Game On: Lineups & more as United States faces Portugal in vital Group G match

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With so much on the line for the United States in each game, they look to stun the “Group of Death” and earn knockout-stage security against Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo hopes to have other ideas.

The Portuguese, ranked #4 in the world, fell 4-0 to the Germans in their opening match, and are on the brink of elimination with a loss.

On the flip side, the United States would become the first Group G team to earn a place in the knockout round if they could earn a win against a country they’ve had surprising results over in the past.

Jozy Altidore is out injured for the US, and Clint Dempsey is the man to take his place in the attack. For Portugal, Pepe is suspended after his late straight-red against Germany, and Fabio Coentrao is also out for the entire tournament with an injury.

[ MORE: Germany pummels Portugal | US takes spoils from Ghana late ]
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United States – Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey.

Portugal – Beto; Bruno Alves, Pereira, A.Almeida, Costa; Veloso, Meireles, Mourinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga.

Talking points:

1. How healthy is Cristiano Ronaldo?

This is a massive unknown. Ronaldo looked less than 100% against Germany, and was ineffective as a result. With more ice packs on his knee throughout training this past week, many speculate he may still not be fully fit.  Nonetheless, he is playing.

“There’s a lot of admiration for him and for the players who play at big clubs and in the Champions League,” said Jurgen Klinsmann. “But this is the moment to prove yourself, to step up, play those guys and put them in place. We want to put Cristiano in place.  We want to make it our game, we are ready for that, we have been preparing for that a long time. We are not worried about any players, we respect them of course, as we always do, but we are ready.”

2. How will the US attack look without Jozy Altidore?

Jurgen Klinsmann has decided to put Clint Dempsey as the lone striker, leaving Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski to ponder things on the bench. It’s a bold move from the manager, as Dempsey’s creative ability often relies on freedom in the attacking midfield, but with no other true scoring threats he will have to stick to the head of the attack. Will that backfire? Or will it give solidity to the formation?

Expectation: Umm…….nobody actually knows, to be honest. The Portuguese are favored by reputation alone, but having been demolished by a quality German side, it’s hard to actually tell what they can bring to the table on a consistent basis. Much of it also rides on how fit Ronaldo is, which is a complete unknown.

One blogger’s prediction: This is one of the hardest matches to call so far in this World Cup, and with that, I will leave you with a 2-1 Portugal victory, solely on the premise that I really don’t want to be responsible for a jinx of the United States squad. Enjoy the match! It’s one of the most important in recent US soccer memory.

USA 4-0 Panama: United States top Group A

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 01:  Jordan Morris #9 of the USA celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the 1st minute of the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying match against Canada at Sporting Park on October 1, 2015 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The United States U-23 team exploded for four goals in the second half to down Panama 4-0, as the U.S. finish atop Group A in Olympic qualifying with a perfect three wins from three matches.

They advance to the semifinals, where they will face either Mexico or Honduras.

Thanks to a 2-2 draw between Canada and Cuba earlier in the evening, the U.S. had already clinched the top spot in Group A before this match began. With the United States’ win, Canada also advances into the semifinals as the second-place team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 11th minute, but Panama goalkeeper Elieser Powell made a higlight-reel save on Gedion Zelalem. Maki Tall moved in and fired a low shot on goal, forcing Powell to dive down and make a stop. The rebound rolled right out to Zelalem, who had the whole goal in front of him, but somehow Powell reached to get a hand on it, deflecting the shot over the bar.

Tied 0-0 at halftime, Andreas Herzog made some adjustments to his lineup, bringing in Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter for Tall and Zelalem. The substitutions paid immediate dividends, as the United States jumped out to a three-goal lead within minutes.

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In the 51st minute, Gboly Ariyibi’s cross took a deflection off Fidel Escobar and into the net, ruled an own goal on the Panamanian defender.

Two minutes later, substitute Jerome Kiesewetter took a pass from Luis Gil and fired a right-footed shot from a tight angle to the far post, doubling the United States’ lead. It was a very clean finish from the German-born Stuttgart product.

Three minutes after scoring a goal, Kiesewetter grabbed an assist as he combined with fellow substitute Jordan Morris to make it 3-0. Kiesewetter ran down the right wing and played a low cross in, where Morris tapped home his third goal of the tournament.

Kiesewetter continued his stellar half, blowing by a defender before doing well to draw a foul in the box. Luis Gil stepped up to the spot and buried the penalty, as the U.S. went 4-0 up in the 71st minute.

With the result, the United States heads into the semifinals with a +11 goal differential, outscoring their opponents 13-2 in the group stage. A win in the semis would guarantee the U.S. a spot in the 2016 Olympics.

Bayern, Germany legend Gerd Muller suffering from Alzheimer’s

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY  01:  Gerd Muller during a media event discussing the Golden Boot comptetition in the FIFA 2010 World Cup held at the adidas Jo'bulani Central in Sandton Convention Centre on July 1, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Dominic Barnardt/Getty Images for adidas)
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Bayern Munich has confirmed that legendary goalscorer Gerd Muller is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Muller’s 70th birthday is in November, and the club published a statement that no celebrations would be held due to his ongoing treatment.

One of the greatest strikers to ever play the game, Muller scored 525 goals during his 15-years with Bayern, the most in club history. Karl Heinze-Rummenigge is Bayern’s second leading goalscorer with 218 goals.

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Rummenigge currently serves as the club’s director, and spoke about Muller’s legacy.

Gerd Müller is one of the all-time greats of world football. Without his goals, Bayern Munich and German football would not be what it is today.

There will probably never be another goalscorer like Gerd, yet despite all his successes, he was always very humble and reserved, which particularly impressed me.

He was a fantastic team-mate and is a friend. Gerd will always enjoy a place in the Bayern family.

After he ended his playing career, he brought his experience as a coach of youngsters to the club, helping define the likes of world champions Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller, and we are also grateful to him for this.

Muller won the Golden Boot at the 1970 World Cup with ten goals, helping West Germany to a third-place finish. That same year he won the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world, and helped the West German team capture the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974.

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He is one of the top scorers in German national team history with 68 goals, second only to Miroslav Klose’s 71. However, Muller reached 68 goals in just 62 caps, while it took Klose 137 appearances to reach his mark. His 14 World Cup goals are third all-time to Klose (16) and Ronaldo (14).