Editor's Note: This interview took place prior to the United States' match vs. Ghana.
With the United States Men's National Team ready to kick off the 2014 FIFA World Cup next week, SportingKC.com will be taking a look at each of their Group G opponents with some help from Matt Tomaszewicz (aka the Shin Guardian). Today, we'll look at European side Portugal, who will face the USA on June 22 at Arena Amazona in Manaus, Brazil.
Jonathon Feyerherm: Cristiano Ronaldo is the main threat for Portugal but is facing injury concerns. Who's another player to look for on this Portuguese squad?
Matt Tomaszewicz: Joao Moutinho has been playing for Paulo Bento (Portugal manager) for I think maybe 10 years of his life now and he's a key player. He's not the best in traffic and when he's coming up against a physical U.S. team in the midfield, that's going to be a key matchup. The U.S. is probably going to sit deeper against Portugal than they will against Ghana. And then how can Moutinho, who doesn't really play a number 10 role for them but he can say he does, how does he find and picks spots when the U.S. is bunkered in a little bit more. So he's their key player.
JF: If Ronaldo is available for this match, how will the U.S. matchup against him?
MT: I think there's two key points with Ronaldo. Number one, he is relied upon at Portugal more so than at Real Madrid to be a key player. So when things aren't going well for him, it really hurts the rest of the team. Number two is that Portugal will try to find him in space and in transition and the U.S. can't give up that space. if the U.S. are sitting deeper, he's not going to be able to create those chances or have that much of that space.
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JF: Where can the U.S. create chances and exploit any weaknesses of Portugal?
MT: I think the channels, in between centerbacks and fullbacks. Just like Ghana, Portugal's fullbacks like to press high and unlike Ghana they are not able to catch up on the defensive end. if Jozy Altidore or Aron Johannson can get loose in the channels, it will be a real advantage.
JF: Finally, what are you expecting to see and looking forward to seeing from this match?
MT: I think this is the most beatable team for the U.S. right now. You can't really make a prediction on this one because it all depends upon what happens in the first game. If Portugal can win against Germany, then maybe they don't have the same interest as if they come off a loss against Germany. It's a very different world when you are fighting for your World Cup life and how a team plays than if they won the game before and trying to manage a game. It's hard to say.