BOSTON (CBS) – Soccer analyst and retired player Greg Lalas joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show Monday morning to preview USA-Ghana and talk about what’s surprised him so far in World Cup play.
Scoring is up in this 2014 World Cup, which has been a pleasant surprise for Lalas and footie fans everywhere.
“The biggest surprise is all the goals. Everyone always complains soccer doesn’t have enough scoring, but this World Cup we’re seeing about 3.5 goals per game average, which is way way up. Everyone is attacking. Only one out of 11 games has had less than three goals scored in it. In football terms that would be like 14-7, three touchdowns or something like that. I think that all the goals and the attacking has been a surprise for a lot of people,” said Lalas.
For USA-Ghana, all this scoring and attacking might be hindered by the fact that their match is scheduled to be played in Natal, where it’s been raining for the past three days. Lalas talked about the weather being a factor later today.
“I’m curious to see what’s going to happen in some of these cities where they’ve been getting torrential rain. Is the field going to hold up? Does it have the appropriate drainage? Will it start to get torn up as the game goes on? That might actually be an advantage for the US.
“This Ghanaian team is super fast, especially out on the flanks. So if the US can slow it down and the field gets kind of heavy, then the ball is not moving as quickly and that [favors the US]. If the grass dries out a little bit then a little bit of that rain can actually speed the game up because the ball is slicker on the ground.”
For Team USA there’s a bit of a revenge factor at play here because Ghana was the country to bounce the Americans in the past two World Cups, so it’ll be interesting to see the emotion right off the bat come 6pm.
As far as US players to watch, Lalas, like Michael Felger, is not convinced Jozy Altidore can provide enough scoring.
“When he’s not scoring what he does is equally as important. He does the dirty work, knocking the ball down for teammates. He’s gonna have to do that today. He’s gonna have to commit and contribute in other ways. We’ll see,” said Lalas.
Lalas wants us all to keep an eye on three USMNT players.
“Clint Dempsey is the big star up top. As Dempsey goes the team goes. If we’re talking about them tomorrow it’s going to be because of Clint Dempsey. Michael Bradley, who’s the son of the former [USMNT] coach, is the midfielder who plays for Toronto FC. He’s a world class player. He’s the engine in the middle. And lastly Tim Howard. He’s one of the top five goalkeepers in the world. If we’re not talking about the goalie tomorrow then he’s done his job.”
Another player to watch is Attleboro native and US defender Geoff Cameron, who’ll be faced with the biggest task of any US player Monday night for holding Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan in check.
“[Gyan] is an absolute beast, but if anybody can handle him it’s [Cameron],” said Lalas.
Of course the interview couldn’t end without a prediction.
“I think it’s a 50/50 chance US gets the win against Ghana. At this point we can all stop being defensive about how good or bad the US team is. We are certainly capable of performing on a world level. I actually think the US matches up better against Portugal in the second game, but I think that the US has every chance of either getting a win or a draw against Ghana today. I’ll take the draw, because I think they can face Portugal and get a win,” said Lalas.