The Group G analysis continues with the United States. Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad received no help in the draw – in addition to very stiff competition, the team faces a grueling travel schedule that will zigzag more miles back and forth across Brazil than any other team during the group stage.
They open on Monday June 16 at 11 pm against Ghana, then head to the sweltering Amazon port city of Manaus to face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on Sunday June 22 at 11 pm, before ending against the group’s top seed Germany on Thursday June 26 at 5 pm.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
Team USA finished in first place in CONCACAF’s third round of qualifying in a group with Jamaica, Guatemala, and Antigua and Barbuda. Klinsmann’s side then stepped things up a notch in the final round thanks mainly to a 100% home record which saw them register a shut-out in each of the five fixtures in front of their own fans. Winning seven wins and drawing one of their 10 group games, they secured another first place finish ahead of Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Jamaica, with 15 goals scored, eight against, and six clean sheets accrued.
Most Starts Omar Gonzalez, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore (8)
Most Goals Jozy Altidore (4), Clint Dempsey (3)
The Key Targets
While Klinsmann might prefer that this story die, the big news is that Team USA will head to the World Cup without Landon Donovan for the first time since 1998. This may put even greater pressure on the team to get off to a quick start. Most recently, their attacking form has been relatively impressive – scoring twice in all but one of their last five friendlies. Since clinching their place in Brazil, the US have won three and drawn two of seven fixtures, emerging victorious against South Korea, Azerbaijan and Turkey from February onwards.
While clean sheets will not be easy to come by, the most secure route into the US defence is Everton’s goalkeeper Tim Howard (5.5 in FantasyiTeam), and a reasonable punt who should see plenty of opportunities for saves.
As for the backline starters, Klinsmann’s decisions and tinkering have served to create uncertainty for those trying to project lineups, and it remains a possibility that there could even be shuffling throughout the tournament. With a well-taken goal in the most recent friendly against Turkey, Fabian Johnson (who is on his way to MGladbach this summer) has emerged as the closest thing there is to a lock. Available for 5.1 in FantasyiTeam, he has started both recent friendlies at right back and has also played left back, and carries the added Fantasy bonus of still having an outside shot of being utilised as a midfielder.
Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron (5.2 and 5.3 in FantasyiTeam) have been the starting centre back duo for the two most recent friendlies and look likely to retain their starting berths ahead of Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks, though the battle for the left-back spot remains so wide open that there is no basis for projecting what Klinsmann intends to do at this point.
Turning to the midfield, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley (5.3 and 5.4 in FantasyiTeam) should remain regulars down the spine. Both will be active defensively and, if recent friendlies are any indication, Bradley should be given sufficiently greater freedom to join in the attack to warrant the small additional cost, after Klinsmann played him at the tip of a midfield diamond against Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Two familiar Premier League names look to lead the line, Clint Dempsey (7.0 in FantasyiTeam) and Jozy Altidore (6.5). Dempsey started slowly upon joining Seattle last summer, but has been in fine form since the current season kicked off, with eight goals and three assists in only nine games – as he showed at Fulham on numerous occasions, Dempsey has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and a never-quit mentality. The US captain will look to add to a fine record against Ghana that includes scoring on a fine volley in 2006 and earning a penalty kick in 2010.
While Dempsey boasts of fine form, Altidore’s recent conversion rate has become an increasing concern for the red, white and blue. One goal and one assist in 31 appearances this past season at Sunderland will neither strike fear in the opposing Group G defenders nor excite Fantasy investors and despite notching four goals from eight starts in the second group phase, Altidore has not scored an international goal since he netted against Jamaica last October.
THE LONG SHOTS
While the US attack has regularly sought to play through Altidore in the recent friendlies and Klinsmann continues to express confidence and speak positively about him, AZ Alkmar’s Aron Johannson (6.9 in FantasyiTeam) stands waiting in the wings should Klinsmann’s patience fade. While Johannson lacks Altidore’s physical presence, he bagged 32 goals in 56 games across all competitions for AZ Alkmaar this past year and should at a minimum be a ready spark in substitute cameos, either in place of or alongside Altidore.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi (5.2 in FantasyiTeam) was a consistent presence during qualifying and seems the surest bet for playing time on the right flank. He had registered a goal and four assists in nine league games before departing for national team duty and, having netted twice in the final two qualifiers, could be an outside option.
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