The stakes are set, and the United States can advance to the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup with either a win or a draw against Germany on Thursday at Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil.
Even with a losing effort, the U.S. could still advance -- if Ghana draws or loses to Portugal in the day’s other Group G game. The chances of that happening seem pretty high considering that early this morning it was revealed two of Ghana’s best players were kicked off the team.
However, Jürgen Klinsmann’s team has plenty to prove, and would of course like to enter the knockout stages with a victory over one of the best teams in the world.
Here are five players to keep an eye on as the game unfolds:
DaMarcus Beasley and Geoff Cameron, D
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The 32-year-old Beasley has the most caps on the U.S. squad with 118, and how he leads the Yanks' backline against Germany’s top-flight attackers like Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze, with forward Miroslav Klose lurking on the bench, will play the biggest role in the match.
Cameron took more than his fair share of heat for his terrible clearance that found its way to Nani for Portugal’s first goal. The Stoke City center back will need to be in sync with Beasley to fend off the Germans.
Keeping Gotze and Muller outside of the penalty area and stunting any fastbreaks will be key to the U.S.’s success.
Julian Green, M
Six players on the German squad call Bayern Munich their club team, and so does the 19-year-old Green. He has yet to make an appearance in this World Cup, or for Munich’s senior team. But with the exception of Klinsmann, who knows these players and their tendencies better than Green? Should Klinsmann insert Green off the bench, he could be an X factor.
Graham Zusi, M
He assisted Clint Dempsey on what everyone thought was the winning goal against Portugal, and time and again he put pressure on Portugal’s defenders with well-timed through balls and careful control outside of the penalty area. With Michael Bradley failing to make any sort of real impact, the U.S. offense might flow through Zusi from now on.
Aron Johannsson, F
We thought he would have a huge impact against Portugal, but Klinnsman opted for the more experienced Chris Wondolowski instead. This go-round the speedier, more technical and savvy Johannsson should get the call off the bench first.
Game Time: Thursday, 12 p.m. EST