Pepe, Almeida and Coentrão are out, can US take advantage?

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Congratulations to Jurgen Klinsmann on finally leading the United States Mens National Team to a victory over Ghana; a feat neither Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena were able to accomplish as former head coaches of the team. But, where do the Americans go from here?

They are currently in second place, tied in points with Germany, but just a loss away from being last. The USMNT head into Manaus, Brazil on Sunday to face off with beaten up Portugal.

Injury/Card Concerns for Portugal:

Now, both teams are dealing with injury concerns, but perhaps Portugal are on the worse end of things. The Selecção das Quinas (Portugese for National Team of the Shields) as they like to call themselves, were dealt a major blow in their match earlier with Germany when their best defender, Pepe, received a red card. With Pepe carrying this card, he will definitely be out for at least the game against the USA, and possibly more.

Hugo Almeida and Fábio Coentrão picked up a couple of bad injuries in the same game as well. According to Portugal doctor Henrique Jones, Almeida and Coentrao both will be out of action for at least 10 days.

Thus, they are both out against the match against the USMNT and can possibly miss another against Ghana, which is 10 days away.

Andre Almeida replaced Coentrão after he picked up the injury, and while he's certainly a capable backup, there's a big dropoff. Fábio Coentrão is genuinely world class and Almeida is simply a very capable backup player.

Hugo Almeida was replaced by Eder, who's never been able to translate his good play at club level into success for Portugal. He's been excellent over the last two seasons at Braga, but has no goals in his eight appearances for Portugal.

Three big losses for the Portugese national team, and with Cristiano Ronaldo not at full health who knows what the Yanks can make of this team.

Injury Concerns for USMNT:

Possibly the most notable injury for the Americans came midway through the first half when Jozy Altidore immediately fell to the floor following a run down the left side to catch up to a through ball. Altidore is very important to the USMNT for his big presence and gives the team a dangerous option in the box. His replacement for yesterday's match versus Ghana was Icelandic-American Aron Johannsson.

Immediately after Altidore was carted off, undoubtedly every American started to want Donovan back in the roster. However, Klinsmann is not allowed to recall Landon back to the roster and thus has to rely on unproven strikers in Johannson and Wondolowski.

Matt Besler was substituted at half-time by Klinsmann after he was noticeably in pain for the later portion of the first half. His substitute? John "Life-saving" Brooks. No one had hope for the young lad when he came in. Hardly any experience for Brooks at the international level, and being placed into a defense in which Ghana was desperately trying to exploit? Not good.

If anyone was told before the second half started that John Brooks would end up being man of the match ... they would laugh. However, Brooks won the man of the match award for himself, and the game for the nation.

Besides the game-winning goal, Brooks didn't show too much defensively and he will struggle against a decent Portugese offense if placed in the starting lineup.

Finally Alejandro Bedoya came off in the 77th minute to give way to Graham Zusi due to a noticeable injury to what is suspected to be a hip injury.

No news on Bedoya or his injury, but Zusi performed exceptionally well in the last 15 minutes of the game. His corner kick led to Brooks' game-winning header.

Clint Dempsey was assessed and it was found he received a broken nose in Monday's match. If fixed properly he will be able to play in Sunday's match against Portugal.


Both sides are banged up heading into Sunday, with three players definitely out for Portugal and possibly three out for the USA. However, as mentioned earlier, Portugal was dealt a worse blow. Without Pepe and Coentrao in the defense, that opens up a lot of possibilities for a dangerous counter-attacking USMNT. When Clint Dempsey is on the field, anything is possible for the Power Eagles.

Johannsson should start for USMNT if the severity of Altidore's injury places him on the bench Sunday evening. With the Icelandic-American in the lineup the Americans will revert to a 4-4-2 formation, accompanying Dempsey and Johannsson up top and Bradley in a more central midfield role. Zusi should get the start ahead of Bedoya for his pace can match up better to Cristiano Ronaldo's.

Both sides rely on counter-attacks to get their goals on the score sheet, but this has potential to be a high scoring game. As much as I want the Stars and Stripes to win it all, my realistic prediction for the matchup is:

Portugal 2 – 2 USA


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