T.O.: I think that they are a big question mark. Very little world cup experience is on the roster. By definition that is not a bad thing, but it is hard to tell what you are going to get from them. Their backline is shaky at best and Klinsman is still trying to decide on not only a starting 11, but more importantly a formation that the U.S. will use in Brazil.
B: The back line worries me the most. I think if they don't solidify has a defensive unit we exit this world cup early. I was pleased with the results from the farewell series with the exception of a couple late PKs and well the back line. I think the US is definitely a talented team and it's great having Altidore end his goal scoring drought right before leaving for Brazil but the defense really needs to learn their roles and step up because these next three matches will not be easy.
M.M.: I thought we were in good, bordering on great team going into a very tough pool. Then Klinsmann made maybe not some much some unexpected cuts but some big name cuts. Coach Klinsmann now has a very young and athletic good team still going into a very tough pool. We have youth, athleticism and some raw talent - that usually translate into make some splashes but not bringing home the "gold".
T.O.: I have a few guys here, Michael Bradley will need to be the creator, I have a feeling if the US is successful he will have a hand in all the goals scored. Tim Howard needs to play like he has for most of the year at Everton to help a very inexperienced back line, the good news is that he did that for stretches during the premier league season. Josy Altidore needs to be a factor, he doesn't have to score, but he can't disappear in Brazil.
B: I agree with TO, Bradley is the rock for this team. When he is on, everything clicks into place. He had his hands (more appropriately feet?) in several of the goals the sendoff matches. He is really great at creating scoring opportunities for others and if he's on fire then I like our chances. Same with Altidore, he's the top forward. He needs to act like it. I'm hoping for more chances like that second goal against Nigeria on Saturday, it was spectacular.
M.M.: I feel that with the weak defensive unit B talked about up above the U.S. needs a big World Cup from our goal keeper Tim Howard needs to be a brick wall.
T.O.: I will say both yes and no. He is a talented guy and I am sure there will be a situation where it would be nice to have him available off the bench, but I truly believe he has a bit of an attitude and the fact that it took him getting cut from the US camp to get motivated to play hard and put the ball in the net for the Galaxy... well that is not something that excites me as a coach. Particularly if I know he is going to be a bench player.
B: It would be nice to have another veteran especially going into the Group of Death but to me, it has always seemed like he and Klinsmann never really saw eye-to-eye and if we're going to get out of this group and into the knock out round we're going to have to function as a unit not as individuals. I trust Klinsmann's judgement because he's been here many, many times before.
M.M.: Nope. I am a big Donovan fan but his stats are down and I gather he was rubbing the team the wrong way. If he was a corner stone with this team, not teams of past, then the U.S. would miss his veteran leadership. It sounds like this young team didn't want him around, he wasn't producing so Klinsmann made the right call.
T.O.: Not at all, he did go young with some of his roster decisions, but that was also true in 2006 when he lead the German side to the semis. He wants a few young, hungry guys to potentially be a late game spark. The young guys he brought all are incredible athletes and likely won't get caught up in the moment... more likely to play loose... make something happen.
B: No. Klinsmann is a winner. You can see his passion for this team's success every time the camera cuts to the sideline; sometimes you can even here it over the cheers of the American Outlaws. He wants to win and to side with TO, he was looking for guys that shared his passion and were eager to buy into his system and into the idea that they can beat anyone.
M.M.: Klinsmann is a good coach and no good coach throws in the towel. Klinsmann did pick the team he thinks he could have for this World Cup and the next World Cup to help their chances in the future but he still is expecting solid results this year.
T.O.: If the U.S.A. made it back to the Quarters, I think that could be huge for the country. I think the only thing that would be a failure would be a repeat of 2006 where they only got 1 point and half the goals they scored were from an Italian own goal.
B: I agree with TO, getting to the quarters would be amazing. It would be improvement from 2010 and would be even more impressive given our opponents along the way. A failure...losing to Ghana, and falling flat in the group. I firmly believe the US can get out of the group, they're just going to have to play their minds out.
M.M.: If the U.S. makes it past the round of 16 they should feel like it was a success. If they don't make it the round of 16 then it was a failure. I feel like getting to the quarters would be achieving way beyond expectations - of which I am a fan! Let's remember though, as my co-writers have discussed many times, they made the uniforms wearable for "corporate folk" so confidence can't be too high.
T.O.: I truly believe they can make it to the round of 16 and if they can get some momentum, the quarters aren't out of reach.
B: I think anything can happen and I think the US get's through to the round of 16 where they'll likely face Belgium or maybe Russia. Beating either of them won't be easy but it's not impossible.
M.M. I think the U.S. will make it to the sweet 16 but I don't see their journey going any further this year. I hope that I am wrong but after such a difficult Group this team will be playing some decent teams early and will already be somewhat tired from the round robin.
T.O.: Other than Group G, where the US resides, I would have to say Group B. Not only are the 2 finalists from the 2010 world cup both in that group, so is a very talented Chili side, and the Aussies who have won some big games in the past.
B: Also ignoring Group G, I'm going to go with Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy; four very talented sides. My prediction for this group is Uruguay and England, but it'll be an all out brawl to get out of it. I expect at least the runner up to advance on goal differential. Group B is also tough having Spain and the Netherlands in the same group but I just don't think Chile and the Socceroos have enough to hang in for ten rounds.
M.M.: Since my co-writers ignored the obvious so I will take it - thanks gentlemen. I am going to have to say Group G. Germany, Portugal and the U.S. - that is number 2, 4 and 13 according to the FIFA rankings. Good Luck Ghana!! Who am I kidding - good luck to all of you - this is going to be a battle.
T.O.: The Orange of the Netherlands and Mexico could both be big flops in my opinion. And there are a number of big names (Messi, Rooney, etc...) who have never shown well on the world's biggest stage
B: I've got my eye on van Persie and the Orange especially after a lackluster year at Manchester United. I'm also watching England and Mexico.
M.M.: I am going to be a homer here but the fact the the U.S. will be playing a World Cup without Landon Donovan is weird but he has been disappointing with his lack of production. I think it was the right call not to have him on the team but it is still disappointing.
T.O.: 1-2 depending on how the US show.
B: Agreed, 1-2 at the most with one of those possibly being the US.
M.M.: 19 out of the 32 teams are from Europe or South America and the majority of the highest ranked teams came from Europe and South America. I am clearly the least educated on soccer in this group but if my math servers my correctly I am going to have to say zero.
T.O.: Belgium, my favorite club team, Everton, has quite a few current and former players on the Belgium side, with the exception of when they play the U.S. I will be pulling for them.
B: Going with Ecuador. They're not the biggest named side from the continent to the south and I'd like to see them make a splash. It helps that I've been there and I know people there. Oh and my family is there right now.
M.M.: I have to be cheering my brother's south of the border. I have so many friends from work who live and work in Mexico I have to be cheering from them - unless of course they run into the U.S.
T.O.: Germany, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina are my final 4, and I like Brazil to win it on their home turf.
B: Yup, going with TO 100% on this one (even filled out a bracket to double check). I've liked Brazil to win it since, well, for a while now. I can't wait to watch Thursday's game. I can only imagine how loud it will be in the stadium when that match (and any of Brazil's matches) gets under way.
M.M.: I feel like I should shake it up but I am going to have to agree on the winner. Brazil has "home court" and should take home the Cup. The only potential upset I could see here, and it would hardly be an upset is if Portugal can get past Germany. So for the sake of being different I am going to say Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Argentina.