U.S. Scenarios

Sunday night update - Looking forward to Thursday:

The two U.S. goals helped the situation with regards to tie-breakers with Ghana.

If the U.S. gets a result against Germany - they advance.
If Portugal gets a result against Ghana - the U.S. advances*.
For the U.S. to advance with a loss and a Ghana win, both the U.S. and Portugal have score no more than one goal less than Ghana does on Thursday. 

* Yes, technically Portugal can advance, but the goal differential they face is brutal, so I'm ignoring it.

Original post:

Now that Germany and Ghana have gotten us halfway through Group G, the picture of where the United States stands is much clearer. As a fan of the United States, usage of "we" below indicates the United States.

Here are the scenarios:

  • Beat Portugal - advance
  • Tie Portugal
    • Beat Germany - advance
    • Tie Germany - advance
    • Lose to Germany
      • Portugal beats Ghana - we likely advance on tie-breakers over Portugal
      • Portugal/Ghana tie - advance
      • Ghana beats Portugal - Comes down to tie-breakers with Ghana,  toss/up
  • Lose to Portugal
    • Beat Germany - advance
    • Tie Germany
      • Portugal beats Ghana - we go home (GD to Germany)
      • Portugal/Ghana tie - we likely advance in second on GD behind Germany, ahead of Portugal
      • Ghana beats Portugal - Comes down to tie-breakers with Ghana, toss/up
    • Lose to Germany - we go home

Short version:
Win one game - advance
Tie both games - advance
Lose both games - go home
If Portugal wins both remaining games, we go home, but other results are generally favorable to us.

This is where we've gotten in trouble  and it's one of the things Klinsmann talks about: Our lack of sophistication. In 1998 the U.S. panicked after losing the opening game and went into the Iran game as if it was a must-win game. It wasn't.

We need to realize that Portugal isn't a must-win game. It's a prefer-to-win game, but a tie is very beneficial to us, especially when you consider the difference between winning a losing. The gap between tie and a loss is much greater than win and a tie. We should be careful not to screw up a tie trying to win.

The tie breakers are, in order, goal differential, total goals, head to head, drawing of lots. In general Portugal doesn't want to get into any tie-break situations. As far as Ghana vs the United States, if they both finish on four points, goal difference will either be even or favor Ghana, and currently total goals is in Ghana's favor.

As long as the U.S. shows the sophistication to keep in mind that getting out of the group is the most important thing, and that the risk/reward calculation of pressing for a win at the risk of losing is squarely against being too aggressive, I think the U.S. will be fine. I'm not suggesting we don't try to win. In fact, I hope the U.S. pulls out all the stops and makes Portugal run and run and run in the heat and humidity on that wet, sandy turf. I think the U.S. has a chance to burn Portugal out and outlast them. But if the game is tied late, we need to have the presence to ride the result out.