If today doesn’t bring three points, see you in 2018.
The United States’ unfortunate placement in Group G, the so-called “Group of Death,” brings a significant amount of pressure to its first game today against Ghana, the only team in the group ranked lower. The Black Stars are the most consistent African team as well as the culprit for the Yanks’ past two World Cup exits, though none of that matters now. If there is any hope of playing a fourth game, today has to be a win for the U.S.
The second place team in the group likely will have to reach at least four points, and for the Americans, the time is right now to grab three of them. No. 4 Portugal awaits in Game 2 and No. 2 Germany is the final group game for the U.S. Where is the point there? The optimist would suggest a draw, or perhaps a win, is possible against Portugal. The pessimist would argue anything but two losses would be oversight.
This much is certain: If the U.S. loses to Ghana yet again, U.S. Soccer’s executive staff might as well re-route the Americans’ next plane back stateside.
While that might seem hyperbolic, the high-pressure first game is fortunate, given the group draw. If the United States wins, it puts itself in an excellent position to go through. The pressure immediately would shift to the loser of the Germany-Portugal match, and should the Portuguese lose, they’ll be playing for their World Cup lives in Game 2. With a win tonight, the U.S. has a chance to clinch a spot in Game 2 at best, or a Game 3 lifeline at worst.
If Germany and Portugal tie, the U.S. leads the group with a win. Even with the two powers on the horizon, there certainly are worse places to be.
There have been plenty of questions about the United States’ chances in Brazil. Will Jozy Altidore regain his scoring form? Is the central defense good enough? Is Michael Bradley right for his new role? Can Clint Dempsey be this team’s leader?
Not all of them have to be answered, necessarily, but there is one course of action the Americans and all their fans can agree upon. Beat Ghana tonight, and root like mad for the Black Stars to score an upset in their final two matches.
There are no guarantees in sports, but there are probabilities. All of the good ones start with a U.S.-heavy scoreline at the end of 90 minutes.
Game of the Day: C’mon. United States vs. Ghana, 6 p.m.
For The Novice: A big part of the Americans’ chances will rest upon Jermaine Jones, No. 13. He can control games from a defensive midfielder spot, but he’s as apt to take a dumb penalty and be given a card. Jones can swing the game either way for the Yanks.