US – Portugal Preview

The US is back in action again tomorrow with another massive match, this time against Portugal. Kickoff is at 6 p.m., and the match will be played on ESPN, Univision, and at every bar in the country.

After Germany and Ghana drew earlier today, the scenario for the Yanks vs. Portugal is somewhat clearer. Win and they’re in. Draw, and they’ll need at least a point against Germany (or a Ghana/Portugal draw) to go through. The US will still sit in second even with a loss to Portugal, but they’ll have some work to do against Germany.

Three thoughts on the match:

1) Who starts for Jozy?

Jozy Altidore’s skill set is unique, at least on the US roster. He holds up the ball so well, allowing midfielders to make runs off of him, and giving the defense some respite from the waves of attack that they will see against any team in this group. With Altidore hurt, the question is, who replaces him?

Aron Johannsson was the substitute forward against Ghana and had a decent, if uneventful showing. Johannsson scored 26 goals this season for AZ Alkmaar, Altidore’s old club. Chris Wondolowski is the other striker on the US roster, and he’s shows that he is a more than capable goal poacher, a valuable skill in its own right. Other options include using Mix Diskerud in the No. 10 role behind Dempsey, or putting in Graham Zusi or Julian Green on the wing and switching to a 4-5-1. Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision will say a lot about his gameplan against Portugal.

2) US needs to attack down the right

A lot has been made about Christiano Ronaldo’s injury and Pepe’s suspension. But there is a third Real Madrid player that will miss the match for Portugal: Fabio Coentrao. Coentrao is a dynamic left back capable of both defending his side and bombing down the left flank in support of Ronaldo, but he was stretchered off the pitch during Portugal’s loss to Germany, and is out for the rest of the tournament. André Almeida will likely start in his place, a 23 year old reserve that plays several different positions for Benfica and has just six caps to his name.

Simply put, the US needs to take advantage. Ronaldo will be on the left wing, and he will likely be unable and/or uninterested in tracking back to provide cover. Fabian Johnson will likely have his hands full with the Balloon d’Or winner, but this could be an excellent opportunity for Alejandro Bedoya or Zusi.

3) Don’t be satistfied with beating Ghana

Much has been made of the Yanks finally getting over the hump against Ghana. It was an emotional game for both the players and the fans, with #WeGhanaWin becoming a popular refrain.

Klinsmann cannot let his team be satisfied with the win. The US has an excellent opportunity against a depleted Portuguese squad, and could become the first team in this group of death to clinch a spot in the second round. They’ll need a better game from Michael Bradley, as well as a great performance from whoever starts in place of Altidore.

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