World Cup: USA Prepares to Meet the World’s Best Player on Sunday

The United States, on the whole, does not have a particularly sterling reputation when it comes to soccer. On Sunday, they’ll take to the pitch against Portugal, and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who might as well be made of silver — at least when it comes to his undisputed position as, at worst, one of the top three soccer players in the world (depending on how you feel about Argentina’s Lionel Messi and, uh, fill in your favorite player here.) In the USMNT’s 2-1 victory over Ghana, the team was able to survive their own tentative play with a miracle of a header from an unknown sub. Wishing for lightning to strike twice seems like an unreliable strategy, and what do you do when everyone knows the best player is on the other team?

One assumes that pulling a Tonya Harding on Ronaldo is out of the question, and instead the focus has got to fall on what makes Ronaldo work, and how to make him work as hard as he can in order to get what he wants. Easier said than done when you’re talking about a guy who has scored nearly 50 goals in his international career.

“The backline have got to be compact, and obviously cover when needed,” said Warren Barton, former player and analyst for Fox Sports One. “You know [Ronaldo]‘s going to go past you at some stage,  its just where you’re going to push him — do you push him inside where Beckerman is? You’ve got to try and emphasize where you’re going to push him. Don’t let him dictate where he goes.” The game between the United States and Portugal is the last match scheduled for Sunday, and kicks off at 6 p.m. Eastern Time.

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