put into, it was going to be a difficult group. … It’s probably not ideal [to travel so much], but for us, it’s something that our team is well prepared for. You look at the MLS guys, they travel all season long, and you look at our team in CONCACAF, the travel that we go through. So for us, it could be an advantage.”

“It’s brutal. I think everyone’s in agreement that it’s not the worst-case scenario, but it’s pretty darn close. To go up [against] a team like Ghana that’s dumped them out of the tournament essentially the last two times, and then you play Portugal and arguably the best player in the world, and then a Germany team that’s probably favorites to win the whole thing. Four years ago, the U.S. probably got a huge break in the draw that they got, and I think the opposite happened this time.”

JURGEN KLINSMANN, U.S. head coach (via U.S. Soccer YouTube)
“It’s going to be one of the most difficult groups. There’s no doubt about it. Biggest challenge probably that you could have faced, but it’s also a huge opportunity for us: playing Ghana that you kind of have a story to deal with and maybe to clean it up; Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo, is something that doesn’t happen every day; and obviously, Germany for us is a big name. We are going through a process of two and a half years now, to face big opponents, to face big teams and do well, and now we can prove it.”

JOHN GODFREY, American Soccer Now editor-in-chief (via email)
“As a journalist and content creator, I absolutely love it. There are so many subplots and angles at play that all three matches will be captivating. The Jurgen Klinsmann-Germany narrative will take on a life of its own, and Ghana is America's soccer Kryptonite. The United States' 3-2 win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup is one of its greatest achievements, and Cristiano Ronaldo is fun to watch (and even more fun to hate). I also think the Americans will have a decent chance to advance. It all comes down to the June 16 contest against Ghana—which is going to be an awesome spectacle.”

NICK RIMANDO, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper
“We’ve got to take into consideration, too, that maybe a lot of their players weren’t there [in the friendly win over Germany in June], the climate in D.C. I’m sure we’ll go over the tape and see what we did right and what we did wrong, like any game. Playing against Germany, I think they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder for sure, but it’s a World Cup game. Everybody’s going to be prepared for every game.”

Liviu Bird is ASN’s resident tactical analyst. He also writes for SoccerWire.com and covers the World Cup from an American perspective for The London Telegraph. Follow him on Twitter at @liviubird.

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