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Looking ahead: After gritty win over Ghana, can US morph its style to challenge Portugal?

Jun 16, 2014, 11:03 PM EDT

Klinsmann Getty Images

The United States gritted out the guttiest of gutty wins against Ghana tonight, using a John Brooks header in the 87th minute to pick up three points and set itself up for advancement in Group G.

However, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Next up is going to be an angry, beaten down Portugal side that just lost 4-0 to Germany and is still licking its wounds.

And as beatable as Portugal looked as they slumped to an embarrassing defeat to a European powerhouse, it’s important to remember that this Portugal team is about as opposite from Ghana and Nigeria as it’s possible to be.

That means Jurgen Klinsmann is going to have to completely reinvent his lineup. Again.

All of the buildup the last six months has been to this match with Ghana. Now that it’s over, the team must look ahead.  Portugal possesses a very dangerous combination of power and speed, which it flashed at times against Germany despite the disappointing overall performance.  They are a very European team, one that passes precisely and finishes efficiently.

Down to 10 men for most of the match, Portugal still managed to fire off 399 passes, completing 349 of them for an 87% completion rate. They had created six chances already by the time Pepe was sent off in the 34th minute, according to Opta statistics.

German defenders Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm, and Mats Hummels were brilliant at the back, providing pinpoint tackles to stop the Portuguese attacks down the middle and shadowing Cristiano Ronaldo with precise care.

The United States doesn’t have anybody of their quality in defense, and it will require defensive creativity by Klinsmann to cover Ronaldo while preventing massive gaps forming in the middle when the defense shades to his side.

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Klinsmann’s talisman against both Nigeria and then Ghana was the midfield triangle of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman set up in a 4-3-2-1. While Bradley struggled individually against Ghana, the triangle still successfully pegged down the Ghanian attack in the middle of the field, forcing them to go out wide.

Unfortunately for the US, Portugal is just as deadly out wide as they are through the middle, and with Cristiano Ronaldo out on the wing and roaming into the middle of the box, it’s not as straightforward stopping their presence up front.

It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann changes his squad to match up with Portugal, but one thing you can guarantee is the strategy against Ghana will be doomed against the Portuguese. It’s a different test altogether, and no matter how poorly they opened Group G play with, the Portuguese will push the US to the brink.

Klinsmann has always wanted the squad to be flexible in its ability to play against different types of opponents and styles of play.  With one test passed, a new one arises, and flexible they must be.

  1. nottinghamforest13 - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Hefty.

  2. tanzkommandant - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:32 PM

    Bradley was flat out awful, but in reality was playing to his abilty when faced with top class players. Despite the hero worship for him by many US fans, he is a medicore midfielder. No more, no less. Beasley was a constant headache as well leaving the left flank exposed time after time. Jones had an animal of a game & covered many holes. The loss of Altidore isn’t all that problematic for any number of reasons.

  3. skipvanmeter - Jun 16, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    To deal with the better wing play of Portugal we go with two real wingers:

    ————–Dempsey (false 9)——-
    —Bedoya ——– Bradley———–Zusi
    ———–Jones—Beckerman—
    Beasley– Besler/Brooks – Chandler — FJ—

    We still have the midfield triangle to keep ‘em out of there.

    • engwolf - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:19 AM

      I hope that you meant Geoff Cameron for Chandler. I can’t see Chandler playing CB effectively for the US. Otherwise that’s an interesting idea for the line-up.

    • elgallo2001 - Jun 17, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      I like your line up. Two things, well Three:
      1. Geoff instead of Chandler in the middle
      2. Beasley, though playing hard, looked like a liability out there. Maybe Chandler or Yedlin as LB???
      3. This lineup will struggle to score. We will need to score.

    • lyleoross - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM

      On the other hand, I don’t like this line up. If my recollection serves me, this has been tried several times with Dempsey, and it’s been a fail every time. Dempsey is a force up front, but not when on point. He needs a striker to pull the pressure off and does great coming up behind that striker. That’s why Altidore did so much for him.

      The real question in my mind is can AJ or Wondo step up front and pull the pressure off, thus allowing CD to shine? This is where an LD would help. Keep in mind, I don’t like LD, his attitude was bad (not work ethic, attitude). Right now, I don’t see any way to make that happen. For the first time in the WC, the real person being tested is JK. What is he going to do with this? What are they going to do this week to fill in that JA hole? I’m betting that AJ and Wondo have a long week. :)

      Considering we’ve lost our muscle up there, it seems you have to think speed now. You need someone who has enough speed and control to work the defense and pull them out of shape. Too bad Green isn’t 23 instead of 19…

  4. nottinghamforest12 - Jun 17, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    Bradley was flat out awful, but in reality was playing to his abilty when faced with top class players. Despite the hero worship for him by many US fans, he is a medicore midfielder. No more, no less. Beasley was a constant headache as well leaving the left flank exposed time after time. Jones had an animal of a game & covered many holes. The loss of Altidore isn’t all that problematic for any number of reasons.

    • sa371916 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have read on the internet today. Bradley had a bad game, not a game to his ability. Bradley is a very good midfielder in the role the US plays him. He could not complete a pass to save his life yesterday. That is not normal, that is not because he lacks ability, that is not caused by top class players, it was an off day. He will be much stronger against Portugal.

      • novemberreign - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        tanzkommandant posted the same thing two days ago. WUMming much?

  5. nottinghamforest12 - Jun 17, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Bradley was an embarrassment.

  6. jdfsquared - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    This is a good reminder that even though the injuries endured on Monday are devastating, their losses must be viewed thru the lens of a Portuguese strategy, which after the Beckerman/Jones coup, we can all expect to be something we’ve yet to see.

  7. thegronk87 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Better watch out for Portugal. I hear they like to head butt their opponents.

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