The images of Wednesday morning are still fresh on many people's minds. The image of Landon Donovan putting the US ahead in the 91st minute against Algeria, putting the Americans back in the round of 16 for the first time since 2002.
Their opponent on Saturday is Ghana, the team that eliminated them from the World Cup four years ago in Germany. So what does the US need to do to beat this African team and advance to the quarterfinals?
Here are five simple tasks for beating Ghana.
1. Forget about the Algeria game.
The game last Wednesday night was one of the proudest moments in US soccer history. Yes, the US beat mighty England in 1950. Yes, the victory over Mexico in the 2002 World Cup put us on top of the mountain in CONCACAF. And yes, we beat Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, also held in South Africa.
But this victory against Algeria did something more than any of those games. With as much coverage as the four-letter sports network has given this World Cup, the Yanks were able to pull off the victory when the nation was watching, when the Comeback Kid, Bill Clinton was in attendance. But it didn't come easy; most players that played the 90-plus minutes have said that the game took its toll physically and mentally. And with only three days rest until Ghana, the American players need to put Algeria behind them, recharge the batteries, and go to work against Ghana.
2. Defend like crazy
Now that the US doesn't have to go chasing a victory, they can play typically American-style soccer. Let me explain. Against Algeria, the US needed to win the game, they had to go on the offensive and score goals. Yes, they need to win against Ghana or their World Cup is over, but the US can sit back and defend -- a luxury they didn't have against Algeria.
The US has always been noted for having a tough defense, a cohesive unit that is tough to break. Now with confidence riding high, the back four along with Tim Howard should be able to hold the Ghana attack at bay.
3. Watch out, Tim Howard
Ghana's offense is known for being suspect when it comes to finishing. Their players seem to miss the easy goals, but they seem to make the difficult ones. American keeper Howard should worry about Ghana when they are inside the box, of course. He should, however, be just as worried when they are outside it.
Ghana's strikers and midfielders are more than capable of shooting from distance, just like the first goal the US gave up against Slovenia. That's where the US has to be wary; they have to close the gaps quickly when Ghana is outside the box.
4. Counterattack, the American way
They did it against Algeria this past Wednesday; they did it against Spain and Brazil last year at the Confederations Cup. The US plays at its best when they defend and counterattack.
The goal that Donovan scored began when Algeria was pushing for a late goal. Then Tim Howard threw the ball halfway down the field, and all of the sudden, there were three Americans on the run against two Algerian defenders. If the Americans defend well, they will have plenty of counterattacking opportunities.
5. Grind it out, guys
The stars need to step up, and so far they have. Of the Americans' four goals in this tournament, Donovan has two and Dempsey has one. But the reason the US has gotten this far is because of the unsung work that rest of the nine guys on field have done. Guys like Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Howard, and the four guys on defense. All 11 guys that played on Wednesday, plus the subs, said afterwards that the win was a total team effort -- and it showed.
Many Americans, who are tuning into the World Cup for the first time, say that this team puts their heads down and grinds out the results it needs -- typical American fashion. They are going to have to work together to beat Ghana and advance into the quarterfinals.
The Americans got a favorable draw. Many analysts say the US should beat Ghana in this round of 16 matchup. If they do win, they will play the winner of the Uruguay vs. South Korea -- both of which are easily beatable.
Could the US advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1930? Everything looks to be in their favor.
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