USA Prepares for Portugal After Stunner Against Ghana
SAO PAULO – After arriving back at their rooms at 4:45 a.m., victorious American players skipped breakfast Tuesday, slept late, went for medical tests and turned their attention to Portugal.
The U.S. opened the World Cup with a thrilling 2-1 win over nemesis Ghana on John Brooks’ 86th-minute goal. But Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Matt Besler and Alejandro Bedoya all got hurt to various degrees. Altidore, taken off on a stretcher after straining his left hamstring, appears unlikely to play against the Portuguese this weekend.
“We’ve got to see how he now reacts the next couple days,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We’re full of hope that he comes back still in this tournament.”
Players hope to become the first American team to win consecutive World Cup games since a 2-0 start at the very first tournament in 1930.
“Woke up today, this morning, and you look at your Instagram and Twitter and you see the videos that people posted,” Bedoya said of fans back home celebrating Brooks’ goal. “It’s really cool, and I’m sure everybody feeds off this energy.”
The match drew 11.09 million viewers on ESPN, a record for men’s soccer on the network. And after decades when U.S. soccer fans felt outnumbered – even at home games – players took notice of the raucous red, white and blue-clad crowd at Arena das Dunas in Natal.
“It was an incredible feeling, the support we had from the fans in the stadium along with the fans in every part of the country. We felt that,” said midfielder Graham Zusi, whose corner kick was headed in by Brooks. “It just makes me want more of it.”
But before the next game, the U.S. needs to heal a little.
Captain Clint Dempsey, who set the tone when he scored 30 seconds in, had his nose broken by a shin to the face from defender John Boye when they battled for a header. Klinsmann expects him to play Sunday in the Amazon rain forest capital of Manaus.
“I don’t know how much a mask can protect him,” Klinsmann said. “It was tricky during the game. He barely could breathe. He struggled with that. But once it’s broken, it’s broken. It will take time to heal completely.”
Dempsey will be paired up front either with Aron Johannsson, who was ineffective as Altidore’s replacement, or Chris Wondolowski.
Midfielder Michael Bradley also had a quiet game. Klinsmann said, “I know that Michael can step it up again.”
Besler, like Altidore, went for an MRI. The defender felt soreness in his right leg late in the first half and was replaced by Brooks for the start of the second.