HOUSTON – The US team has seen its key players suffer from fatigue through the first round of games in the Group of Death. The team looked to have tired legs in their last game against Germany. Because of this, I feel that they will benefit from having five days between games.
They next face a young but talented side in Belgium, a team with players such as Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten, and Marouane Fellaini, who represent some of the best teams in Europe.
While many feel the US was outplayed in both the Ghana and Germany games, I would simply say that the US team was playing to advance. In the Ghana game, they came out and scored early, thus creating the mind set of preserving the lead. When Ghana scored the US came out of its shell and pushed more, looking to win the game.
Against Portugal the US went down early, so they had to push for a goal. Finally, against Germany the US knew they just needed a result like the one they got to move on. Also, as mentioned above, the US players were extremely tired from the Portugal game.
For Tuesday's contest I feel the US will come out with fresh legs, enjoy much more possession and play more attractive soccer. I think that by getting out of group play the pressure of advancing is now off of their shoulders.
All along I have felt that the key to success for the US is the play of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones. These three players need to have a good game if the US is to move on to the next round. Bradley must help connect the team and keep possession while finding the dangerous balls in behind. Dempsey must be opportunistic in the box because he will likely get few chances in front of goal. Belgium have a big and imposing defense, so even though it will be very challenging physically for Dempsey to hold the ball up he must find a way to do so. Jones must be the tireless engine in midfield that breaks up plays from Hazard and Fellaini.
A bright spot for the US has been the play of Fabian Johnson. His performance down the wings might be what the US need to break through a Belgium defense that has not been scored on yet. Much of his brilliance was subdued against Germany due to heavy legs, but he should be fresh for this game.
I think Tuesday's match will not be a high-scoring game. A single goal will decide who moves on. USA! USA! I believe that we will win!
The US and Belgium take the pitch Tuesday afternoon.
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