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Happy Monday!

Germany v. Portugal will be a true battle of titans from Group G as both have world-class talent all across the field. Each country has a legitimate chance at hoisting the World Cup Trophy in July and it will be a thrill to watch their first steps towards this potential history for the players, coaches and fans alike. After last night’s Group F match featuring Argentina v. Bosnia-Herzegovina, which saw a few flashes of Argentinian flare along with an inspiring effort from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran v. Nigeria each have their work cut out for them as the battle for the #2 spot will be fierce.

USA-Ghana

Ghana has been the nation that has eliminated the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) from the past two World Cup competitions. For some almost unexplainable reason, they just seem to have the USMNT’s number. For the 2014 World Cup, much of the discussion surrounding Group G/”The Group of Death” is centered on European powers Germany and Portugal. However, from an American’s perspective, the match today versus the African country of Ghana is unequivocally important. Not only could a win serve as a mild relief dating back to 2006, but 3 points would invigorate the Stars & Stripes before their next game against the Goliath from Portugal.

Here’s a video made from the World Cup in 2010 that might get the adrenaline pumping for those wearing the red, white and blue today…

(And yes, I know who scored the goal, but it’s about the incredible energy and excitement for the USMNT!)

Segunda-feira feliz!

Making our Descent into Brazil

There are some good advertisements/campaigns for The 2014 World Cup in Brazil (FYI-Adriana Lima is a pretty good spokeswoman for the sport). However, there is one television commercial that truly rises above them all. Despite airing back in the summer of 1998, its quality, creativity and all-encompassing awesomeness is still uncontested 16 years later.

An Airport + The Brazilian National Team + A Futebol = Perfection

Soccer/Football/Futebol: It’s not a sport, it’s a lifestyle.

Only two more days!

Finding the Right Mix

Super-subs.

Jürgen Klinsmann does not always put out the best starting 11, but he is quite deft at rotating the right players in at the right times for maximum returns late in games.

Example?

Just take last night’s stand-out second-half substitutions during the Americans’  World Cup send-off match against Azerbaijan (their head coach is now literally on Klinsmann’s United States Men’s National Team staff for Brazil and is a long-time friend) at the ill-fated (yet energetic) Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson.

These names have been mentioned in this blog before as being key players for the USMNT and for Brazil in particular. Each player added positive evidence to this hypothesis last night. Granted, it was a home match against the 85th-ranked team in the world, but there was virtually no flow from the middle-to-final third before they entered.

Johannsson subbed for Chris Wondolowski in the 61′ and Diskerud came on for the flat Alejandro Bedoya in the 71′, noticeably sporting #10, Donovan’s old number. And by old, I mean four days or so.

Speedster DeAndre Yedlin also came off the bench for Fabian Johnson in the 61′ and played a fair game.

The game was nil-nil in the 61′. What was the final score? 2-nil USMNT with goals from Diskerud and Johannsson.

Making a statement? Yes.

The match opened-up immediately after Johannsson started running around up top with some much needed purpose towards scoring goals and the flow looked as nice as Diskerud’s waving brown mane following his entrance. Just four minutes after Mix was added to the mix (c’mon, it’s right there), he scored off a rebound just outside the six-yard box that originated from a Michael Bradley half-volley at goal.

#10 to the rescue.

Regarding the #10 shirt, Diskerud had the ideal response in his post-match interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap.

“For me it is just a number. I am playing for what is in front of the jersey, not what is in the back or my name.”

Classy answer.

Aside from the fact that Clint Dempsey had minor groin pain and didn’t play, the quick takeaways are that the central defense is still shaky, the outside defense is shaky, the outside midfielders need to be more creative and daring on the flanks, starting forward Jozy Altidore has apparently adopted the Jairo Arrieta theory of playing up top without scoring goals and that the young 23-year old players in Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson need to be subs and/or starters in every group game this summer.

While Diskerud and Johannsson are both relatively new to the national team universe, they clearly play with an energetic and inventive chip on their shoulders that results in positive contributions and results. Johannsson wants to score whenever he plays, which is always a good thing to have in a forward. Just saying.

And Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley are the perfect complement to each other. Diskerud is right-brained and Bradley is left-brained and together they can create a dangerous dynamic for the USMNT in the middle of the pitch. This team needs leadership and this coupling could very well be the stable and imaginative core this squad needs for pulling off any last-minute heroics or improbable upsets in Brazil.

Diskerud and Johannsson as super-subs? Yes.

However, if match-ups on the field permit it, super-starter also has a nice little ring to it. I’m looking at you, Mix.

Either way, Klinsmann finalizes the lineup. It rests with him in deciding if the summer of 2014 will be a memorable World Cup experience for the Americans.

Will Klinsmann be a super coach in Brazil?

USMNT fans hope so.

He’s Got 23 Tickets to Soccer Paradise

No Brad Evans.

No Clarence Goodson.

No Terrence Boyd.

No Michael Parkhurst.

No Landon Donovan.

These five players did not receive itinerary for Brazil. The omission of Landon Donovan from the final 23-man roster was the most shocking, but the other four left-out are curious and telling as well.

Coach Klinsmann is taking a chance with his back four, especially with the inclusion of Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron and DaMarcus Beasley (presumed 3 of the 4 starters). You can guarantee that if Beasley starts (who likely replaced Parkhurst or Evans), Ghana, Portugal and Germany will attack on that flank all game long. And they’ll only need to convert one chance on Beasley’s side to potentially sink the United States. Trading defense for a chance offensive counter-attack. Good decision?

No Goodson in the middle of the defense? Anybody else remember Jay DeMerit back in 2010? I do. It was embarrassing. There has to be a solid presence directly in front of Howard. Period. Goodson could have played that role. One concern is that both Gonzalez and Cameron have been caught off-guard on more than one occasion on the national team as central defenders…

No Terrence Boyd? It would have been fun to see a true forward come in late in a game and play without fear of his opponent, which seems to be the style of Boyd. He’s also athletic and can score in a variety of ways. They’ll need that presence in all three of their games and it seems like he would have been a logical option to come off the bench for the Americans.

And now Donovan.

Admittedly, I have criticized Donovan in the past for getting lost in big games, including 15 to 20-minute intervals at any given time. He never seems to play in just one position either, which contributed to the need for a GPS tracker to be wrapped on his ankle. Regardless, he is the leading scorer in USMNT history (57) and the leading scorer in World Cups (5), he has serious wheels, he can shoot and pass with precision, he’s won championships and this was his last shot at playing in a World Cup. Granted, he’s played in three World Cups already, but this was it. He’s done now with the USMNT. He’s 32. If he didn’t make it this time, there’s zero chance of him making the squad in four years. Klinsmann has made that clear.

The U.S. is still sending some talented players to Brazil (Tim Howard, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Julian Green, Graham Zusi, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson and Clint Dempsey), but why not include Donovan? Even as a super sub (Algeria, Algeria, Algeria…)? It’s one spot. He’s easily better than half of the players who made the final roster. It makes no sense. There’s no logic to it, except if there’s some sort of personal issue between Donovan and Klinsmann. Either way, it’s just downright confusing.

This is only a quick reaction to the roster news that broke last night. There will be plenty more in-depth analysis between now and the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil right here at Jimmy’s Daily Planet for the United State and the rest of the talent-heavy field.

There were good selections and bad omissions on USMNT final roster.

In about a month, we’ll find out if Klinsmann handed out the right 23 tickets that made his trip to Brazil either paradise or a nightmare.