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USA v Ghana Recap & Portugal Preview by Greg Bartram and Brian Phillips

USA v Ghana Recap. 5 questions for Greg Bartram and Brian Phillips. Click here for 5 World Cup questions Part one and  Part two

Click here to read "If I Cared, Why I Would be Rooting for Portugal"

 

1) Wow. Big win. What impressed you about team USA's victory? What are concerns moving forward?

GB) Ghana really carried most of the run of play...the last number I saw was 59%-41% possession in favor of the Black Stars. GK Tim Howard was positionally spot-on, and the US defenders didn't allow a ton of opportunities in spite of Ghana's possession. The US were dangerous on most of their set pieces, and that will need to continue as they face stronger competition.

Moving forward, those possession numbers have to get better. Bradley was strong in the back, but was well covered once he got forward, and he needs to find a way to get into space and utilize his strength on the ball.

Bp) Certainly the USA showed a ton of grit and sometimes that can be enough. Klinsmann decided he was going to keep the defense compact and for the most part the strategy worked. We forced Ghana to the outside and fortunately we were able to survive all those dangerous balls being whipped in from the flanks. Ghana's one goal was the only time the central defense fell apart to a serious degree. Howard was great when needed, but what else is new? My man of the match was Jermaine Jones. The outside defender was rugged and relentless. 

I'd echo Greg's concern. We have to figure out a way to possess the ball. I'd also agree that Bradley has to be much more effective in the attack. Look for Portugal to echo Ghana's strategy with tight marking on Bradley. On the opposite side of Jermaine Jones is Darmarcus Beasley. Not a natural defender, he is the weak link in the back. Look for superstar Christiano Renaldo to attack his side of the field with impunity. 

 

 2) After Dempsey scored thirty seconds into the match, Ghana seemed to settle down and be in control for long stretches. Were you bracing for the equalizer sooner or later? How surprised were you by how quickly Team USA responded? 

GB) That quick strike might have been a bad thing...Ghana seemed to realize right away that this wasn't going to go the same way it had for them in the past, and then they dialed it in and paid a lot more attention. I cannot understand why they didn't start Kevin-Prince Boateng. He subs in at the 59th minute mark, and control goes even MORE Ghana's way.

Bp) I wasn't at all surprised at Ghana's play. This is a really good team and we were lucky to beat them. Let's be honest, team USA played long stretches of that game in a very defensive posture.  I'd agree that Boateng should have started. I know he's had injury issues, but he's a nice player and gives this young team some veteran leadership.

 

3) We lost our really fast guy to a hamstring injury, but our next opponent, Portugal, lost three players in a blowout loss in Germany in their opening game. Which team is in better shape heading into the match on Sunday.

GB) I think this favors the US. They pulled of a gritty character-builder of a win without Altidore, and can build on that. Portugal, on the other hand, loses FOUR players... Pepe to stupidity (he had to lean WAY over to butt that head, so he had plenty of time to be smarter about it), and Coentrao (like Pepe, a defender), forward Hugo Almeida, and GK Rui Patricio, so that's two defenders, a forward, and starting GK...Tha's a lot of change.

Bp) I know a lot of US supporters are down on Altidore, but we don't have anybody else like him. Fast, big... He's our Beast Mode if you will. That said Portugal is the desperate side here without very important pieces. We are certainly lucky to face them at much less than full strength. Don't forget that superstar Renaldo's knee is hardly 100 percent. I'll be watching him very closely. 

 

4) I took Owen (Colin's Ten Year Old Son) and his buddies out to Rooster's to watch the opening game and it was fun to watch them, watch a soccer game with people going nuts and chanting USA and all that. How big is it for the overall popularity of the sport in the USA for the United States to have a good showing? 

GB) The World Cup is the very best of the sport...the best players, all playing for their country, and they've worked their butts off to even get here, The tournament starts with over 200 nations trying to get here, so it's harder to get in than the Olympics. I think it's great for the game, and all the kids who are playing FIFA World Cup on their home gaming systems can see these names they've seen on their TVs forever...I think it's awesome.

America's biggest challenge with soccer is that our best athletes have many many other sports competing for their attention. As MLS grows (and remember that the US hosted the 1995 World Cup, a mere two years before the inaugural season of Major League Soccer), and as more and more young athletes begin to realize that playing soccer at the highest level is an option for them, then the better it is for the American version of the game.

 

BP) To know where the sport is in America now you have to know what it was like 24 years ago. The USA hadn't been in the finals for 40 years and yet..... I had to call bars all over my area of Seattle before I found one beaming in the USA/Italy match. I was the only one in the joint let alone watching. No one cared. The growth since then has been phenomenal. Regardless of the USA's showing from here on out there's no looking back now. We're past the time where interest flared up every four years only to be quickly snuffed out. MLS attedance is better and better. Amazing new stadiums dot the nation. Americans are looking for English Premiere teams to support. It's no accident how easy it is to find EPL matches on the tube here. People are watching and there's money to be made. Speaking of money.... Look how many select soccer clubs exist just in Central Ohio now. Players have their pick. Amazing!

 

5) FIFA and match fixing seem to come up in the same sentence more often than not. To me, the rules of soccer combine extremely subjective calls with extremely harsh penalties which is a recipe for match fix rumors no matter what the intention of the referee. The penalty kick in the Brazil vs Croatia comes to mind. If you were elected the new president of FIFA, what changes, if any, would you make to ensure the credibility of the sport in the future?

 

GB) I might add another linesman or two, or add a second ingame official as the NHL did. It's made a difference in hockey, and the extra skater doesn't interfere with the game.

 

BP) Greg you might be on to something. These players are so fast. Perhaps the current three man team is not up to the challange. I really felt FIFA was getting a handle on all the diving and carrying on, but to be honest this World Cup has seen more overacting than a Chuck Heston flick. I'd renew efforts to get that garbage out of the game. I'd also remove the 2022 cup from Qatar and push for those who took bribes to be prosectued (and don't tell me no money changed hands there.)