Sunday, June 22, 2014

USMNT-Portugal: In-Game Matchups Preview

It's USMNT game day and here are a few match ups you should watch for against Portugal:

  • The center back pairing to replace Pepe and possibly also Bruno Alves:
    • Pepe, probably the second most recognizable Portuguese national team player behind Cristiano Ronaldo, will not play today due to a red card he earned versus Germany. The volatile defender headbutted German forward/midfielder/anything Thomas Mueller and was shown a straight red card by the referee. Without Pepe, Portugal will look to Ricardo Costa, who entered the Germany game to fill the spot left empty by Pepe's send off, or Neto, a center defender for Russian club Zenit. It's a possibility that Portugal will be forced to use both of their back up center backs because of an injury that Alves suffered during training, according to multiple reports. If so, Portugal will rely on two slower and lesser quality center backs to deal with whatever forwards the US chooses to play tonight. Even if Alves is able to play, it would be an issue for Portugal. Pairing him with either Neto or Costa leaves the center of their defense in slow motion.  
  • Ronaldo all by himself:
    • Hugo Almeida may not play, meaning that Ronaldo could potentially move to a central forward or striker role, a position he's not nearly as influential playing out of for club or country. Ronaldo played strictly on the left side under Bento in the European World Cup Qualifiers, as The Shin Guardian pointed out on Twitter. Forcing Ronaldo centrally would most likely place Nani on the left, a place where anyway who has watched him recently at Manchester United does not fear his impact. Eder may start up top, but he doesn't have the ability to truly affect the outcome of a game and acts as more of a stop gap when Portugal is without a true striker up top.
  • Mountinho without a forward outlet:
    • The loss of Almeida affects more than just Ronaldo. Joao Mountinho already has the tough job of helping to create out of the midfield and control centrally. Without a strong striker eating up the center of the defense, the loss of creativity on the outside of the midfielder or within the winger group places the onus on Mountinho to make things happen. His midfield teammates don't have the quality to help him enough to make a difference.
  • A drop in goalkeeping:
    • Rui Patricio may not play today, much like Alves, because of inuries he sustained recently. The drop in quality between Patricio and the other two goalkeepers on Portugal's roster is immense. Beto is solid, but rather unspectacular and Eduardo isn't anything to talk about. Patricio may be inconsistent at the international level, but when he is in form he is one of the better 'keepers in the world - not that it happens often enough for him.


Matt said...

The part that I don't like is that I'm starting to think we SHOULD win this game. That we are expected to. I am much more comfortable with underdog role. Today is going to be beyond nerve-wracking.

jh16 said...

We are at the point in our soccer pedigree that we SHOULD expect to win in these situations. Just another sign that we are growing. High expectations come with the territory.