2014 World Cup: USA vs Portugal, Match Preview

Kevin C. Cox

Can Clint Dempsey keep the magic going for another game?

Following the dramatic win in Natal over Ghana, the United States men's national team looks to get close to the knockout today as they look to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.

The European power lost their first game of the tournament in a blowout loss to Germany 4-0 last week. The game also saw defender Fabio Coentrao and striker Hugo Almeida come up with injuries while midfielder Pepe was issues a red card in the loss.

The US will be without one of their key players as well with striker Jozy Altidore nursing a strained hamstring.

Who will go up top for the US?

We discussed this on Friday, but there hasn't been a ton of talk about who Jurgen Klinsmann will turn to in the attack to replace Altidore. The options still remain to be either Chris Wondolowski or Aron Johannsson, or to shift Clint Dempsey forward into the attack as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Other changes?

A couple trouble spots against Ghana were on the wings, Klinsmann could make upwards of four changes on Sunday. At right back we could see Timmy Chandler in over DeMarcus Beasley? What about hero John Anthony Brooks over Matt Besler at left center back? And then at right mid, could we see the guy who set up the game-winner Graham Zusi start over Aljeandro Bedoya?

An interesting thought about whoever starts on the right side will have to defend Ronaldo and the bulk of the Portugal attack but on the flip side, that is also the same area that Germany exposed for four big goals.

Talk of Ronaldo

As far as we can tell, Ronaldo will indeed be able to go for Portugal in this one. I cannot imagine too many scenarios in which he doesn't play in this game. The thing is he isn't at 100%. No matter what they say, if he was icing his knees each day in training or even just a couple times, it means he isn't right at 100%. Still, the US cannot take this as a player that they can shy away from on the ball. He is still the most dangerous player in this tournament, outside of Leo Messi.

Defend like hell

What do you do against the World's top player? Defend like you've never defended before. You can almost expect Portugal to throw a lot forward at the US in this one after giving up four in their last game. Tim Howard needs to make sure his defense stays compact and doesn't allow a ton of open space on the wings.

Pick your moments

One thing the US did well against Ghana last week was picking their moments to go forward and force the Ghanian defense into mistakes. It worked when it needed to most and they need to do the same with Portugal. Once again the US will need a strong start to put the Portuguese on their heels.

Better game from Bradley

One thing the US didn't get against Ghana was a good game from Michael Bradley. As games get tougher in this tournament, the US need bigger performances out of Bradley. The Toronto FC midfielder has to show up in this one as he will be the guy that keeps the midfield together and forces the US attack against a Portugal defense that was extremely leaky in the opening game.

Prediction

It won't be easy but I still believe the US has a great shot at things here in this one. European teams (other than France) haven't shown well in their second games in this tournament, and the heat in Manaus will be a factor for both sides. I think the US can handle the heat a little more than Portugal. It will be a close one just like against Ghana but I think the US gets through here with another tight and nail biting win.

United States 2, Portugal 1

What do you think will happen on Sunday? Let's discuss it below.

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