Successful Send-off Series gives USA reason for optimism heading into the World Cup

The U.S. National Team is now in the final days before starting its run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Ghana on June 16. After posting three straight victories in the Sendoff Series against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria, there are reasons to be optimistic, but the U.S. also knows that the results mean very little in comparison with the cohesion developed in the last four weeks under Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

"Something that we've worked on since Jurgen took over was making sure there's a brotherhood," said forward Jozy Altidore, who scored two goals in a 2-1 win over Nigeria on Saturday. "The U.S. team always has that. We're special for that. I think the team morale and confidence has always been there, this game or not. We always fight for each other."

According to Klinsmann, that cohesion has been building each day in training and was evidenced in the matches themselves.

"We are getting ready. We see that the team is making real progress throughout the last three-and-a-half weeks," Klinsmann said. "We see that on the training field every day. We get more and more connected."

Now the attention shifts from building fitness and cohesion to making sure the squad is fresh and ready for the challenge ahead against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

And while playing in front of 52,033 fans in Jacksonville, Florida, against another World Cup competitor in Nigeria is a good test, it's nowhere near the intensity of a World Cup match.

"It feels good that we are playing well and our hard work is paying off. It's still going to be a lot different when we go down to Brazil because that's the big stage. That's where it all matters," said U.S. captain and Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey. "It's good to go in with that confidence, with that sharpness and feeling good and having that confidence from those three wins."

Added midfielder Michael Bradley, "The reality is that these games mean nothing now. You use them for what they are in the moment and you use them to sharpen up, to build some confidence, to get everybody even more fit. But the second they're over, you move on. The reality is that now it's all about shifting focus and being ready on June 16 when we step on the field against Ghana."

Klinsmann used three different lineups in the three matches and even changed formations against Nigeria, so to outsiders things may look unsettled. However, internally players have talked at length about feeling well-prepared for each match as a new challenge.

The U.S. is far from a favorite to advance out of Group G, where Germany and Portugal are both ranked in the top four of the FIFA World Rankings. Additionally, Ghana has been a thorn in the Americans' sides in each of the last two World Cups, yet the team remains optimistic heading into Brazil.

"I think we could turn some heads, and that's our main goal," defender Geoff Cameron said. "All 23 guys are on the same page. We're all working for one another and that's our main things; leaving it all out on the field and fighting for one another."

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