By Matt Pignataro
“You have to have faith.” Those were the simple words spoken by Ailton the owner of Elton’s Café in the library.
“You have to have faith in the Americans. The coaches know what their doing. I trust them,” Ailton said. While a native of São Paulo, Brazil, Ailton still roots for the American National team.
As we await soccer’s biggest stage, World Cup, which will be held in Brazil, the Americans have surprisingly low expectations. Put in a group containing powerhouses Germany and Portugal and the thorn in the U.S.’s side Ghana, many people are not giving them even a shot in the dark to make it out. ESPN the magazine only gives them a 35% chance to advance out of the group stage.
Others are more hopeful though. “You cannot rule out the Americans, they are a good team with many good players,” Ailton said. He believes that the U.S. team can definitely make some noise this year.
At the Helm: Making his first World Cup appearance with the U.S. will be former German National team manager Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann has been pushing his players hard in training to be able to withstand the heat and humidity that will play a factor in the cup this year. It will also be interesting to see how Klinsmann leads his group of players against the powerhouse teams of Portugal and his old team Germany.
The Back Line: The U.S. will need a strong back line in this World Cup to make it out of the group stage. The U.S. will be kept in a lot of matches by strong goal tending from Tim Howard who is a leader for the U.S. The defense will have a lot of new faces with a probable back line of Omar Gonzalez, DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron. 3 of the 4 defenders in this line don’t have World Cup experience but will need to gel quickly to keep the U.S. in games.
Manning the middle: The U.S. will have a strong midfield. Led by the “heart of the team” according to Manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Michael Bradley will play a huge part in the team’s success. The attack will rely on feeds from Bradley and his partner Jermaine Jones to set them up. The wings of the midfield however are still an open contest. With long time starter and all time leading scorer Landon Donovan being left off the team, the left and right midfield spots will be up for grabs. Look for Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman to win those jobs. However, watch out for Donovan’s replacement 18-year old Julian Green, he has great potential and might be included in the starting 11.
Scoring: Captain Clint Dempsey and Striker Jozy Altidore will lead the attack of the U.S. If either of these two players get hot, the U.S. will be tough to stop. Dempsey is a proven scorer on the big stage with 37 international goals, while Altidore has 21. The U.S. will rely on these two heavily throughout the tournament to not only produce but lead a team with many young players.
Prediction: It won’t be a cakewalk for the U.S. to make it out of the group stage this year. With Germany, Portugal, and the always-dangerous Ghana, the U.S. will need to be on top of its game to make it out this year. They will need Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore and Howard to step up and carry the team to victory. If the U.S. defense falters though, it will be tough going for the Stars and Stripes this year. I predict the U.S. to shock a lot of people and make it out of the group stage advancing with Favorites Germany.
Visiting Brazil: I had a chance to talk to Ailton, owner and operator of Elton’s Café in the lower level of Greenwich Library about his recent experience in Brazil.
“It was amazing. The stadiums are nothing like we have here,” he said. Ailton a São Paulo native, got to see not only the stadiums but the World Cup trophy as well.
“It was a half a day wait in the heat and humidity to see the trophy. The security was unbelievable as it is 7 kilos of pure gold,” Sousa said.
Overall, Ailton said he loved his trip and can’t wait for the Cup to start.