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Klinsmann 'Sees Future,' Leads U.S. to Victory

Scoring an early goal turned the United States game against Ghana on its head a bit, but smart moves by the head coach allowed the Americans to prevail in a must-win World Cup opener.
BY Noah Davis Posted
June 17, 2014
12:00 AM
NATAL, Brazil—The United States national team's dream start almost turned into a nightmare.

The Americans scored 29 seconds into their World Cup opener against Ghana, a lovely sequence from Clint Dempsey, only to concede most of the possession during the first half. The captain's tally was in many respects a blessing in disguise.

"If you score after just a minute, then you think there can't be anything better than that," Jurgen Klinsmann said in a press conference following the match at Arena das Dunas. "I was screaming at them at the sideline to keep the line high. Maybe that was a problem because we are thinking 'Now we have to defend' instead of 'no no we have to go for the second one.'"

Kyle Beckerman, who started in midfield alongside Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Alejandro Bedoya, agreed with his coach. "I think it happens sometimes when you get an early goal," he said. "Either you get a quick one right after it or you have to absorb it."

The U.S. didn't get a quick one and they did have to absorb pressure. Lots of pressure. On the night, Ghana would out-possess the Americans 59 to 41 and out-shoot them 21-8 (although they only had a 8-7 advantage in shots on net). That first goal seemingly put the U.S. on their heels.

"I thought we were good defensively, we just played too much defense," Besler said. "For the most part, Ghana never got in behind. A lot of the balls that they were serving in were from wide areas. I think we really did defend well. We just did too much of it."

The Sporting Kansas City center back watched the second half from the sidelines as he came off after half for John Brooks. The Americans also needed to replace Jozy Altidore, who was stretchered off the field after straining his hamstring.

The reserves were ready, partially because of how they had been prepared.

"It's almost like Jurgen can see the future," Beckerman said. "It's the first time we had the bench warm up like the starters before the game. That happened."

Klinsmann also saw the future in terms of how the match would unfold. He was content to let Ghana cross and cross and cross, trusting their inability to connect and his backline's stout clearances.

To hear Howard tell it, the plan worked to perfection.

"They have some really talented individual players who can beat you one on one. No. 7 [Christian Atsu] on the right wing. Obviously, [Sulley] Muntari runs the show in the middle. And we know of Asamoah [Gyan] up front. They have the ability to single-handedly beat you. We bottled them up. They had a lot of possession, which we expected them to. He shifted our lines really well. We kept it tight. They had a couple good chances but nothing outrageous."

Besler echoed those sentiments. "Against good teams, there are areas of the field that you're going to have to give up," he said. "We made a point not to let them play through the middle and not to let them play over the top. At some point you're going to have to pick areas that you give a good team the ball. We made the decision that the wide areas were going to be what we gave up. I think we defended those wide areas well tonight."

It wasn't that clean and tidy but the U.S. absorbed, got the second goal they needed, and will head to Manaus with three points and a real chance to survive the Group of Death.

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