At least if we lose this one we can still go out and beat Germany, just like in every World War ever fought amirite?
chance of bowl: 13.6%
|WHAT||USA vs Ghana|
|WHERE||Arena das Dunas
|WHEN||6 PM Eastern
SO. IT IS TIME. I'VE GOT SEVEN LIVES LEFT, BUDDY
Quail and quake at the USA's World Cup nemesis: Ghana. The Black Stars' ongoing revenge for Freddy Adu has been sporadic but ruthless, just like their team. I took in their final warmup friendly against South Korea* and was mostly unimpressed, but Ghana just kept scoring goals despite my opinion of their overall play.
If you remember anything about the USA's previous matchups with Ghana, the way those goals went down will be no surprise: transition. Ghana's second was in fact a virtual replay of Ricardo Clark's disaster from four years ago, albeit with a much greater case for a foul. Of the four goals that the Black Stars have scored at the US's expense, two were derf giveaways in the USA's defensive third, one was a long ball over the top on which the USA's slow and aging 2010 central defense corps was exposed, and the fourth was a ridiculous penalty issued against Oguchi Onyewu.
Transition: avoid it at all costs.
With the theme and many of the players the same guys the US took on four years ago, Ghana will feel much like they did in 2010. This was not necessarily the case until an injury.
While Abdul Waris is not officially ruled out it seems unlikely anyone can recover from a torn quad in under a week. This rules out the 4-4-2 they ran a lot of in qualifying; expect the 4-2-3-1 that is world's default at the moment and what Ghana ran in 2010, with Kevin Prince Boateng ranging underneath Gyan. Via The Shin Guardian, a likely lineup:
GOALIE: This should be an area of advantage for the US; Ghana's probable starter plays in the South African league. 2010 starter Richard Kingson wasn't elite but was a much more established player, at least for Ghana.
DEFENSE: Projected left back Kwadwo Asamoah isn't as out of position as you may have heard—he's more of a wing-back for his club despite playing most of his time with the national team at central midfield. He is extremely dangerous.
The center backs are the same guys the US took on four years ago, and they're a bit foul prone and tend to get dragged out of position. South Korea was able to generate a number of dangerous chances that they couldn't quite finish as Ghana got pulled out of shape.
The right back plays in Tunisia, and is a little bugger at 5'7"; he's quick and gets in on opponents but might have difficulty with the USA's burly attackers.
MIDFIELD: You remember Prince-Boateng and Essien; though they're getting a bit up in years and Essien's had some injury problems recently. If you don't, Boeteng is the Ghanaian version of Bradley: a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who could easily be deployed as a holder but has found his niche further up the field. He will be the guy trying to get the ball off Beckerman or one of the central defenders.
Essien is a version of Jones… a much, much better version of Jones. Imagine if when Jones pressed forward he was a consistently excellent passer. Essien missed the previous World Cup and has dealt with injuries and declining form; after being a fixture for Chelsea for forever he moved to AC Milan in January and only had seven appearances.
Rabiu is a basic defensive mid.
Andre Ayew will be one of the wing midfielders; he's a regular for Marseille but a seemingly good matchup for DaMarcus Beasley, who was Ayew in a previous existence. The other will be either Ayew's brother Jordan or Sulley Muntari; Muntari is the better player but more of a central mid. If they go with Muntari it'll be on Asamoah to get upfield for with; unfortunately, he's plenty capable of that.
let's not this
FORWARD: Gyan. Guy is doom on a stick if you let him set up, and he has the kind of ability to take a nothing ball against a defender and turn it into a lethal shot. He's been playing in the Qatari league, too: Brazil is like a meat locker to him.
*[Previous friendlies are not helpful here; while they did get basically run off the field by the Netherlands the South Korea game saw ten changes—ie, everyone who played against the Dutch won't be playing against the USA.]
After a strong performance against Nigeria in a formation that makes sense for the USA to replicate, the expectation here is for the US to run out the same 11, and run the same Christmas-tree-to-asymmetric 4-3-3 formation.
DEFENSE: Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson.
While the prospect of Portugal flipping Ronaldo to Beasley's side and just having their ubermensch plow Run DMB over is alarming, Ghana's Andre Ayew is a much more comfortable matchup for the USA's still somewhat makeshift left back. Ayew is a quick little bugger who Beasley can go toe-to-toe with, and not get outrun by.
Besler and Cameron draw the Gyan assignment; hopefully they'll be better equipped to cope with his speed and physicality. Last time out it was a 24-year old Gyan against 30 and 31 year old US center backs; this time Gyan is going up against guys almost exactly as old as him, and considerably more mobile. Consider the ill-fated Bocanegra-at-left-back experiment versus Cameron starting 74 of Stoke's last 78 EPL games, mostly at right back.
The tactics should be set up to shield the center backs from Prince-Boateng… most of the time. When the US loses its shape and they don't have their square o' protection set up, communication between the two center backs will be key. It seems like Besler is the designated guy to step up while Cameron sweeps behind.
Fabian Johnson draws either Jordan Ayew, he of the recent hat trick but previous indifferent national team career, or Muntari, who is left footed but more of a central midfielder. Either way he will surge forward and the US must be prepared to cover.
THIS IS MY BALL. THERE ARE MANY LIKE IT BUT THIS ONE IS MINE. MY BALL IS MY BEST FRIEND. IT IS MY LI—OH SHIT
MIDFIELD: Beckerman, Jones, Bedoya, Bradley
Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley are the key to this game. In possession, they have to give each other options and watch for Ghana's sporadic but incredibly effective pressing.
While Beckerman had one bad turnover in the Nigeria game, his entire career is built around being in the place he's supposed to be and playing the simple ball away from pressure to allow his team the opportunity to retain possession and build an attack. It's no exaggeration to say that this is the culmination of his career. The pressure will be intense.
Jones will rove as he is wont to do; his most important role in this one is as the break-in-case-of-fire axe, the USA's OH SHIT button. As such he definitely shouldn't be putting himself in positions like the on that occasioned his impressive 70-yard recovery run against Nigeria; he can range forward when warranted but he should be the one laying it off and waiting instead of trying to burst forward himself. Jones has always been a guy whose offensive ambitions exceed his grasp; that's the last bit of wildness the US would fear from him.
Bedoya's main role is to work for the team and provide width that allows Johnson to shoot upfield inside of him.
And Bradley. Here's Michael Essien. Be him, and outplay him. No problem. Part of the Clark disaster linked above was a four-years-younger Bradley putting Clark in a bad position. He's been a fixture at Roma, he's the guy the USA and his club team are built around, he broke the damn beep test. Now it is time to demonstrate that you are Michael Bradley and that means something.
This was Gyan-like
FORWARD: Altidore, Dempsey
Altidore's flash of brilliance against Nigeria is a hopeful sign; more hopeful yet is the consistently quality hold-up work he's put in against the Turks and the Super Eagles. He's put the ball on Dempsey's boot a number of times, and he has worked hard even when the ball wasn't going in for him. The US figures to boot it upfield more than they have been, so his ability to get down the channels* will figure in against Ghana outside backs who figure to get upfield.
Meanwhile, Dempsey has been off. He's been provided numerous opportunities to create something by Bradley and his first touch let him down consistently in the Send Off Series. He did have a near goal late against Nigeria that he created with fancy footwork; even on that it seemed like a layoff to Altidore for another tap in was the move. Dempsey's footwork earned him a penalty in the 2010 game against these center backs, and he should be a handful for the same gentlemen.
*[IE: run diagonally from the center of the field to one of the corners, hopefully getting and retaining possession and perhaps dragging one the the central defenders with you.]
SUBS: If the US is leading the only subs that make sense will be striker swaps. They're playing all their midfielders who have a defensive edge already. Pulling Dempsey, who doesn't work on defense much, for a fresh guy who can press from the front would make sense—Johannsson or possibly Diskerud.
Tied or behind, Beckerman could be sacrificed for either Diskerud or one of the strikers, with Bradley withdrawing and the US bombing forward with its centerbacks exposed; Zusi would likely come on for Bedoya.
Don't get caught with the ball on defense. For all the talk about becoming more of a possession team, if there's a doubt against these guys, just punt it upfield. As much as possible, make Ghana try to break you down.
Don't get dragged too far out of shape without a really good reason. Looking mostly at Jones and Bedoya here, as they will be pushing forward and also have extensive defensive responsibilities. The 23 selected makes this even more imperative, since there's a high chance Beckerman takes a tactical yellow card at some point, leaving him exposed for however long he's got after that.
Defend and counter… mostly. Sit deep against a fast team, keep your shape, funnel them to the outside, and look to shoot upfield when the ball is turned over. The US has center backs who can make a long pass and two box to box midfielders who can carry it upfield. Look for a breakthrough while denying Ghana's break and then see if you need to make changes later.
Press high when afforded the opportunity. The US has a counter-attacking trick or two up its sleeve, as well. Bradley has a terrific knock for perceiving when he can dispossess a guy in a dangerous spot, and the US has generated chances the last two games off of that. Bradley's ability to disrupt the Ghana attack from the front is a major asset.
WIN THE GAME. #winthegame
At least if we lose this one we can still go out and beat Germany, just like in every World War ever fought amirite?
In my opinion, as someone greedy for USMNT content, there is no better pregame content out there than this (ussoccer, ESPN FC, sbnation, etc.). Bravo as always, I look forward to your analysis before every match.
I wouldn't agree with a Buckeye unless he was right on, but this blog has some of the best soccer content out there, better than most websites/blogs that are dedicated to the game.
(disclaimer about not being an ardent follower...)
It seems that we might have been better off with Donovan, Edu, and Goodson / Evans as opposed to Green, Davis, and Chandler, right? It wouldn't necessarily have affected the starting lineup, but it seems like that gives more realistic options to compensate for late game situations, injuries or cards. It just seems a little nuts that there are three guys taking spots that it seems like you basically can't use.
Considering Davis and Chandler not only played but got starts against Turkey, Klinsmann certainly must have thought they could play well. Everyone's knocking the Green pick, but if you saw the March to Brazil series (I think they talked about him in Episode 1), it sounded like including him in this year's team might have been necessary to get him to play for the US. Otherwise, he could have waited to decide and then joined Germany, but he wouldn't have been on their team this year.
I don't think Germany will miss Green in the future. He has a long way to go, even for an 18 year old.
Kroos and Gotze were good players in one of the best leagues in the world at Green's age. That's the kind of talent Germany is perpetually producing.
I know he's young, but I agree soccer is a sport where 18-19 year-olds reguarly play and contribute on the professional level.
With that in mind, in the short time I've seen him play in competitive matches he has looked completely out of place. I was hoping for a glimmer of something to see what the fuss was about but so far nothing.
Hopefully he develops in time, not saying he can't turn into a good player, but he will never be an elite world class player, we would already see it.
that we will win!
Great write up. Unlike Portugal (maybe) and Germany (definitely), Ghana doesn't have the technical ability or discipline to break down a well shaped sunk in defense. But they do have the speed, probably more so than any other team in the tournament to expose turnovers on the break.
I think the formation with Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley is perfect for this game and will neutralize their attack.
USA 2 Ghana 0
We NEED 3 points, I think we have to take 3 from Portugal as well, can't expect any points vs Germany.
Well, you're optimistic. You're assuming USA has the technical ability or discipline to form a well shaped, sunk in defense.
I think our midfield is excellent defensively with that starting lineup, even if the back line has questions, they are protected by quality.
As far as on the counter, I'm not saying we're Argentina but remember Ghana has questions on defense as well. Also, African teams don't have the best reputation in terms of playing with great spirit/effort, especially defensively.
It's not all about technical skill, Mexico has always had better technical players and we've beat their ass plenty of times (especially recently)
I think Klinsmann has the team peaking at the right time. Still might not be enough due to our bad draw, but we owe Ghana, time to ruin their WC this time around.
And I'd take our midfield offensively over theirs and their backline defensively. Ghana isn't very well known for much of a well-shaped or sunk in defense. Dempsey will draw more than a couple fouls with runs through their center backs where all they can do is take him down.
I'd bet we win, or draw, but I'm gonna guess Ghana scores at least once.
doesn't exactly have the technical ability to take advantage of Ghana's mistakes.
Who in in the US starting lineup do you not think has the technical ability to punish Ghana? If Ghana gives us a ball the way Reyna gave them one in 2006, we certianly could punish that, especially with their lack of a world class keeper.
Have you watched any soccer, ever?
I want the USA to beat Ghana as badly as Holland just beat Spain.
Loser has to upset Germany and Portugal in order to advance.
Winner just has to upset one of them.
Sure that's a tall order, but USMNT is 2-2-1 overall vs Portugal. They were a top 5 team when they were in our group in 2002, and we beat them 3-2.
12 years ago has to do with a game being played now, but I'll take your word that it is significant...
of US beating a top 5 opponent in the World Cup. It happened before, it can happen again.
Not likely, but certainly possible
Absolutely an elimination game for the loser. A draw keeps both teams alive, but the loser is starting at Portugal and Germany likely needing to take all 6 points (good luck).
If we lose Monday Ghana has esstentially eliminated us from 3 straight World Cups.
as W's vs Germany and Portugal seem impossible and daunting, respectively.
Beat Ghana and tie Portugal could work, assuming we keep Germany from blowing us out and killing our goal differential.
I really think Monday is must-win for both teams...
Man! I couldn't care less about club soccer but I just love the World Cup!!
And Ronaldo is far from 100%, no matter what the Portuguese coach tells the media.
Can we stop with the Nats and use USA!!! C'mon guys!
What does it mean?
I guess you could refer to Nats as Nationals... which could be further related to a baseball team, Or I also think every world cup team has nationals of their country on their team. So every team could be called Nationals.. So I guess why not distinguish our nationals with the best three letters in the world... USA!!
I'm interested to see who Matt Williams throws against Ghana. I would say Strasburg, prob.
"The center backs are the same guys the US took on four years ago, and they're a bit foul prone and tend to get dragged out of position."
You are 1/2 correct. John Mensah, Ghana's former captain, didn't make the squad. His age, slowness, and poor positioning make his loss bearable, even advantageous. Jonathan Mensah played in 2010. He will probably be paired with John Boye, who is a better defender than John Mensah, in my opinion. The Ghanaian players and defense will be more disciplined against the U.S. These two are very experienced and should be ready to remain in their positions.
Furthermore, Agyeman Badu, Anthony Annan, Rabiu, Muntari, and Essien could all be interchanged in the position. This is where I think Ghana can hurt the U.S. The depth of the midfield means that if the partnerships aren't working of if they need to shut up shop in the mid, they can rotate several players in the three mid roles.
Ghana will probably play a 4-5-1, with KPB playing behind Gyan, with the Ayew brothers on the wing and Muntari and Rabiu/Essien. Asamoah being played as a wing-back is a waste of his creativity. He is an excellent passer and provides some creativity. Unfortunately he can't fully express these traits as a wing-back. I would hope that he plays left wing instead of Jordan Ayew, but Afful/Opare are o.k. to mediocre.
I look forward to this game. Nigeria and Ghana aren't similar teams. Muntari, Essien, Asamoah, and Badu are all capable of making and receiving passes under pressure, whereas Mikel is the only Nigerian capable of this. Nigeria has a better goalkeeper. That is the only position in which they are better than Ghana. If both Ghana and the U.S. play at a high level, I expect Ghana to win. Soccer doesn't occur like that, so anything can happen. I will say that this Ghana team should be better than the one in 2010. They'll have to prove it on Monday and throughout the rest of the tournament.