U.S.A. Looks to Take the Next Step

The United States soccer team made it to the World Cup knockout phase in dramatic fashion with an injury-time goal from Landon Donovan. It has since been referenced as one of the great team wins in U.S. international sports history – some have even put it right behind the “Miracle on Ice” as the second most thrilling win.

We have had a few days to bask in the glory of such a dramatic victory, but tomorrow it is time to get back to business against a young, but very talented, team from Ghana. Although Michael Essien, the best player on Ghana's team, is out of the World Cup due to injury, the rest of the team has stepped up and looked fairly strong in the group stage.

Ghana managed a 1-0 win (Serbia) and a 1-1 draw (Australia) before losing to Germany 1-0 in the final game. Both goals scored by Ghana were from the penalty spot, so they have yet to score a goal in the run of play.

The U.S. is playing with a lot of confidence now. Michael Bradley has stepped up to become the key cog in the engine. Hopefully, he'll continue to demand the ball like he did in the group round games. Landon Donovan has been clutch, with two of the team's four goals. Clint Dempsey has worked hard, but hasn't been rewarded since the gift from England GK Robert Green in the opening game. Jozy Altidore did a nice job of holding up the ball and setting up teammates in the last two games. Those players must be at their best to help the U.S. attack against the Black Stars, who only allowed two goals in three games.

Defensively, I'll be surprised if Oguchi Onyewu is on the field at the start of the game against Ghana. He lacked a burst of speed in the first two games, and the Black Stars feature some speedy options up front. I expect to see Cherundolo, DeMerit, Bocanegra, and Bornstein in the back.

These teams appear to be evenly matched. They are both looking for the same thing: recognition that they have arrived as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. The winner of this game has another six days to milk the attention and revel in the success of this year's Cup. Also, the winner of this game gets the winner of South Korea vs. Uruguay. Both will be a formidable opponent, but the opportunity to make it to the World Cup quarterfinal without facing Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, or Germany along the way is probably not going to happen again anytime soon.