Jurgen Klinsmann explains Team USA’s Ugly 4-1 Loss to Ireland

usa-soccer-loses-irelandComing off of their surprise Round of 16 performance in the 2014 World Cup, the USA Men’s National team isn’t exactly following it up with great results. And they hit rock-bottom yesterday after a 4-1 loss to Ireland’s reserve team (A-team benched after 5-0 loss to Scotland).

Now this wasn’t the United States’ A-team either. However, the squad they sent to Dublin shouldn’t have lost by three goals to a country with 4.6 million people either. USA did a poor job of clearing balls and maintaining possession. And their trend of terrible second-half performances continued as they were outscored 3-0 after halftime.

This now makes four straight matches where the Americans have failed to show up in the second half. Following a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic to open international play, the Americans allowed late goals against Honduras and Ecuador (both ending in 1-1 ties), led Columbia 1-0 until giving up two late goals, then allowed the three aforementioned scores to Ireland.

Obviously this isn’t the same team that beat Ghana, tied Portugal, and played both Germany and Belgium tough during the World Cup. And head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a good idea why his team is playing so poorly right now. Klinsmann said the following after the Ireland match:

Bobby Wood“They have to learn emotionally how to digest a World Cup, and a lot of our players really had big problems digesting those extreme emotions. They dropped 20, 30 even 40 percent in performances in their club environment. Many of the Europeans lost their starting spot. Many other players in MLS or wherever went down 30, 40 percent in their performances and this is because they didn’t know how to deal with all these emotions and all that recognition and all the compliments in the world that came after the World Cup. In a certain way it’s human. I mean, it’s understandable. But the former World Cup champion player made clear this shows “we are not there yet. We have quite a way to go.”

Klinsmann also believes that his guys may still be out to vacation after the 2014 World Cup. After citing how stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi take vacations then pick up where they left off, the German-born coach said his players are still adjusting to a new season. “Our players, they went on vacation, they had a good time, they come back and they lost their spots in their clubs,” he said.

Aside from how players still have issues getting back into the feel of soccer, Team USA may have a toughness problem during their World Cup hangover. “We need to get an edge, more nastier. I’m telling you that again. We’ve got to get nastier,” Klinsmann emphasized. “It’s not a negative word. We have to become more physical. We have to hold our ground more, dominant, and send signals out all over the field.”

Sadly, some of the biggest names from the Americans’ Round of 16 run have been playing the worst. Chris Wondolowski and even Fabian Johnson are two names that come to mind right away, as they’ve failed to show the same glimpses of greatness that they occasionally had during the World Cup.

In the end, it sounds like Team USA isn’t used to dealing with the rigors of a tough World Cup run, then hitting the field hard again just weeks later. And without any rest in sight, with club seasons in full swing, the Americans may not get their swagger back until next year.

James Rodriguez to cash in on World Cup Fame with Real Madrid

james-rodriguez-real-madrid-dealJames Rodriguez was definitely the breakout star of the 2014 World Cup. The Colombian midfielder scored six goals, which was more than any other player this summer and the performance earned him the World Cup Golden Boot award. Now it looks like Rodriguez is set to cash in on his spectacular play since Real Madrid will pay a fortune to buy out his contract from AS Monaco.

Rodriguez has agreed to personal terms with Real Madrid for €7.5 million per season, and the only thing left to do is for both teams to come to a financial agreement. According to the Daily Mail, the current holdup seems to be Monaco’s insistence that Real increase their offer from €75 million to €85 million. But regardless of how this all plays out, it seems to be a done deal since Rodriguez is reportedly house shopping in Spain’s capital city.

The main question now is where Rodriguez will fit into Real Madrid’s plans. The front line includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karem Benzema while Real also bought Toni Kroos’ contract from Bayern Munich for $30 million. There’s midfielder Angel di Maria to consider here as well, however, reports suggest that he’ll be sold to make way for Rodriguez. This would put the 23-year-old in a familiar attacking midfielder role with Ronaldo, Bale and Benezema playing ahead of him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Rodriguez performs when he arrives in Madrid. Last season, he only scored nine goals for AS Monaco before emerging as a star and dazzling everybody in Brazil’s World Cup. As Bleacher Report predicts, Rodriguez could one day be looked at as the replacement for Ronaldo’s firepower. The do-it-all Portugal striker dealt with a number of injuries last season, which carried on into the 2014 World Cup. And while Ronaldo very well may bounce back from these injuries, his age doesn’t suggest that he’ll be playing at a world-class level for much longer than 3-4 years.

This is where Rodriguez comes into play because he’s already shown flashes of brilliance, yet still has plenty of room to grow as a player. But as for now, Rodriguez looks to fit into the midfield along with Kroos and Luka Modric.

Ronaldo Finally shows up in 2014 World Cup – Much to USA’s Delight

ronaldo-vs-ghanaCristiano Ronaldo has been an amazing player for Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese National Team, earning himself the consensus “best player in the world” title from many soccer fans and media members. But as great as he is, Ronaldo has struggled in many of his World Cup appearances.

The 2014 World Cup was starting to exemplify this statement as the 29-year-old failed to score in Portugal’s opening Group G match against Germany. Of course, Ronaldo dealt with a nagging knee injury throughout the Cup, but that didn’t take the spotlight off of him as he was largely held in check by a big, physical German defense.

Ronaldo got a lot more chances against USA, but failed to capitalize on any of them. Normally possessing one of the best shots in the game, it seemed as if his knee made him far less accurate. But with less than a minute remaining in the match, Ronaldo did make a brilliant cross to teammate Sylvestre Varela, who headed the ball in and tied the match at 2-2. And while he failed to score a goal against USA, Ronaldo showed in this single play why he’s to be so feared on the pitch.

That tie game really disparaged the Americans, who knew that they could’ve sewn up a place in the knockout round by beating Portugal. But Ronaldo’s cross snatched victory from the US and gave the Portuguese the slimmest of hopes of advancing out of Group G – despite their minus 4 goal difference.

ronaldo-vs-ghana-1Of course, Ghana was the team with the better chance of jumping USA to grab one of Group G’s two knockout round berths. With a minus 1 goal differential, there were several favorable scenarios that saw Ghana advancing if they could beat Portugal, and the US lost to Germany. Well, the latter did happen as the Americans fell to Germany by a score of 1-0. But Ronaldo made sure that there was no Ghanaian victory party.

Ghana started off badly when defender John Boye scored an own goal to put Portugal up 1-0. However, they got new life after Asamoah Gyan headed a ball in to score his sixth-career World Cup goal – making him Ghana’s most prolific scorer in the finals. At this point, the Black Stars needed just one more goal to win the match and put themselves into the knockout round.

However, Ronaldo took advantage of a deflection by Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda that came right to him, allowing “CR7” to boot the shot in from about 12 feet away. This lone goal by Ronaldo wasn’t enough to lift his team out of group play. No, those honors belong to Germany and USA, the latter of which could breath a sigh of relief after Ronaldo’s goal.. But it was still satisfying for a player who’d yet to find the back of the net in Brazil.

Overall, Ronaldo played far better in this match than he did against Germany or USA. He got some good shots on goal, only to be denied by Dauda on several occasions. And there was one header that Dauda blocked which was especially excruciating. But Ronaldo did have a pretty good match overall, including a game winner that he can remember while sitting home watching the rest of the 2014 World Cup.

USA ties Portugal – Contemplating Scenarios to Advance

team-usa-group-of-deathWe and countless other news outlets had discussed last night’s big match between USA and Portugal from many different angles. On one side, you had the young, but scrappy Americans who were coming off a big 2-1 victory against their rivals, Ghana. Then there was Portugal, a normally powerful team with the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, Ronaldo was banged up and three important Portuguese players missed the game with injuries/red cards. So who won this much-discussed match?

Well, it’s very possible that you’ve seen that it ended in a 2-2 tie. There was nothing anti-climatic about this tie, though, as Ronaldo floated a beautiful pass to Silvestre Varelain, who headed the ball in with less than a minute of stoppage time remaining. Despite Ronaldo’s excellent pass to give Portugal a glimmer of hope of reaching the knockout round, it wasn’t his best effort.

He missed several good opportunities to score a goal, including one where he got ahead on the right side of the flank, only to cut himself off from a better shot and miss wide right. There were several other chances where he just couldn’t put the ball in the net. To anybody who was watching the game, it was clear that the Real Madrid’s knee problem limited his impact.

If you want to talk about missed opportunities, though, USA missed big time in not winning this match. Nani pushed a shot past a falling Tim Howard to put Portugal up early in the match The score would remain 1-0 until Jermaine Jones nailed a beautiful hooking shot from outside of the box. With less than 10 minutes left in regulation, Clint Dempsey used his midsection to score what had the feel of a match winner.

ronaldo-usaAfter several squandered opportunities by Portugal, it looked as if the Red, White and Blue would win their second match in a row and automatically advance to the knockout round. However, that’s when Ronaldo found Varelain for a last-second goal.

It was a hot, humid game that was filled with mistakes on both sides. Of course, one might give these teams a pass considering that Manaus, which is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, reached 84 degrees with 70% humidity. The heat was so bad that officials called for a water break before halftime, the first time that this has happened in the history of the World Cup.

That said, USA could have a tougher time recovering for when they face Germany on Thursday, June 26th. So you might want to take this factor into account for USA vs Germany betting. Now, let’s take a look at some scenarios that American fans should be hoping for if their team is to advance to the knockout round.

Current Group G Standings

Germany: 1 W, 1 D, 0 L; 4 Points, +4 Goal Differential
USA: 1 W, 1 D, 0 L, 4 Points, +1 Goal Differential
Ghana 0 W, 1 D, 0 L, 1 Point, -1 Goal Differential
Portugal 0 W, 1 D, 0 L, 1 Point, -4 Goal Differential

USA can advance with a Win or Tie against Germany

For the US, it’s simple: win or tie and you’re in. Of course, it won’t be so simple because they’re facing a German team that some predict will win the 2014 World Cup. Don’t count on Germany taking it easy either in the third and final group play game either because they have a lot at stake. Assuming they win or tie, they’ll face a second-place finisher from another group. You can certainly bet, though, that USA won’t be rolling over for a more talented squad.

USA can advance with a Loss and Ghana/Portugal Tie

Nobody dreams of backing into the next round. However, the US would take such a scenario given the German team that they’re facing. Assuming Portugal and Ghana tie, the Americans would be into the knockout stage no matter what.

USA can advance with a Loss and beating the Winner of Ghana vs Portugal on Goal Differential

This is another not-so-glamorous scenario because it again involves USA losing. But assuming the Germans do win, USA will be hoping for the winner of the Ghana/Portugal match to finish worse on the goal differential. The best-case scenario would involve the Portuguese winning because they’re five goals behind the US in this statistic. If Ghana wins and USA loses, the Ghanaians would have a very realistic chance to advance. Check out the math on this below:

Ghana wins by 1, USA loses by 1 – Most goals scored is the tie-breaker
Ghana wins by 2 or more, USA loses – Ghana advances
Ghana wins by 1, USA loses by 2 or more – Ghana advances

As you can see, the margin is slim for the United States if they lose and Ghana wins. Of course, we certainly can’t count out Portugal from jumping the US either. Ronaldo and his side won a game against the North Koreans by a score of 7-0 in the 2010 World Cup. But then again, Ghana is definitely no North Korea…

Any way you put it, the Americans would definitely do themselves a huge favor by simply winning or tying their next match against Germany. This is no small feat, that’s for sure. But it’s not completely out of reach either for a team that desperately wants to advance to the knockout round.

USA vs Portugal Betting Preview

usa-portugal-world-cupGTBets.eu Line (June 20th):

When 2014 World Cup groups were drawn, the US Men’s National Team was facing pretty grim prospects. Sure, they were ranked 14th by FIFA at the time. But they were facing two of FIFA’s top three teams in Portugal and Germany. Add in Ghana, the team that had knocked them out of the last two World Cups, and they were looking at a very difficult task.

Fast-forward to now and what once looked like the Group of Death is looking more like the group of hope. Thanks to an 86th-minute header by reserve defender John Brooks, USA beat their nemesis, Ghana, by a score of 2-1, which has put them atop Group G along with Germany.

Next up is Portugal in a match that could very well decide if the US advances to the knockout round, or if they’ll need some help and an excellent performance against Germany’s powerhouse team. America and Portugal face off on Sunday (June 22nd) at 3:00pm in the heat and humidity of Manaus. That said, let’s take a closer look at this matchup, including the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.

USA: Sharpening their Play is a Must

clint-dempsey-ghanaStrengths – Clint Dempsey got the United States off to a hot start by scoring the fifth quickest goal in World Cup history. Coming from the left flank, he made a marvelous move to the inside and booted the shot in. From here, USA held Ghana for the next 81 minutes, until striker Asamoah Gyan delivered a perfect back heel to André Ayew, who knocked the shot past US keeper Tim Howard.

With the score at 1-1, the Americans finally took to the offensive, which resulted in a corner kick that Brooks headed in for the game-defining score. After a victory over their rivals, confidence is sky-high on the American side and this is one of their greatest attributes.

Another plus for USA is that they feature a scrappy, bend-but-don’t-break defense that held Ghana for most of the match. This is no small feat when you consider that the Ghanaians are among the fastest teams at the 2014 World Cup. Assuming they can show the same amount of effort against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, they have an excellent shot of at least tying the game, if not winning.

One more strength worth mentioning is their head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s seen and coached some of the best, including the German team that finished third in the 2006 World Cup. The hard-driving coach is great at motivating his squad and getting the most out of them. Plus, he came up with a pretty good gameplan against Ghana. Can he do the same against Portugal?

Weaknesses – Despite beating Ghana, there was plenty for Klinsmann to pick apart. Aside from the quick goal and beautiful move by Dempsey, the US didn’t put together a very good offensive effort. Their passing was among the sloppiest seen out of any team this summer and they didn’t do a very good job of maintaining possession. This is a huge reason why the Americans were constantly facing pressure from Ghana.

michael-bradley-world-cupAnother problem was the play of midfielder of Michael Bradley. The AS Roma man is one of the best players on this team, however, he looked far from that against Ghana. Bradley made a lot of poor passes and didn’t defend well either. He really needs to come back stronger against Portugal for USA to maintain possession better.

As for injuries, striker Jozy Altidore is out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring injury. And his replacement, Icelandic-American Aron Jóhannsson, didn’t look too impressive in his relief. Dempsey’s broken nose could also be a minor factor since he’ll probably be playing with a mask.

Portugal needs to Battle through Injuries

Strengths – The strength of Portugal lies with their star, Cristiano Ronaldo. Often called the best player in the world, Ronaldo is always a threat to score multiple goals. He showed this with a hat trick in a 4-2 aggregate playoff victory over Sweden that powered the Team of Shields into the 2014 Cup.

Another player to watch for on the Portuguese side is midfielder João Moutinho. He didn’t exactly have the best season for Monaco, however, he’s an exceptional passer who’s just waiting to wake up. Assuming he and Ronaldo are both on versus USA, the American side could be in a lot of trouble.

cristiano-ronaldo-world-cupWeaknesses – Whatever injury concerns that the US has are nothing compared to Portugal. Ronaldo is dealing with a lingering knee issue that’s prevented him from being 100%. Then there’s defender Fabio Coentrao, who will miss the rest of the 2014 World Cup with a groin injury. Coentrao’s injury only hurts worse when you consider that Pepe, the team’s best defender, will also be out against the US after receiving a red card against Germany. If this isn’t bad enough, injured forward Hugo Almeida is likely to miss the rest of the group stage.

Besides all of the injuries, another problem for Portugal will be confidence. They’re coming off of a disastrous 4-0 loss to Germany. To consider the possible effects of this, look at defending champ Spain, which lost 5-1 to the Netherlands, only to follow this up with a 2-0 loss to Chile. Some might say the demolishing by Germany might motivate the Portuguese. But it could easily go the other way too.

USA vs Portugal Betting Prediction

If there were no injuries to account for in this match, Portugal would be the favorite. However, they’ll be without three starters due to injuries and Pepe’s red card, meaning USA will have an easier go of it. The key will be for the Americans to play their best soccer against a depleted team. They’ll also need to take notes on how Germany held Ronaldo in check. Since Ronaldo has less support going into the match, we like the US.

Prediction: USA wins 2-1

USA’s “Group of Death” Now looking a Bit Easier

team-usa-group-of-deathThe US Men’s National Team must have been pretty bad leading up to Christmas of 2013. After all, they got about the worst gift a soccer team could receive last December after being drawn into a group with Germany, Ghana and Portugal. Quickly dubbed the “Group of Death,” Germany and Portugal are ranked in FIFA’s top four while Ghana has knocked USA out of the last two World Cups.

This being said, it’s no wonder why head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was quick to proclaim his group “the worst of the worst.” But due to recent developments, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for USMNT as they prepare for their opening match against Ghana. That’s because Group G has taken some big hits, most notably Germany and Portugal’s injury struggles. It’s for this reason why some believe that it’s a toss-up between Group B and Group D for the current 2014 World Cup Group of Death.

So what’s changed from December until now, just one day before the Cup begins? To answer this question, let’s take a look at some updated Group G previews.

Germany – Ranked second in FIFA’s rankings and favored by some to usurp Spain as the new World Cup champions, Germany suffered a huge blow when midfielder Marco Reus tore a ligament in his left ankle. The injury comes at a terrible time to Germany’s 2012 Footballer of the Year since he won’t play a single minute in Brazil. This team has loads of talent so don’t be surprised if Germany still wins Group G and advances far in the tournament. However, the loss of Reus is puts a chink in Germany’s seemingly impenetrable armor.

kwadwo-asamoah-world-cupGhana – There are no major injuries to report from Ghana’s side. And this is certainly a formidable team, as they showed in 2010 by making it to the Cup quarterfinals. But then again, this is no Germany…they’re not even the top squad in Africa. No, that honor would belong to 2013 African Nations Cup champ Nigeria, which the US beat 2-1 a few days ago. USA will have to watch out for Ghana’s strong midfield, led by their star player, Kwadwo Asamoah. But overall, this is definitely a beatable team.

Portugal – The Portuguese have one advantage in this tournament that other teams just can’t match – Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s best player. At times, Ronaldo carries this squad, as he showed by scoring three goals in a World Cup-qualifying playoff match against Sweden. The Real Madrid striker is coming into the Cup with left patellar tendinosis – a injury that features weak collagenous fibers in a tendon. Long story short, Ronaldo risks further injury to his ailing knee every second that he’s on the pitch in Brazil.

michael-bradley-world-cupUSA – Okay, so this article is overly pro-USA, so let’s look at what the Americans have to deal with. This team is considered very much a wild card in Group G since Klinsmann kept a lot of younger players on the 23-man roster. So inexperience could be a major issue with some of the American substitutes. Of course, there’s also the whole thing about Klinsmann thinking that his team has no chance to win the Cup. We don’t totally disagree with him on this assessment. However, with strong leaders like midfielder Michael Bradley and striker Clint Dempsey, USMNT does look like they at least have an opportunity to advance out of Group G.