In less than 24 hours we will know if the US naitonal team gets to go on to the second round of this years World Cup. Standing in their way is not only the Ghanan soccer team, but also the Italian and Czech teams will have something to say about it as well.In order for the US to advance they have to hope for one of the following (courtesy of ussoccer.com):
- The U.S. beats Ghana, and Italy beats the Czech Republic
- The U.S. beats Ghana by five or more goals, and Italy ties the Czech Republic
- The U.S. beats Ghana by four goals, Italy ties the Czech Republic, and the U.S. outscores the Czech Republic by three or more goals
- The U.S. beats Ghana, the Czech Republic beats Italy, and the combined margins of victory are six or more goals
- The U.S. beats Ghana, the Czech Republic beats Italy, the combined margins of victory are five goals, and the U.S. scores three or more goals than Italy
Obviously, the easiest way to advance is to win against Ghana and hope Italy wins as well.
Mastroeni and Pope are both out in this match due to referree incompetance during the Italy game. No matter. It may well work out for the best.
First, the Defense.
Pope was beginning to remind me of Agoos circa 2002 so I’m not upset to see him off the field. I really didn’t want him off due to a red card though since that precludes him from even being a sub. From Bruce Arena’s press conferences, I gather that the option is to insert Conrad or Berhalter in to replace Pope directly, leaving the rest of the defense “as-is.” Conrad probably gets the nod since he was on a) on the original roster, not Berhalter b) he was the one who came in for Pope during the Italy match. The other alternative is for Bocanegra to move to the center where he is just as comfortable as the left side, then probably Eddie Lewis takes the left just as in the Czech game.
I’m a bit torn as to which one I prefer. I lean towards a backline of Cherundolo, Onyewu, Conrad, and Bocanegra as that will be really solid defensively and will give Convey and Dempsey (I’d be amazed if they didn’t start) the freedom to roam forward without worrying about tracking back as much. Now, the caveat to that is that the US won’t be facing as tough a defense as in the previous two games against the Czechs and Italians, so maybe Arena wants to put Lewis in there for his crossing ability and his free-kicks. I kind of doubt he goes that way though since he will have plenty of firepower due to…
Since Mastroeni is out, Arena has a couple of choices. He could install Ben Olsen directly into Pablo’s spot and continue with the same lineup. Doubt it. He could put John O’Brien directly into Pablo’s spot and get a more offensive midfield. If O’Brien is fit enough to go 90mins or close to it then this is Arena’s best bet. However, I don’t think O’Brien is there yet, so I put that in the “not quite” category.
Now the option I think is most likely is that Reyna falls back into Pablo’s defensive midfield postion and THAT opens up Donovan going into his favored position at attacking midfield. And if THAT happens, then McBride needs a new strike partner. If I’m right, then Eddie Johnson gets his first start of the World Cup.
All of that means that the midfield and fowards will be very offensive minded, requiring the defenders to pretty much stay at home and, well, defend. Which makes me think that Conrad gets the start as well, leaving the rest of the defensive lineup unchanged from the Italy game in which they performed very well.
To help you get all you can and more, here are some links for you to check out before the game. I may edit this post or make a new one tomorrow before the game.
- U.S. MNT Arrives in Nuremberg In Advance of June 22 Group E Finale vs. Ghana (US Soccer)
- Washington Post World Cup Journal
- After four years, U.S. soccer success hinges on one win – and help ( Fox Sports World via AP)
- U.S. hopes offense gets going vs. Ghana (Fox Sports World via AP)
- Arena: Essien the key man for Ghana (ESPN SoccerNet)
- U.S. focused on the win first and foremost (ESPN SoccerNet)
- A generous greed (ESPN SoccerNet)
- More of the same needed against Ghana (ESPN SoccerNet)
- USA coach wary of Ghana’s speed (BBC Sport)
- Dujkovic: Ghana’s time is now (FIFA World Cup site)
- US fear Essien influence (FIFA World Cup site)
- Preview: Ghana vs. United States (Fox Sports World)
- Ghana vs USA (BBC Sport)
- Everything at stake for US and Ghana (FIFA World Cup site)
Press Conferences (.mp3 files from US Soccer. Some of them are long, over 20mins):
- 06-21 Bruce Arena & Claudio Reyna Press Conference – Bruce Arena and Claudio Reyna address the press at Frankenstadion.
- 06-20 Bruce Arena and Brian McBride Press Conference – Bruce Arena and Brian McBride at the U.S. Soccer press conference before departing for Nuremburg.
- 06-19 Press Conf. w/ Arena, Donovan and Bocanegra – Bruce Arena, Landon Donvan and Carlos Bocanegra meet the press on June 19, 2006.
- 06-18 – MNT Manager Bruce Arena’s Press Conference – Bruce Arena speaks to the press the day after a 1-1 draw with Italy.
- 06-17 – MNT vs. Italy: USA Post-Game Comments