With the US through to the knockout stage, it seems a good time to take inventory of what's worked so far and which parts of the machine need a good screw turn.
Bob Bradley’s side rightfully earned a revenge shot at Ghana with their group play, but the round of 16 is different, much different, than the first round. The opponents come harder and the game's a do-or-die.
Fight in the dog. I doubt it necessary to even repeat this, but the Red, White & Blue come at you and don't quit until the ref makes them. There really can't be enough said about the character of Bradley's USMNT.
Work the keeper. As the saying goes: you can't score if you don't shoot. The posse of Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have pulled the trigger 34 times in three games. This stat means the US aren't just getting shots; they're getting them to the right people.
Come from all angles. To continue that last point, they are also mixing things up in attack. They go wide, they charge up the gut, they go over the top. I like it, and it has seen them get those smart shots from every possible direction. Goalkeeper’s don’t know how to deal with an array of attempts such as a low driven freekick followed by a cross for a header followed by a quick ground move followed by a blast from outside.
Foul the wiser. The US have done a terrific job thus far in generally avoiding a cardinal tourney sin: the cheap foul around the box. Teams that give away oodles of danger freekicks don't last long in the knockouts.
Smart alterations. The boss' ability to call the right names off the bench has faded in and out over the last four years, but he's got the hot hand right now. When games are tight at the hour (as US World Cup matches tend to be), this becomes a major plus.
The off cocktail. Here's the flip side to that last item. It might be better if the US didn’t require quite so many key second-half changes. The starting lineup was at its most solid against England, which might mean a great deal if Ghana were an English replica. They aren't, so the coach must go back to the lab.
Early D mistakes. No, the US didn't concede early to Algeria, but let's be honest, they well could have. Whatever it takes to get the center backs to play the opening 20 like the final 70, do that. I won't act like I know what "that" is.
Ceding the way. As noted above, they probably should have fallen behind in game three as in the two before. Yes, we know the team can chase down a game like few other teams in recent memory. We get it. It's time, though, to see them run the show. I don't want to wait until the next Mexico meeting for another 2-0 win. I continue to believe that this squad has what it takes to control a match from whistle to whistle, but at some point they have to prove me right. Against Ghana would be a good time for that.