Former United States midfielder Claudio Reyna and former head coach Bruce Arena predicted nearly identical starting sides for the red, white and blue vs. Ghana. Both said they liked their country's chances in the game, but called the opening Group G contest for the U.S. a "must win."
Arena said it's likely the U.S. will start the same lineup it did vs. Nigeria in the team's final friendly before the World Cup and rely on three of their best players -- Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore -- to provide the scoring punch.
The United States was eliminated from each of the last two World Cups at the hands of Ghana and will be looking to change its fortunes against the Black Stars in the two teams' first game of the 2014 World Cup.
Bruce Arena predicted starting XI for the United States (4-3-2-1):
Tim Howard (G), DaMarcus Beasley (LB), Fabian Johnson (RB), Geoff Cameron (CB), Matt Besler (CB), Kyle Beckerman (CM), Graham Zusi (RM), Jermaine Jones (LM), Clint Dempsey (CM), Michael Bradley (CM), Jozy Altidore (F)
Reyna, who was on the U.S. team eliminated in 2006, agreed. Though he predicted Alejandro Bedoya could start in place of Zusi.
"(Bedoya and Zusi) offer the same thing on both sides of the ball," said Reyna, the sporting director for expansion MLS team NYCFC. "One of the concerns is the backline, so by putting Kyle Beckerman in there it does a great job of protecting the backline and puts the team in a great position to play offense and defense."
Bradley was Arena's and Reyna's pick for the most important player for the U.S.
"Michael is a smart player, his passing has been excellent, he's really good on set pieces," said Arena. "We have good size, good service from Zusi, we are physical and I think performance on set pieces can be a real difference maker."
Arena also called on the experience and leadership of Beasley and Howard to help the U.S. put together a solid game on defence. The current L.A. Galaxy coach said the two veteran U.S. team members need to be vocal with this young squad and lead by example.
"The U.S. has to have a good start and really can't be chasing this game," said Arena. "Let's be fair. To get out of this group we need to beat Ghana."