USMNT Report: What We Don’t Know Ahead of Ghana

The United States is about to face Ghana. But what are the big unknowns heading into the game?
by Herb Scribner   |   Monday, June 16, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The long road to Brazil is over for the United States Men’s National Team.

We’ve been through so much to get here. There was the snowy showdown in Commerce City, the 0-0 draw in Estadio Azetca, the slap back to reality by Belgium, the ecstatically exciting win over Germany, the completely rout over Guatemala, the Dos A Cero win for a World Cup berth, and more. All of that has been leading to now.

Four years full of learning a new style, and then dropping it, integrating new players and building a foundation for the future has reached its tipping point. Starting today, the United States will begin its 2014 FIFA World Cup schedule with a match against the proverbial thorn-in-the-side, Ghana.

We all know the stakes going into this match. USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, his staff, his players, analysts and fans alike all have spoken about how this is a must-win game for the Americans. Most opening games are must-wins for the team, as it puts them on a good path to advancing into the knockout stage. For the United States, it’s especially important given that Portugal and Germany — both packed with great players and both international heavyweights — await the Yanks in the proceeding group games.

It’s also important for a reason beyond what Brazil has to offer. Back stateside, American sports and overall culture is focused on this game. Casual Americans and sports fans alike know that this is the world’s biggest stage, and they know the history between the USA and Ghana — at least on a superficial level. People are going to be tuned into this game and looking for the result. A win from the United States would certainly strike hard and well with the American soccer culture, and solidify all of the team’s work from qualifying as legitimate and real. Winning a must-win in a culture where winning dominates all would be wickedly exciting.

We all know that Klinsmann has had to make decisions about his players — some for the better, others for the worst. We’re still unsure what the opening lineup will be, or if some of the more inexperienced players will get a shot on the pitch. And that, too, is something we know. We all understand that the United States is the biggest enigma in the tournament at this point. Guessing a lineup is near impossible, trying to figure out how the USA is going to play is beyond difficult. There’s no script to follow, no pages to skim, no playbook to read-through. Klinsmann has created a team, system and structure that no other team can truly understand.

But we know all this. So what don’t we know?

We don’t know whether the USA has what it takes to exorcise the demons and defeat Ghana. Ghana, though not close to being as much of a powerhouse as Germany or Portugal, has some talented players that can cause problems for the Americans. We don’t know if the USA can take that down, step over the hump that Ghana has provided during the last two World Cups and give itself a chance to advance to the knockout tournament.

This World Cup has already been off to an exciting start. The defending champions Spain were embarrassed by Holland, CONCACAF’s lesser side Costa Rica upset 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay and goals have come in bunches.

Now it’s time to see what the USA will bring to a World Cup that’s an open game and that has been unpredictable to the last second.

We don’t know what’s going to happen in today’s game. All we know is what has happened before and what the USA has gone through to get to Estadio das Dunas. We know Klinsmann’s been tinkering, Landon Donovan isn’t with the team, the Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones debate still rages on and that the USA has a tough group ahead of them.

And now it’s time to see if all that we know, all that we’ve seen, all that we’ve commentated, analyzed and talked about over the last 4 years, has been building to a run of success or failure and disappointment.

But the USA, and its fans, do believe and know one thing:

They. They believe. They believe that. They believe that they will win.

NEXT UP: June 16 – World Cup: United States vs. Ghana, Estadio das Dunas, Natal, Brazil. 6 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN.


UMass Amherst
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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.