United States vs. Portugal: World Cup preview

Graham Zusi
Graham Zusi delivered the corner kick John Brooks headed into the net for the winner against Ghana.
Credit: Getty Images

The United States has perhaps positioned itself to advance to the Round of 16 off its 2-1 win over Ghana on Tuesday.

The national team faces Portugal, a team reeling off a 4-0 loss to Germany in their World Cup opener, on Sunday (6 p.m., ESPN).

The last time these two nations met in the World Cup was in 2002 when the United States pulled of a stunning 3-2 win against what was considered to be at that time the best generation of Portuguese players ever produced.

This is a game the United States can get a result in given Portugal’s recent form and injury woes. But it won’t be easy. Portugal is still relatively deep and overall more talented than the United States, but the Americans can win if they remain compact and take their chances well.

Three reasons the U.S. will succeed …

1. Confidence

After beating Ghana, the nation that knocked them out of the last two World Cup tournaments, the United States has to be feeling better about its prospects to advance. It doesn’t get any easier against Portugal but earning a tie or perhaps a win isn’t out of the question. The Portuguese are currently the No. 4 team in the world according to the FIFA rankings, but they aren’t playing that way now. They will be desperate Sunday, especially early on, and if the Americans hold tight they can get a result.

2. Unpredictable lineup

With Jozy Altidore out due to a hamstring injury and Matt Besler perhaps a bit of a question mark, the roster shuffling could keep Portugal guessing. Does the United States put Aron Johannson up top and try to play more of a possession game? Or is Chris Wondolowski a better fit given his movement off the ball? And with the lack of possession last game, it could be Graham Zusi who could be a good fit in the midfield. John Anthony Brooks, who scored the go-ahead goal on Tuesday as a halftime sub for Besler, figures to get a start on Sunday.

3. Limping in

Portugal is down some serious power in their starting lineup with Pepe suspended and Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida injured. Not to mention Cristiano Ronaldo has missed parts of practice last week leading up to this game. He is supposed to play, but it’s not a good sign considering how important he is to their side.

Three reasons the U.S. will struggle …

1. Portugal is mad

Portugal was hammered 4-0 by Germany in their World Cup opener, and any team that faces them will be up against a team likely to come flying out of the gate. Portugal got a lot of heat from their own media for Tuesday’s result and they want to prove those headlines wrong. They also know a loss likely means they will be eliminated from the tournament. They will be aggressive, so an early mistake by the United States could be costly.

2. Listless Yanks

After Clint Dempsey’s goal in the opening minute, the United States failed to move the ball and attack effectively. They played defense to preserve the lead and Ghana dominated. Against a technically superior side, the United States needs to do better in holding possession. Even with all the injuries, it will be a tough go against Portugal given their skill players’ comfort with the ball at their feet.

3. Depth issues

The United States will need to turn to Wondolowski or Aron Johannsson up top with no Altidore. And along the back line, it would likely be Brooks to get the nod if Besler can’t go. The 21-year-old center back struggled at times against Ghana, even though he scored the game-winner off a set piece. It’s times like this the decision to not put Landon Donovan or Clarence Goodson on the roster looks bad. If another injury happens in this game, the United States may not have a difference maker on the bench.

Follow Metro soccer writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.


Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…


OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…


MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.


Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."


'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.


'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."


TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.


Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”


Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.


Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.


Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…


NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.


The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.