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USMNT seeks improvement, but cites early goal in struggles vs. Ghana

Tim Howard

Photo by John Todd/


SAO PAULO — There has been a recurring theme coming out of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s camp over the past two days, and it is that Clint Dempsey’s lightning-fast goal versus Ghana was definitely a blessing but also somewhat of a curse.

Make no mistake about it, the Americans are more than thrilled Dempsey scored 30 seconds into their 2-1 win on Monday. But they also believe that the sixth-fastest goal in World Cup history played a key part in seeing them struggle to get on the front foot against a Ghana team that held possession for large stretches over the course of the 90 minutes at Arena das Dunas.

“I think it’s a little bit funny, the way you think about it, the fact that we scored so early on, obviously it’s great to get things started,” said midfielder Alejandro Bedoya on Tuesday. “But at the same time it kind of messes up your game plan because you have sort of a natural tendency when you’re up a goal to (say), ‘Okay, you’re up 1-0. Let’s try and protect this lead.’

“It sort of messes up with you how we wanted to high press or keep the intensity, high tempo up. It sounds weird, funny to say that that goal affected that, but there’s definitely things we need to work on offensively, combine better and just get in better positions.”

Veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard echoed those sentiments hours earlier in Natal.

“When I was at Everton, we scored early in a cup final and your natural human nature is, once you score goals, to drop back because you don’t have to get a goal,” said Howard. “You have it, so the urgency isn’t there and that can be dangerous.”

While the U.S. would undoubtedly prefer to be up a goal than down one at the start of a match, it knows it needs to have a better response to the eventual waves of attacks that will come its way. After all, it’s only natural for trailing teams to try and take the game to their opponents in search of an equalizer.

What hurt the Americans and where they surprisingly failed for large parts on Monday’s game was in keeping possession. Too many times did they stymie a Ghana foray before cheaply giving it back with a weakly-weighted or ill-advised pass.

The U.S. knows that it needs to improve drastically in that regard if it wishes to have a chance of beating a Portugal side that is in desperate need of points and goals after suffering an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Germany. If that fails, maybe being more direct and lumping the ball forward is an approach that Klinsmann considers.

“We tried so much to play out of our back,” said midfielder Graham Zusi. “I think at times we can put the ball in their end and go up and pressure them as well, so I think that’s a thing we can improve on, but just also protecting the ball more. I think we gave it away a bit too easily, but a lot times that’s what it’s like in the first game of a tournament like this.”

Taking a more direct approach would go against what Klinsmann has tried to build over his three years in charge of the U.S. program and would be tough to execute successfully given Jozy Altidore’s likely absence. But being able to have that weapon in the arsenal could help the Americans, especially if they find themselves facing an onslaught of attacks and struggling to connect passes.

Six days separate the U.S.’s first two group games, but Klinsmann decided late on Tuesday to give his team the day off on Wednesday. The preparations for Portugal will resume on Thursday, and there is admittedly plenty to work on for Klinsmann and company.

“We said it (Monday night) after the game that there were certainly things that we need to improve, certainly things that went not as well as we wanted it,” said Klinsmann. “But that gives us even more hope going into Portugal because we know that we didn’t play to the best of our capabilities but we still won this game. Now, we’re going to go to Manaus and if we kind of go to the best level that we can play, then its’ going to be difficult for Portugal.”


Think the early lead accounts for some of the USMNT’s struggles on Monday? Expecting better possession and combination play now that first-game jitters are out of the way? Will a day of rest help the team come out sharp and fresh on Sunday?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Remember — always play as if the game is tied. Although I do like the comment to Portugal to let us score first as an option to messing with the US minds. Think the Portuguese are reading this site?

  2. Reposting what I wrote in the comments of the injury update thread. But I honestly think it might be a GREAT move to play GREEN up top with Demps on Sunday. Hear me out:

    With Jozy out, and nary a Boyd or a Johnson on the roster we will not play the ball over the top to our holding ST/CF. But rather what I expect to see is a ground game, short passes, from players that have the motor to move.

    Our opponent in Portugal is reckless in dangerous challenges, and oft to lose their heads fairly easily. Green, although not the physically strongest player on our bench – is one of the fastest, and quick enough where the fouls on him should be plentiful. Pairing him on top with Clint, or having him play just above Clint might make for some very interesting link up play. Homeboy (Green) should only be used as a forward, is a liability as a LM.

    • Demspey doesn’t work hard enough for that to happen. Not a knock on Dempsey, but his work rate is not high enogh to compensate for Green. Due to Green’s size, you cannot just hoof the ball up to him like we do to Altidore. Someone would have to be there to get the ball and then give it to Green. Dempsey likes to sit behind Altidore and get the pass after Altidore has controlled it. You would be asking Dempsey to play a role he does not partiularly like or play well in and we can see how that did not work with Tottenham. It is an interesting idea, but until Green bulks up or Dempsey changes his playing style (something he has struggled to do in the past) then I do not thnk this would work.

  3. Anyone think maybe Bedoya could play up top with Deuce? He’s played as a forward with Nantes a few times and he does have the aggression necessary to put a good deal of pressure on the already weakened Portuguese back-line, so I can’t completely rule this out. Just a thought. Anyone agree? Disagree?

  4. There is no replacement for Jozy, none! Need a different game plan and it can not mucking it up in midfield and hoping to luck out on a set piece.

    It is Julian Green time, if we want to have a chance, it has to be!

  5. (posted in another thread, but relevant here as well)

    I’d prefer moving Dempsey to the top and packing the midfield into a 4-5-1 look very similar to the 4-2-3-1 that Klinsmann seems to prefer for the US. I think we see this.


    I think Davis plays and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Klinsmann would not waste a roster spot unless he had plans for Davis and I think this was the game he had in mind. We saw Portugal struggle with Germany’s long passing and crossing, and that is why Davis is in the squad. Yedlin is the shocker, and Klinsmann always likes to add a wrinkle. I think Klinsmann will want (and the team will need) his pace in defense, and we will definitely need a defensive midfield to cope with Portugal’s possession play. The good news is that Portugal will let us have the ball because they don’t want to press and tire themselves out. If things go well and we get an early goal or two, we can take off Mix or Bradley and put Rastaman in there to play the destroyer. Jones might have to come off with a yellow card because Klinsmann will undoubtedly tell him to be physical with CR7 when he tries to attack the back 4. One solid knock on that sore knee and he will wilt.

    If things go poorly, and we give up one or two early goals. We can pull off one or two of those midfielders and put in Johannsson and Green to run at the backline and leave Dempsey roaming underneath.

    Like I said before, I think we play well and get some goals. Portugal might have the “wounded animal” need to attack, but we have the “mix of young and old coming together to win dramatically” edge going for us. We get our goals, but end up conceding the draw late in the match. The draw will not hurt morale because we know it will be enough to put us through to the next round. The final match will be a nice Sunday kickabout.

    • After that display on Monday, there is absolutely no way that Klinsmann would, or should, change 3 of his back 4 (except in case of injury). Essentially replacing Beckerman with Diskerud means that you’re changing 4 of your last 5 defenders right after they defended unbelievably well against a strong opponent. You are also taking our most dangerous defender who has been a terror at RB in his last 4 games and shifting his position. Finally, you are pitting our most inexperienced defender against the best (albeit hobbled) player on the planet. No’s all around.

      I would prefer your lineup exactly if the back line went Beasley (or Chandler), Besler, Cameron, Johnson.

      • I wouldn’t trot Besler out after he pulled up lame. Brooks was stellar given the circumstances of his introduction. No reason not to make him the starter. Besler being out makes Beasley less of a necessity (their communication was better than any other LCB/LB partnership. There’s plenty of reason to give him a chance to rest when the next best option is still pretty good. Fabian is just as dangerous on the left as he is on the right, and has played there several times for both club and country.

        Klinsmann has shown he is willing to make shakeups on the short term. I won’t be upset if we start the same back 4, I just think Besler sits meaning Beasley sits making Fabian our best LB and Yedlin’s pace on the opposite side can manage Portugal’s speed on the wings. If I’m wrong, no big deal.

      • If pace was all a RB needed to stop Ronaldo then he wouldn’t be the best player in the world. We need our best defensive option not just our fastest. I’d go with Fabian at RB or Chandler at RB and Fabian at LB.

  6. I know everyone was thinking LD would have helped us during the last game but i couldn’t help but think what would have been if Brek Shea’s game didn’t slump so much. He has the size speed and strength to make Ghana or any team reconsider pressing the LW like that. He would have been excellent in front of Beasley. I can only imagine.

      • Problem….I’m not so sure he is. Does he have the tools/potential? Yes, but there have been a lot of players who had those.

    • Shea hurt himself by playing himself out of contention ( or rather NOT PLAYING himself out of contention)
      An example of not being self aware and over assessing himself. If he would have been on the field anywhere, he may have had a shot to make the 30. And it’s not like JK didn’t give him chances: he rated him, called him in when a lot of people didn’t think he would be, and kept talking about him as being valuable.
      But he regressed- his 1st touch went from brick to concrete. And he had a year + to overcome that injury…
      A lotta people predicted him as the x factor…looks like Green got that call….

      • Yeah and clearly Green should not even see the pitch. We have something like what happened to Jozy or Besler happen to a LM/LW and we will be praying that we had Shea (or HELL DONOVAN)…. Davis and Green are good players, Davis is experienced and Greem is Beyond Promising, however at this current point in time neither of them are better or more useful than Brek or LD…. look at whatever you want, say whatever you want, it’s tough to argue… We all know what LD does, we have seen it hundreds of times, apparantly JK hates him and their beef is bigger than we all thought… And Brek hasnt played a lot, got in trouble, had some injuries, etc, etc, but he still would have been and IS our BEST super sub. His performances when getting the start have not been great, but when he comes off the bench in the 2nd half he ALWAYS troubles defenders and CREATES opportunites… why not bring that to the WC???

      • A. I said nothing about Donovan, that wasn’t the question, the question was about Shea.
        B. Considering that JK was a big fan of Shea, if he was worth a crap he would have at least made the 30.
        C. How do you know anything about Shea’s form, he’s hardly played in a year, and when he did he stunk in the Championship
        D. You do realize he could only call in 30,
        E. If EJ couldn’t make the 30 because he’s played like crap all year, what makes you think Shea would have been rated higher
        F. Just because Shea made some plays a few years ago doesn’t mean anything today.
        G. In case you don’t recall, Shea looked like dog poop the last few times we actually did see him.
        H. The last two goals he scored for us were amazing tap ins when someone else shanked a ball in the direction of the goal
        I. To make statements such as “always gives defenders trouble” or “is our best sub” are your opinions.. which you’re entitled to.. No matter how incorrect they may be…

        With all of those factors… He shouldn’t even be in this conversation… but since JK is the Devil, we must find a new reason to crucify him daily..huh

  7. Can someone explain to me why Klinsmann makes 2.5 million to coach? I have made it clear I am not his biggest fan, yet I still see him as a succesful coach for the USA. But so succesful that he makes more than 4 times our last coach made? The USMNT of 2010 and the USMNT of 2014 are not very far apart in skill or ability. There has not been much change in playing style. The only thing that changed substancially was the depth, something Klinsmann had very little to do with (I will give him credit for Johnson and Brooks; Green doesn’t count because he does not play). It kinda angers me that we pay him so much, yet he has not accomplished all that much.

    If he was making 500,000 or even 1 million I would feel a little better, but 2.5 million is absurd when he has not done that much.

    • Klinsmann is worth the $$. Their were Ghanian fans saying they would have won the game if Klinsmann was their coach. Truth is in the top level soccer world $2.5 million is really nothing. The real crime is how Asamoah Gyan makes 50 times more than Matt Besler.

      • He’s not worth the money. He divided the nation’s fans and the team looked awful in their match. That performance only resulted in a win because of Ghana’s ineptitude, not our class. We need a player who could lead and calm down the game and create space for our attackers and midfielders – Landon Donovan was that player.

      • I mean, Steve Kerr did just get a 5 yr 25 mil contract to coach a team….and he has never coached a day in his life!

    • dude, it’s 2014, big names cost more money than non big names. there is no rationality to pay structures in sport, curves on salaries are exponential, not linear. see ncaa football, nfl, any European soccer league, i could go on and on. hell, david moyes is being paid millions NOT to coach man U for the next several years

    • Well he did take a ,at the time, struggling Germany side to a 3rd place finish in 06. So he has done something. He also is a huge name and personality in the game worldwide, so he wasn’t going to take 500k. Personally I could care less, it’s not like we are talking about 10-12 mil/yr here. As long as he is successful and proves he is worth the money, then why should I complain, so far he hasn’t let us down.

      • I was talking about with the USA. I feel like he has not let us down, but at the same time not prove that he is worth the money.

      • Well most coaches/players haven’t proved anything with the team they just signed their contract with and his 2.5 is nothing especially compared to top club coaches.

      • But it is something compared to other National Team Coaches. Club Coaches do so much more than National Team Coaches too.

      • Remember he is not just paid to coach the national team. Unlike his predecessors, he is also paid to oversee the entire U.S. soccer hierarchy.

      • I forgot about that. How much did the guy who had that job before him make? ID be interested to see what his salary combined with Bob Bradleys was compared to Klinsmann’s now.

      • I don’t think it’s as simple as adding the two salaries. With Klinsmann’s name, experience, and job duties (x2), I’d say $2.5M /year is about right.

    • Lol, beating ghana was not that much? Bradley couldn’t do it. Gold cup win not that much? Bradley couldn’t do it.

      • Bradley did win the gold cup though.

        Not beating Ghana back then was just as similar to beating Ghana today. They scored on a clearance our defender was just out muscled. We beat Ghana because one of our defenders out muscled there’s on a corner. A different approach to the game in 2014 didn’t cause us to win this year. Both years had very similar approaches to it. Only difference was that instead of one of our defenders getting beat out of nothing, it was there’s.

        Not saying I do not like the win, it was amazing, just saying people who claim it was in drastically better than the last time we played are wrong. Plus, Ghana of past were definitely better than Ghana of present.

        I guess I just enjoyed the team under Bradley than compared to Klinsmann. Just a little sour.

      • I don’t think that its how much Klinsmann’s salary is; it’s how how Bradley’s salary was. $500K to coach a national team is insultingly low.

        Also, Capello is getting $11.5M.

    • Why do you care so much? It costs you nothing to cheer and support. It’s not as if it’s your tax dollars hard at work, here. This is a non-issue.

      • Yes, spending the money on developing players instead of over paying a coach is not an issue? 3 million dollars extra is not necessarily chump change. It could be put to good use, like hiring a better youth coach or building a stadium for the USYNT. Spending money to just spend money is kind of stupid.

        It also costs me around 45 bucks a month to afford Cable to watch, 80 dollars if I go to a game, 120 dollars if I get a jersey with a name, and up to 30 dollars if I go out to watch with fellow USA fans. If I am spending money on a product or organization or spending money to support a product or organization, I’d like them to spend there money wisely to make themselves the best they can be. And definitely not just throw money around to try and look cool (like I feel like they are doing).

      • He has been coaching for three years. So if we paid him a more reasonable number like 1.5 million, there would have been 3 million dollars more in the USSoccer’s reserve.

      • You don’t have to have cable. That’ll save you your precious $45. Don’t go to games. Instead, watch from home and make that $45 work for you. Don’t buy a jersey, save $120. These are all your choices, my fellow USMNT supporter, and you make them freely. Obviously, we support the same cause here, however, I just don’t see how JK’s salary is relevant, no matter how much money you CHOOSE to invest in our boys or the program. I would give JK 5 million a year and still not care because it’s not about the money, it’s about the effort, hours, and passion JK puts in, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that this man works hard! Sunil didn’t spend money “just to spend money.” He was investing in a product, just like you invest in your cable bill, your USMNT tix, & your jersey (with a name on it).

        Still a non-issue

      • Really?

        As long as you put in the effort, hours, and passion then you deserve a lucrative pay check? Even if your end product is only slightly above average? I mean I guess thats one type of business model, however to me it doesnt sound like a very good one. I mean most of us on this site would match Klinsmann effort, hours, and passion if we were given the reigns to the USMNT. The defference would be end results. And I just dont see him getting the end results justifying his paycheck.

        Gulati invested in a product, but is the product worth the price? At what point do you either renegoitate the price of that product or just cut ties with it? After the USA doesn’t get out of its group? When he causes three hamstring injuries in 1 game? When the coach divides a nation by not inviting many (maybe not yours tho) Americans favorite soccer player of all time? When he demotivates many by saying that the USA cannot win the World Cup? Just things to think about when you pay some one so much.

        And yes, I choose to spend that money to support the USMNT and as a result I would hope the USsoccer would repay me in that trust with smart decisions for now and the future. It doesn’t seem like paying Klinsmann so much is a smart decision for now or the future.

      • The end product on the field has exponentially more to do with the players on the field and the talent they possess than the man in the coaches’ box. But now that we know it was JK who caused those 3 injuries, I guess I agree with you. Thank you for that assertion.

        I think the only people JK “demotivated” was the casual fan: the guy or gal who knows LD & maybe Clint exist, and will only watch the WC if the USMNT advances.

      • I posted this the other day: every webpage I visited in the last week that had some type of fan survey gave JK a 75-80% positive review. There was an espn one, USA today, bleacher report, and a few others. But the Lalas and company media would lead one to believe otherwise

    • Have you seen the Deadspin map where states are color-coded based on the occupation of that state’s highest paid public employee? 3/4 of the sates are football or basketball coaches.

      • coaches are the highest paid public employees in this country. Klinsmann’s salary is not outrageous considering what he’s being asked to do to bring the U.S. developmental system into the 21st century.

      • I guess it may be too early for me to judge him on this. This project will obviosuly take a few years so it will be interested to see if he was worth the money in like 5 to 10 years.

  8. From Twitter:
    “@EwanMacKenna: Rumours – unconfirmed may I add – here in press centres in Brazil that Cristiano Ronaldo is out of the World Cup.”

    IF true, question is, better or worse for USA? I feel like arguments can be made both ways.

  9. I think its usual to see improvement in team’s second game after the opening match jitters wear off. Hopefully this holds true for us. I know we are drastically better with the ball going forward then we displayed against Ghana
    I think considering our options with Jozy out this line up is very possible:


    I see MB playing very attacking (and hopefully improved) in this situation and the possibility of bringing on Mix for Kb if the creativity is lacking.

    • This is ok, with one major improvement to the backline:

      Our left side was the weakest area on Monday and Ghana repeated exploited it. We need to shore up that side against a better team who will see this obvious weakness and are more likely to take advantage.

    • I agree… the wings will need more cover due to Nani and Crissy being there…they’ll take turns turning Beasley inside out, and they’ll flop the moment JJ breathes on them-so better have at least two people providing cover and a third (JJ or Beckerman) in the likely case they get through the inital hallenges

    • most definitely. just see mexico’s second game. bradley will improve, and i do think this lineup is likely. ives seems to think AJ will be starting in jozys place and everything else the same, but i hope he is wrong. we would be much better off with a strong, possession-oriented 5 midfielders and zusi’s set piece capability, which proved huge for us. he would be the odd man out if AJ were to start. i would be fine with this lineup, the possession and cleaner midfield performance would still allow for opportunities to score against a disoriented portugal backline, and we always have mix for the second half if things are too stale….

    • I think this is the lineup we have to play. Keeps Beckerman and Jones in front of the defense, gives Bradley the freedom to attack, and gives us two actual wingers which we will desperately need.

    • It could work, but the problem I see is the two DM element. The two DMs need to stay home, otherwise, the “2nd DM” offers only a false sense of security. Jones will not likely stay home, so Beckerman would end up playing centrally anyway. I think your player selection actually plays out like the formation we’ve seen:


      I’m not patient enough to display it right, but imagine Zusi in the role Bedoya had last week, albeit on Ronaldo’s “side” (yes, I know he moves) and hanging a bit higher as a wide outlet. This allows us a man advantage on that side, which we could exploit in defense and in attack. I like Zusi and Jones working the right side, as well as the idea of Zusi switching fields to Bedoya or playing up to Deuce or MB.

      Mix is the first sub, for either Jones, Bedoya, or (if Jones is too tired to play anywhere but the 6) Beckerman, with the necessary positional shifts. Mix could play high up right (take Zusi’s spot), but I think we would have Zusi go left, have MB slide right, and put Mix at the top of the diamond. Ideal other subs would be Chandler (for Beas) and Brooks for Besler, or even Cameron.

      Have at it.

      • 2 biggest reasons we couldn’t hold the ball were the surprising loss of Altidore and Bradley’s sloppiness on the ball. We should be better prepared to deal without Jozy, and Bradley should improve as well. Not terribly worried about that. Very curious to see how we protect Beasley better though. Ghana clearly targeted our left. They got in some promising positions and thankfully settled for hitting hopeful crosses rather than looking to combine into the box. Portugal won’t make the same mistake.

      • I was actually pleased with Beasley’s play. Was he spectacular? No. But he kept the Ghanians in front of him and they were more than happy to cross all day long. I’ll take that any day of the week over RunDMB playing them tightly and allowing Ghana to get in behind him on occasion and forcing our CBs to come out and defend them 1v1.

        I agree that Portugal is a different story entirely, but for the Ghana game I thought it was a good strategy.

      • I think he struggled a bit, however the Ghanians overloaded his side which would make it difficult on any defender. The bigger problem was the lack of protection he had from the midfield at times.

        Like you said, Ghana seemed happy to cross the ball all day. Strange tactics considering the strength of our CBs in the air. If Ghana had made smarter decisions on the ball I think we would have seen a few more dangerous chances from the left. Obviously Portugal has seen this as well and will look to exploit it. Very curious to see how Klinsmann chooses to protect our left.

      • I like Bradley, but he had a bad game – too many cheap giveaways and his decision-making on the ball was uncharacteristically bad. Defensively he worked hard and was generally OK (Jones and Beckerman were better), but he had so many turnovers when he had the ball. Michael Bradley was not the sole culprit as our midfield was pretty much overrun an Ghana kept us pinned back for most of the game. As Ronaldinho noted, Ghana’s strange tactics played into our strengths, but we still beat Ghana by the skin of our teeth. Better teams will punish us if we play like this. However, three points are three points and Portugal will be forced to attack us rather than playing their preferred counterattacking style.

      • I don’t think we will struggle to counter attack Portugal for the reasons I noted above. We will adjust our shape slightly to keep chances at a minimum, Bradley will undoubtedly improve and we have time to figure our our attack without Jozy.
        Portugal is definitely a dangerous team and will improve, but I am just as confident we will improve as well.

      • To clarify that a bit, there was no way we could have been prepared to have our key player (Bradley)have a poor game offensively, lose Altidore 22 mins in and Dempsey get his face smacked 30 mins in which really limited his ability to breathe.

        If you had told me those 3 things would happen I’d have given us very slim odds to win.

      • I think you have to give Ghana credit for keeping our midfield from successfully passing in the middle. They used 2 defensive mids in front of 4 backs. That coupled with AJ’s inability to show for the ball very well and Clint being, well dazed, it left very little for the midfielders to pick out in the way of forward passes and that left them trying things under a bit of pressure with no clean passing lanes. I actually think it might have been interesting to see a dribbler like Greene go at them to see if he could upset Ghana’s organization a bit.

      • Agreed, that’s how I viewed Beasley’s performance as well. It was ugly, but he generally recovered and most importantly, a goal didn’t come as a result of his marking. Now does he need to step up his game against Portugal? Definitely. Portugal’s wingers are of course far more adept at crossing. That’s why it actually might be useful to start Chandler, since he is fresh and will have speed in bunches to track.

      • I don’t think we should change anything because of 1 below average game. Beasley earned his spot by giving us many quality performances at left back. No need to change things now considering he wasn’t THAT bad. Just wasn’t at his best

      • The change wouldn’t happen because of how Beasley played; it would happen because Beasley is likely not as a “fresh” as Chandler is at this point, and when we are talking about Portugal, we’ll need all the fresh legs we can get.

      • I know I’m in the minority, but I was very happy with Beasley as well. Ghana are blazing fast and were flooding the left. There were times they made space for themselves, but he never got beat outright, was able to force them inside into help. Most importantly, he wasn’t passed on the first move… it took 2, 3 moves and allowed the defense time to get back and organize easily handle crosses coming in. If he can continue to do that, I think we are ok.

      • You could add the Dempsey being unable to breathe cut down his effectiveness dramatically. Had Jozy not gone out early it would probably have been a good idea to sub Clint out

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