By Todd Lisenbee
In the world of sports, we hear cliches every day from coaches, players, and even media. For the US men's national team at the 2014 World Cup, the cliche that fits is, "there is no match more important than the next one."
The USMNT opens up their World Cup campaign on Monday against an old foe, Ghana. The US has faced Ghana in the last two World Cups, including a 2-1 extra time loss in the round of 16 in 2010.
All the talk is of the Group of Death that America has found itself in - and all of its storylines:
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann taking on his home country of Germany,
the prospect of facing one of the world's most electric players in Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal,
and yet, in my opinion, the US hopes of advancing out of the group of death hinge on one result, the result on Monday against Ghana.
A win (and three points in the standings) is essential. A draw against Ghana makes advancement doable, but highly unlikely. But if the US loses to Ghana, the fat lady will be getting her pipes ready to deliver a song (I'm sure she'll collaborate with Pitbull).
Though the U.S. is, at best, the third best team in the Group of Death, they have a very favorable schedule.
While the US opens against Ghana, Portugal meets Germany. A Portugal loss to Germany, coupled with a US win against Ghana, would mean the US would meet Portugal on June 22 with three points to Portugal's zero. This means that even a draw with Portugal would be a huge result and a win against Portugal would mean almost guaranteed advancement.
The U.S. will need to have their work pretty much done before the final match in group play against Germany. To expect a result against what will undoubtedly be a highly motivated German side would be asking too much, even for an American side that is gaining more and more confidence in the international game.
For the U.S., to be drawn in the Group of Death at such a pivotal time during the sport's rise in our country is frustrating, but advancement is not impossible.
While it certainly won't be easy, three points against Ghana is definitely a step in the right direction.