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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Saved by Math: USA through to the round of 16

Taylor Twellman said it. Today's 0-1 loss to Germany in the final game of Group G in World Cup 2014 felt a lot like 2002. Why? The Americans were saved by math and Klinsmann knows how to work the problem out.

As I put it in a previous post. A "small" team has to try to go for 4 points and a decent goal differential in order to go through. USA came into the game with 4 points while Ghana and Portugal had 1. Ghana had -1 goal differential and Portugal -4. 

A loss to Germany was highly probable. They have not been eliminated at the group stage since 1954 and they have one of the most talented sides in the World Cup. Klinsmann knew it and acted accordingly. A win versus Ghana was a must. Done. At least a point versus Portugal was crucial. They almost won. The rest was just math, as Portugal was undone in the first game and could not defeat Team USA in their second outing.

For the players it comes down to Jermaine Jones being the absolute MVP in this tournament for the Americans and Howard showing why he's one of the top 5 goalkeepers in the world. Dempsey has partly made up for Altidore but the New Jersey product will be required versus a highly talented Belgian side.

Some deltas include Michael Bradley's subpar performances. This is very disconcerting considering his pedigree as a player, but Jones has made up for it. Beasley, Fabian Johnson and Matt Besler have also played their best, as did Omar Gonzalez in his first start today. 

Now anything is possible. Belgium is an entirely different team. They will be difficult for the USA in terms of their speed and athleticism and their highly-skilled midfielders. Think of them as a mix of Germany and Portugal. It's no wonder some dub them the dark horses of the tournament. In this World Cup, however, all logic has gone out the window.

And let's say it: We Believe.

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