I sort of consider myself the average "American" soccer fan. I enjoy the game but typically just drink a beer and scream real loud when a ball gets close to the net. With the 2014 World Cup almost set to pop, I thought the time was ripe to ask local soccer experts - CD1025 DJ Brian Phillips and renowned Photographer/Musician Greg Bartram - some of my dumb-ass soccer questions to help get up to speed on what I need to know.- Colin G.
1) Ok, I said I was a soccer dumb-ass so first things first, what time and what channel is the first Team USA World Cup game vs Ghana showing?
Brian - USA/Ghana kick off at 6pm Eastern Monday June 16. USA/Portugal 6pm Sunday June 22. USA/Germany Noon Thursday June 26.
Greg - Here’s a link that lists the other coverage for the first round. This is the last year of ESPN’s coverage contract, and they’re approaching it with the mindset that they want it to be the very best coverage EVER, making it an exceedingly tough followup for FOX.
2) I have Ghana filed under "American killers." Is that accurate? And if so, what is it about them that seems to give us trouble?
Brian - That's tough for me to answer specific to this World Cup as I have not seen them play. Ghana is perennially one of the best sides on their continent. I'm reading they're strong in the midfield, but perhaps a bit lacking elsewhere. The 13th ranked USA will have to beat the world's 37 to have any hope of advancing. It's really that simple.
Greg - The US have played Ghana 4 times, twice in 1983, once in the 2006 World Cup, losing to them in the Round of 16, and once in the group stage in 2010. They’ve lost all four, but no one who played an any but the last match are still active with their teams. They’ve got some players in the best leagues in the world, but how will they mesh coming into this tournament?
Local connection…both Dominic Oduro (just traded to Toronto, to the great disappointment of my youngest son) and Fifi Baiden of the Crew are from Ghana. Oduro has been called into the Black Stars’ camp on at least one occasion, but has never appeared in international competition.
3) There has been much talk about us being in the "group of death." Is it really harder than the other brackets based on World Rankings or is that just ESPN-fueled hype?
Brian - Not in this case. Germany is ranked second in the world and Portugal fourth. Getting out of this group will be one hell of an accomplishment.
Greg - As Brian said, this group includes the 2nd, 4th, and 37th ranked teams in the world, with the US being ranked 13th. The top two teams will advance, so the US will have to defeat at least one top-5 team to advance…there isn’t any way around that.
4) Don't we have to play a game on top of a mountain in the middle of the jungle or something? Do you feel the climate will help or hurt Team USA one way or another?
Brian - I don't worry about that stuff. The USA plays in all manner of environments during qualifying. Everything from a blizzard in Denver at high altitude, to the extreme heat of Central America, to the smog and high altitude in Mexico City. If it's an issue we weren't ready to play.
Greg - It’s not so much where they are (although the stadium at Manaus is built in "the heart of the world’s largest rain forest," according to the CBC), as how far they have to go to get there. The US will travel 8,866 miles in the group stage alone, whereas Germany will travel slightly less than a third of the total distance the US will. The USMNT actually have the longest travel schedule of ANY team in the group stage of the World Cup.
5) It seemed odd to me that Landon Donovan was cut from the team at such a late date. Did you find this surprising? Concerning? What was the motive?
Brian - Landon took a year off and he's 32 years old now. I was a bit surprised sure, but he wasn't the only one cut. I don't think there was any motive other than the usual. Jurgen Klinsman would hardly allow politics to sway him one way or the other at this juncture. That said, if the USA performs poorly it'll be the first thing some say.
Greg - The internet is awash with conspiracy theories, including the thought that US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is building for 2018, and not taking this one seriously, but I don’t buy into that. I will defer to the words of current LA Galaxy and former USMNT head coach Bruce Arena…"If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup."
5 more World Cup questions for Greg Bartram and Brian Phillips coming soon!