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Dec 7, 2013

How U.S. can advance from Group G

The U.S. needs Jozy Altidore to be at his best in the 2014 World Cup.
The U.S. needs Jozy Altidore to be at his best in the 2014 World Cup.

When pressed about the current state of American soccer, manager Jurgen Klinsmann likes to refer to the “music” of playing the game at a world-class level. Since his appointment in 2011, Klinsmann has insisted that his players “understand that the pace internationally is much faster. The demand is much faster in terms of the concentration, speed of play, speed of thought, speed of implementing certain things."

Based on how the World Cup draw played out on Friday, American fans are about to witness how that message has been received over the last three years.

The United States drew into a very difficult Group G, as Germany, Portugal and Ghana are all countries with significant talent. According to the Soccer Power Index, they combine with the United States to form the second-toughest group in the 32-team field. But a quick glance at where the rest of the CONCACAF teams were placed illustrates just how deep this World Cup field is.

Additionally, it is important to remember that despite all the fanfare, the World Cup is a tournament. Yes, talent and pedigree are of paramount importance, but so is the ability to scout and strategize for an opponent that you will play one time on a neutral field.

Let’s examine three keys for the United States if they want to achieve their goal of reaching the knockout stage, and in the process establish themselves as a credible threat to the world’s top teams.

Take advantage of the schedule

The unfavorable draw makes earning three points in the Yanks’ first game against Ghana a virtual necessity, and there is no doubt that is where Klinsmann will focus the bulk of his attention. If the Yanks can do that (and Germany beats Portugal), the outlook won't be so bleak, especially since Germany could already have clinched first place in the group by the time the U.S. plays them in the third game.

In 2010, the United States found considerable success atta...