Looking ahead: After gritty win over Ghana, can US morph its style to challenge Portugal?

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The United States gritted out the guttiest of gutty wins against Ghana tonight, using a John Brooks header in the 87th minute to pick up three points and set itself up for advancement in Group G.

However, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Next up is going to be an angry, beaten down Portugal side that just lost 4-0 to Germany and is still licking its wounds.

And as beatable as Portugal looked as they slumped to an embarrassing defeat to a European powerhouse, it’s important to remember that this Portugal team is about as opposite from Ghana and Nigeria as it’s possible to be.

That means Jurgen Klinsmann is going to have to completely reinvent his lineup. Again.

All of the buildup the last six months has been to this match with Ghana. Now that it’s over, the team must look ahead.  Portugal possesses a very dangerous combination of power and speed, which it flashed at times against Germany despite the disappointing overall performance.  They are a very European team, one that passes precisely and finishes efficiently.

Down to 10 men for most of the match, Portugal still managed to fire off 399 passes, completing 349 of them for an 87% completion rate. They had created six chances already by the time Pepe was sent off in the 34th minute, according to Opta statistics.

German defenders Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm, and Mats Hummels were brilliant at the back, providing pinpoint tackles to stop the Portuguese attacks down the middle and shadowing Cristiano Ronaldo with precise care.

The United States doesn’t have anybody of their quality in defense, and it will require defensive creativity by Klinsmann to cover Ronaldo while preventing massive gaps forming in the middle when the defense shades to his side.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ]

Klinsmann’s talisman against both Nigeria and then Ghana was the midfield triangle of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman set up in a 4-3-2-1. While Bradley struggled individually against Ghana, the triangle still successfully pegged down the Ghanian attack in the middle of the field, forcing them to go out wide.

Unfortunately for the US, Portugal is just as deadly out wide as they are through the middle, and with Cristiano Ronaldo out on the wing and roaming into the middle of the box, it’s not as straightforward stopping their presence up front.

It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann changes his squad to match up with Portugal, but one thing you can guarantee is the strategy against Ghana will be doomed against the Portuguese. It’s a different test altogether, and no matter how poorly they opened Group G play with, the Portuguese will push the US to the brink.

Klinsmann has always wanted the squad to be flexible in its ability to play against different types of opponents and styles of play.  With one test passed, a new one arises, and flexible they must be.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

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There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.