Team USA kicks off its World Cup run on Monday with a game against Ghana. As usual, expectations for the Americans are tempered. However, the team’s coach and its players say they are ready to defeat expectations. Here’s what you need to know about the team:
1. The coach
Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. coach, hails from Germany. He won the World Cup as a player in 1990 for Germany. He coached the German national team to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
Most Americans probably first heard about Klinsmann when he made the controversial decision in May to leave the most famous U.S. soccer player off the World Cup team — Landon Donovan.
Klinsmann defended his decision by saying that the other strikers on the them had inched ahead of him. “We feel those guys are a little step ahead of Landon in certain areas,” he said. “That’s why we made that decision.”
2. The players
The U.S. national team represents a mix of new talent and experience — or, as SB Nation put it, “an odd mix of unproven youngsters and older players who are highly unlikely to do anything for the team in the future.”
Who to watch on the field? Michael Bradley showed he could compete on the global stage in South Africa in 2010, and is expected to be key to the team’s offense this time around. Another veteran from that cup, Jozy Altidore, who plays for Sunderland club in England, is also on the team. U.S. captain Clint Dempsey is another player worth paying attention to.
3. The odds
Not good. They lucked into the “Group of Death” that includes Ghana, Germany and Portugal. The Americans were knocked out of the last two World Cups by Ghana; Germany is a proven powerhouse; and Portugal features Cristiano Ronaldo, widely considered one of the best players in the world.