If the U.S. plays like the underdog against Belgium, it will lose

june 30, 2014

Playing an attack-minded style isn’t just more entertaining; it makes tactical sense for the U.S. Belgium has proven over the first three games of the tournament that it will find a way to score at some point, and when that goal does come, it’s often too late to do anything about it.

Belgium dares its opponents to beat them in the first 70 minutes of the match. Klinsmann must trust that 70 minutes of his team on offense will prevail. That means allowing Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to push higher up the field, sending Fabian Johnson forward from right back, and trusting Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones to cover those three when possession gets lost.

It’s not dissimilar from the way the U.S. match against Portugal played out. The U.S. overwhelmed an opponent who was content to absorb pressure in that situation as well. The difference between Portugal and Belgium is that Belgium doesn’t have the best player in the world on its team.

In knockout stages past, the U.S. didn’t have the quality in its lineup to do anything but defend for 90 minutes. Even when the Americans advanced to the quarterfinals with a win over Mexico in 2002, that team was in a defensive shell for the duration.

That’s the greatest difference between 2014’s team and every American World Cup team that came before. This team has the ability to make a semifinal with the right mentality.

Klinsmann must trust his team’s ability to play at this level, and the team must have the confidence to know it can.

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