Sigi Schmid scouts the World Cup opener for the U.S.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid offers a scouting report on the U.S. team’s World Cup opener.
Special to The Seattle Times
Ghana vs. USA, 3 p.m., ESPN
Follow the 2014 World Cup with our dynamic event guide that has live results, schedule and group info as well as news and predictions from the first kick on June 12 to the final whistle on July 13.
Time for the USA to enter the fray.
The World Cup has begun. The fever has broken out and productivity is down. Did you find some of those old jerseys or did you have to buy a new one? Do you know where you are going to watch the game? Is your fridge stocked with your favorite beverage? Are you ready to scream, moan and rejoice?
These are all emotions that you may experience during the 90-plus minutes of USA versus Ghana.
Is the team ready? That is the question we will tackle today.
The United States got through training and their friendly warm-up games without major injury. That is a huge plus. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann can pick from a full complement of players. Only he and his assistants know what the lineup will be. Sometimes as the head coach it is lonely. You have to make a decision after getting all the input from your staff, but the final decision is yours.
Tim Howard in goal is the definite choice, and his experience and quality should help our team. The back four is a little bit of a concern. I think it will be Fabian Johnson at right back, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the middle, with Demarcus Beasley at left back. Johnson is our most complete defender and will contribute to the attack as well. He could also have played left back, but I think the staff thought he would be the best matchup for Ronaldo when they play Portugal. So why not start him there right away? Beasley fits best and works better with the other defenders than Chandler. He might not be as athletic anymore, but he is steady and needs to play well.
Besler and Cameron do not have a lot of time together. They also have a short international resume in comparison to many other center-back combinations on other teams. When they face active and unpredictable forwards, as they will with Ghana, confusion can take place. Asamoah Gyan, Abdul Majeed Waris, Andre Ayew and the younger Jordan Ayew will cause some problems. How well they play as a duo will factor greatly into the result.
Midfield is where the U.S. experimented the most in the tuneup matches. I think Kyle Beckerman will start, and he made a good case for himself versus Nigeria. This allows Jermaine Jones to float a little to the left and get up the field a little more. Jones is better when he is more active and Beckerman likes to sit in that central-deep role. This allows Michael Bradley an even freer role than in the diamond. Bradley can create for us, especially off of turnovers, as one of his big strengths in transition. He is a better long passer than short, so being free to go a bit deeper at times to find the ball will help his effect upon the game.
The right side of midfield will go either to Graham Zusi or Alejandro Bedoya. I would pick Zusi due to his great engine and set-piece deliveries. But the role will be more work and defensive then he played in qualifying. Is he prepared for that? We will find out.
Jozy Altidore will be up top and probably make some inside-out runs to the right. Clint Dempsey will be his partner but shade a little more left. The creativity that Dempsey brings in the final third is paramount, and we need Altidore to be active at forward.
Ghana is also trying to put the final touches on its team. Replacing Jerry Akaminko in the back is a problem, since he was their best ball handler.
Jonathan Mensah and John Boye are a little more defensive. If coach Kwesi Appiah decides to play the very offensive Kwadwo Asamoah at left back, it will be a tough challenge for Zusi to defend. But there will be space behind Asamoah for Altidore and Dempsey to exploit?
The Ghanaians will be set up very well offensively if Sulley Muntari, Ayew, Gyan, Waris (Jordan Ayew), Prince Boateng and Asamoah all start. That is a lot of firepower.
Where will Michael Essien play? Is he healthy enough? Will he be in midfield or in the center of the back? Mohammed Rabiu is a favorite of the coach — a young Essien-type of player — and he can cover a ton of ground. If Rabiu starts, a healthy Essien will play center back.
Ghana is talented, athletic and a little unpredictable. Sometimes that uncertainty works in their favor. Sometimes it makes them become ordinary. The U.S. must move the ball, keep possession in the attacking end of the field and wait for those gaps to appear in their defense. If it becomes a straight counter attacking game, Ghana might have more offensive weapons.
A draw for the USA is good, but a win is much better. You already know that. A loss really hurts our chances. Look for the USA to go for it and try to grab the win, as their energy will be good. Will their defending be good enough? It should be fun to watch.
Sigi Schmid, coach of Sounders FC, will contribute occasional columns, postgame analysis and video for The Seattle Times.