With Thursday’s match against Ghana looming large, U.S. captain Claudio Reyna firmly believes that the squad is ready for the task at hand.
“Everyone is real excited because now we go into game 3 with a chance. We're alive and we know what we have to do,” said Reyna, speaking in a press conference on Wednesday night. “There's no hiding the fact that we need to win and that's nice. We worked very hard to put ourselves in a position to go through now and the team feels really good.”
A U.S. victory, combined with an Italian win over the Czech Republic, will see the U.S. through. Although technically, the U.S. does control their own destiny in that a five-goal U.S. victory would also clinch their spot in the knockout round (additional scenarios).
Against an upstart Ghana team, who surprised many with its emphatic win over the Czech Republic, the match is sure to be high on excitement. For Reyna, Ghana’s win over the Czechs emphasized the strength of Group E in this year’s World Cup.
“There are four very good teams [in this group] and now the results have proven it,” said Reyna. “If you look at how all the results have gone, it’s all very unpredictable. We hope that at the last game, we can get our win that we need. We're the last team [in the group] that needs to get a win."
To do that, Reyna, as well as his teammates, know that stopping Ghanaian midfielder Michael Essien, who plays for English champions Chelsea, will be key. Essien, who moved to the London club from Olympique Lyon in 2005, has been hailed by Manager Bruce Arena as one of the best players in the tournament, and Reyna echoed those sentiments.
“He’s the modern midfielder at the highest level because he can defend and attack,” said Reyna, who, though he plays in the EPL along with Essien, missed both of their potential encounters this year to injury. “He’s good on both sides of the ball and he’s strong. For Ghana, he’s the main man, and the one who gets them going. He’s very impressive: he’s powerful and covers a lot of ground.”
For the U.S, though, the keys to victory lie in the team’s confidence and self belief. Though much is being made of the fact that the U.S. has not scored a goal of its own, Reyna believes that it is only a matter of time before the streak is broken.
“I think we're in a position now to get through and the team knows now that we have to score,” explained Reyna, who hit the goal post in the USA’s opening game loss to the Czech Republic. “We've done it before. We've had games where we can break out and score a few goals.”
Reyna acknowledges that the team is unified in its belief that they can get the job done, and that it does have players who consistently score goals at the highest level.
“We do have players who can score and we have players who can run at defenses. We want to keep getting better from game to game. We know what we did well against Italy and now we have to improve on certain things. If we do that well, we can get a few goals. We have enough options, we have experience and we feel good.”
Fans of the MNT will be hoping that these goals can come tomorrow as the U.S. goes for the win against Ghana. Hopefully, if the chips fall favorably, the U.S. will be looking at a match in the knockout round of the World Cup.