SAO PAULO — Just after he was cut from the U.S. roster last month, right back Brad Evans posted this snarky tweet: “You got off easy this time (at)Cristiano.”
The Americans are confident their defensive depth can stop the two-time world player of the year when they play Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on Sunday night in a World Cup match in the Amazon rain forest capital of Manaus.
“He’s a complete player,” midfielder Michael Bradley said Friday. “When you look at the game today, there’s such a premium on the physical aspect of the game — speed, strength, endurance — and he is a guy who checks all those boxes. And then when you talk about his technical ability — the way he shoots with his right foot, his left foot, how good in the air he is — he’s somebody who can make the difference at any moment.”
Coming off a 2-1 opening win over Ghana, the U.S. could possibly clinch advancement with a win and would put itself in excellent position with a tie.
Right back Fabian Johnson, left back DaMarcus Beasley and central defenders Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler figure to fixate on Ronaldo. Bradley, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones will assist in marking him from the midfield.
The 29-year-old forward with the perpetually gelled hair has topped 50 goals in four straight seasons with Real Madrid. He was voted FIFA player of the year in 2008, then in January ended Lionel Messi’s streak of four consecutive awards.
For six months, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been talking about how his first priority was the U.S. opener against Ghana and his second was to “go to beautiful Manaus and expect Mr. Ronaldo.” Klinsmann, by the way, didn’t even have Ronaldo on his player of the year ballot; he voted Franck Ribery first, followed by Gareth Bale and Radamel Falcao.