Play-by-Play Plus: Looking at positives and negatives ahead of the U.S.' #WorldCup match
When the USA begins group play today against Ghana, there are several story lines to watch for in what I and many others consider a must-win game.
Take three points from this game, and your chances greatly improve to get at least another point, or possibly more, and advance in this dangerous group.
A draw would most likely require beating Portugal or Germany to advance, while a loss most likely means you would need one win plus another good result in order to get to the round of 16. With that being said, here's a quick look at the positives and negatives of this U.S. team.
On the plus side:
Jurgen Klinsmann knows what it's like to be successful at a World Cup, both as a player and as a coach. He won the World Cup as a player in 1990, and took Germany to a third place finish in 2006.
Jozy Altidore's two goals against Nigeria in his last friendly were immense. Scoring one goal with his English Premier League team Sunderland and going 27 games without a goal was a slump – to say the least.
While he can say he never lost confidence during that time, that's not what most of us saw during his struggles.
Welcome back Jozy.
Tim Howard is one of the best goalkeepers at this World Cup and he will need to be better than ever because of an inexperienced backline in front of him, plus the dangerous group the USA is in.
Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are the United States’ two best field players, and their leadership as well as their skills must be on display throughout the group. If they don't have a solid World Cup, the U.S. won't be going to the knockout stage.
Finally, the team has momentum winning their last three friendlies.
You can debate the talent level of at least two of their opponents, but you can't take away the confidence of three wins.
Look at Honduras, entering a World Cup having won just one of its last five matches? They lost 3-0 on Sunday to France in its World Cup opener.
Now for the downside:
Cutting Landon Donovan is the biggest story for this team in this World Cup year. If the team advances, the reaction will be that Donovan wasn't needed and the right move was made. If the team struggles, this controversial cut will be brought up again.
It is the signature move that Klinsmann has made. Regardless of whether the team succeeds or not, I'm on record as believing this was a very bad decision on so many levels.
What's the mental state of the team?
Physically, they are fine as they are used to the tough training sessions and the MLS players are used to the heat and the travel, so no concern there.
On the mental side though, you are dealing with a lot of players with no World Cup experience, dealing with the pressure and expectations, and being involved in tons of media responsibilities long before the team even traveled to Brazil.
How about the backline? I can't recall a World Cup where the team not only went in with question marks about who is starting, but also, when was the last time the USA brought an entire back four to the World Cup, without any experience?
Chemistry questions – Since Klinsmann did not play with a set lineup, especially in the back, will this last week prior to the first game be enough to get some chemistry going?
Last, but not least, what about this group?
You have Ghana who has had the USA's number the last two tournaments, plus a very strong Portugal side led by the great Cristiano Ronaldo, along with the favored Germans.
My heart always says the USA will advance. My head says they will not. My heart and head will come to an agreement after game one with Ghana.
JP Dellacamera is the play-by-play voice of the Union. You can also listen to Dellacamera's legendary voice calling the 2014 FIFA World Cup throughout the tournament on ESPN Radio.