It couldn’t have gotten much harder for the U.S. National Team at the FIFA World Cup Draw as they were drawn into a “Group of Death” in Group G against Germany, Ghana and Portugal. However, at a closer glance, the draw is not a mission impossible for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group.
The U.S. opens the World Cup in Brazil on June 16 against Ghana at the Arena das Dunas in Natal. The match is undoubtedly the most important one for the U.S. as they must get past the team that eliminated them from the past two World Cups in order to have a reasonable chance to advance from the group. As the U.S. are well-aware, the Black Stars are a major challenge as they have a mix of physicality and technical skill that should give the Americans a major test. That being said, if the U.S. midfield can control the game and the Americans can capitalize on their opportunities, they may get past the African side.
In their second game, the U.S. will face Portugal in the Amazonian outpost of Manaus on June 22. Not only must the Americans best a side that boasts one of the world’s finest players in Cristiano Ronaldo, they must deal with the crippling heat and humidity of the Amazon. In June, the average temperatures in Manaus are typically in the high-80’s with more than 80 percent humidity, which promises to be a muggy game that could favor an American squad that should be better acclimated to the conditions due to a potentially high presence of North American-based players. However sticking to strictly on the field matters, Portugal may seemlike a stiff test, but the nation struggled during UEFA World Cup qualifying as they finished second in their group to Russia—with two draws against Israel as well as a draw against Northern Ireland—before defeating Sweden in a playoff to advance to Brazil.
Lastly, The U.S, have traditional powerhouse Germany in the final game on June 26 in Recife is the Americans’ best case scenario as they should face a German team that may already have a ticket into the second round. Against a German team that could be loaded with reserves, the U.S. should be able to stay competitive against a side that promises to be organized and immensely talented.
What will make their draw even more difficult is the immense travel that they must undertake for all three matches. With three games in Natal, Manus and Recife, the U.S. could travel nearly 9,000 miles round trip during their Group G campaign. The one benefit for the Americans however is that their MLS players should be accustomed to immense travel as well as heat and humidity, however, the benefit of charter flights should cut down on the exhaustion.
My prediction for a best case—and relatively realistic— scenario for the U.S. is a simple one: a victory against Ghana coupled with a Germany win over Portugal during the first match day. In the second match day, the U.S. must earn a draw—or a close win—against Portugal with a Germany victory over Ghana in the second day setting up a draw or close loss to an already qualified Germany in the final match day. If the Americans can find a way to earn points in their first two games, at the very least, they should negate the impact of Portugal's final match against Ghana.
What are your thoughts? Remember, the U.S. open up the year at StubHub Center against South Korea on Feb. 1.
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CARSON, Calif. – Back after a knee infection caused him to miss two training sessions and a reserve match, Kofi Opare is eager to fill the starting spot vacated by Omar Gonzalez, who is currently away on international duty.
Opare has become a regular on LA’s game day roster since the start of August and performed well during his first competitive start for the club in their 3-0 victory over C.S. Cartaginés earlier this month. However, Opare was unable to get in the squad in LA’s 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes and the subsequent reserve match due to a knee infection called cellulitis.
Even though the injury cost him a reserve league appearance, Opare believes that it didn’t hurt his sharpness.
“I’m just glad to be back in training,” said Opare. “The good thing was that even with the injury, I was still able to run and even though I wasn’t in training, I was still able to do fitness work and keep my sharpness.”
It’s vitally important that Opare is fit and ready because with Gonzalez away on international duty, the 22-year-old is in the midst of a battle for a starting role with the likes of Tommy Meyer, A.J. DeLaGarza, and possibly even Pablo Mastroeni.
“With Omar gone, the center back is spot and players are competing for that spot. I’m trying to do that same thing so that I can impress the coaches so I get that spot,” said Opare. “To be honest, I still go through the same steps that I do every week. I just want to come in with the attitude to work hard and play well in practice. Nothing changes. Now there is a spot and we’re all competing, I just want to bring the same attitude.”