Monday, June 16, 2014

Ghana: Black Stars or Black Hole?

When the World Cup draw came out in December, and the United States found itself in the “Group of Death,” there was certainly a fair bit of doom and gloom among US soccer fans. After all, Germany and Portugal are world football powers, and Ghana knocked the U.S. out of the last two World Cups. Confidence waned near the end of May, when the 23-man squad was announced and America's all-time leading goalscorer, Landon Donovan, was left off the roster. With both sides needing all three points ahead of remaining matches with Germany and Portugal, how can the United States earn a favorable result v. Ghana?

Well, it starts in the midfield with Michael Bradley. If the pundits are correct, and Jurgen Klinsmann lines up his squad the way he's expected to, Bradley should play more of an offensive role. Without Donovan's creativity in the midfield, Bradley needs to push forward to set up Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Whether he is tracked by aging great Michael Essien, or Ghanaian manager James Appiah chooses the younger Mohammed Rabiu, Bradley will have the advantage in skill, form, and ability. If the Americans can win the ball in the midfield and quickly break with Bradley, he should be able to craft scoring chances for Dempsey and Altidore. It will be up to the American strike-force to have their finishing boots on.

Another important key to this match will be the untested American back-line. Four years ago in the Round of 16, both Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng scored to bury American dreams of a quarterfinal appearance. Both attacking players are back in 2014, and are likely to start for Ghana on Monday evening. The likely USA back-4 (from left to right) of DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson have only played together in a few friendly matches, so chemistry and cohesion will be tested by the talented Ghanaian attack.

A loss would effectively end America's chances of advancing to the knockout stage, so expect a tight and tense affair in the early going as Klinsmann's men look for a positive result.

SnapCall's coverage of this massive match starts at 5:55pm ET. Don't be late to the action!

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