U.S.A. vs. Portugal
2014 FIFA World Cup, Group Stage
Sunday, June 22; 3 pm PT; Arena Amazona; Manaus, Brazil
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision
Clint Dempsey's tournament-opening goal and the critical header from John Brooks that lifted the U.S. to a 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday are still being celebrated from coast to coast. However, the first victory in the Group Stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is long in the rearview mirror for the U.S. National Team.
"Our total focus is on Portugal now. Ghana is far away from us – it's out of our minds," U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We knew it was very important to get those three points. But our mindset is 100-percent on Portugal."
The headline going into the match is the availability of Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, whose knee ailment has made him a question mark for the World Cup. He started and played the full match in an opening loss to Germany, but was again pulled from training this week and Portugal has not been clear if he will be ready to play on Sunday. If Ronaldo is in the lineup, Klinsmann has the option to match the forward’s speed with Sounders FC’s lightning-quick defender DeAndre Yedlin, who was on the bench against Ghana.
Whether he plays or not, the U.S. has a tough task ahead with the No. 4 team in FIFA's World Rankings.
"As a team, we have a lot of respect for Cristiano, he's a great player, but I think you have to have respect for the whole Portugal team. They have a lot of good players," midfielder Jermaine Jones said. "First we will try to make it our own game, look what we can do and not what can Portugal do, or what can Cristiano do. It's up to us for what we want. When we stick together as a team, like we did against Ghana, then I think we have a chance to win this game."
Portugal will play without center back Pepe, who was shown a red card against Germany, and also won't have defender Fabio Coentrao due to injury, diminishing its back line. However, the U.S. won't have forward Jozy Altidore after the hulking striker suffered a hamstring strain against Ghana, limiting America's ability to take advantage of the losses for Portugal.
Klinsmann will likely choose between Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson in that forward spot to pair with Dempsey. Both have shown well in select opportunities, but MLS fans are well aware of the type of player Wondolowski is.
"Chris is somebody you always know what you're going to get and he's a guy who cannot only score a ton of goals but when he doesn't score, he helps your team. He does all these things that don't show up on the stat sheet but he brings it on defense, he brings it on offense, he makes runs that make space for other players," midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "He's just an ultimate team player, and also he can score a goal out of nothing so I'm sure he'll be ready and hungry."
The results from the first matches set the stage for Sunday's showdown in Manaus with both teams having errors to correct. However, the U.S. was able to collect points despite periods of struggle while Portugal was not.
"We've got to do a better job of keeping possession, especially in the final third," Dempsey said following the match. "I think this win will give us some confidence and give us a boost going into the next game."
While the U.S. may feel more confidence because of the win, Portugal is under pressure because of the loss, making them all the more dangerous.
"They are with their backs against the wall, so that makes it even more difficult to get a result," Klinsmann said. "But that's what a World Cup is about. We also have a chance with a win to qualify already. It can't get any better."