The United States is going to be eliminated from the World Cup today.
This is what I’m thinking. Dreading. While my bad feeling about today’s match has absolutely no bearing on how the United States Men’s National Team will play in today’s match against Germany, I think it’s best if you prepare for it. I am from Philadelphia and have spent my life rooting for Philadelphia sports teams. I have also watched the U.S. soccer team in scores of international matches since the 1994 World Cup. Based on the track record of those two teams, preparing for utter failure is the best idea here.
I realize that the U.S. has, per FiveThirtyEight, a 76 percent chance of advancing to the knockout rounds. I realize that is better than when the tournament began. It is! I wasn’t sure they’d win a game. But after Sunday’s draw with Portugal, I am not so sure. The U.S. was literally 30 seconds away from advancing and somehow Portugal tied it. This sounds like a Philadelphia-style sports failure.
So I’d like to prepare you for it.
There are reasons to think the U.S. won’t advance. Portugal hasn’t been playing that well in the tournament — the U.S. played much better in its 2-2 draw with Portugal than it did in its 2-1 win over Ghana. Portugal should, by all respects, beat Ghana. They are favored. But here’s the thing: Teams who played in hot-and-humid Manaus, like the U.S. and Portugal just did, are winless in the game after. And they look tired and listless. The U.S. team says it’s fit and ready to go, but what else are they going to say?
The issue, of course, is that coming off of their Manaus hangover, the U.S. is playing a much better team, a team that had one more day of rest before today’s final group game. The U.S. is likely to lose today — and if Portugal wins, Team USA is probably good to sneak through and advance. But here’s what I’m thinking: The U.S. loses 2-0, and Ghana beats Portugal 2-1. The U.S. and Ghana each finish with four points but Ghana’s goal differential is better, and the U.S. goes home.
I only present this scenario to help you. Don’t get too excited for today’s game. It is probably the best idea, because there is a very real possibility the U.S. crashes out of the World Cup today. And it should have been a sure advancement!
Or maybe you get really excited and the U.S. wins 1-0 and no one gets any work done because they’re all talking about the game. Maybe. But isn’t it better to be safe?
Follow @dhm on Twitter.