Three keys to beating Ghana

Nullifying Ghana's counterattack among factors critical to U.S. success

Updated: June 14, 2014, 7:06 PM ET
By Adrian Melville | ESPN Insider

Jones/BradleyKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesU.S. midfielders Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley both will play critical roles versus Ghana.

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The United States will open its World Cup campaign against Ghana on Monday, and both teams are fully aware of how important three points are in a group that also includes Portugal and Germany. Both teams are most familiar with each other from their round of 16 matchup in the 2010 World Cup, when Ghana needed extra time to escape with a 2-1 victory.

Four years later, both the U.S. and Ghana possess many of the same core players that led their respective 2010 campaigns, and both teams also feature new managers that have continually examined and tweaked their lineups leading up to the opening game in Brazil.

As the U.S. looks to avenge its loss in 2010, here are three keys for the Americans to earn three points against Ghana, and in the process put themselves in contention to advance out of Group G.

Protect against the counterattack

Before Ghana truly made a global name for itself with a World Cup quarterfinal run in 2010, the team was able to sit players deep in defense and surprise opponents with quality chances from its counterattacks. This style was orchestrated by former Ghana manager Milovan Rajevac, and remains the team's primary philosophy under current manager Kwesi Appiah. Ghana's open distribution led to the team scoring 25 goals in eight World Cup qualifying matches, and Ghana's 7-3 aggregate victory over former U.S. manager Bob Bradley's Egypt squad in the qualifying playoffs further illustrated how Ghana's midfielders are quick to join the attack and exploit open spaces before their opponents settle into a defensive shape.

The United States will look to prevent these counterattack opportunities by adding bodies in front of its back line, and the team's final pre-World Cup friendly against Nigeria indicates that this will involve adding Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman as an extra holding midfielder. With this move, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann looks to make the most out of Beckerman's instincts in reading plays centrally against opponents, while pairing that with Jermaine Jones' ability to cover ground and make tackles when Ghana's attackers look to start counterattacks from wide positions.