World Cup 2014

World Cup: USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann "eager" to face Ghana after scouting Miami friendly

SAO PAULO – With all eyes fixed on the US national team’s critical first match of the group stage against Ghana on June 16 in Natal, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fairly secretive Wednesday about what he learned from watching the Black Stars' 4-0 win over South Korea up close on Monday night in Miami.

Klinsmann, World Cup advisor Berti Vogts and scout Matthias Hamann stayed behind South Florida to watch the game before arriving in São Paulo early Tuesday morning, 24 hours after the US players arrived.

“Obviously a great result for Ghana,” Klinsmann said. “I wanted to see them myself and get an impression there, and we have that. … We respect every opponent that we play in those group-stage games, and we know about their strengths, but we also know about their weaknesses. And we know about our strengths and what we need to improve still, and we’ve been working on that for a month.”

Ghana preceded their decisive win over South Korea with a 1-0 loss to the Netherlands in Rotterdam on May 31 and will not come into Natal as a surprise squad to the Americans, who were eliminated by the Black Stars each of the past two World Cups.

“We feel very confident going into this game against Ghana,” Klinsmann said. “But we also know what Ghana represents – one of the top nations in Africa, no doubt about it. … But we are eager to challenge them, we are eager to go eye to eye now. And once those [group stage games] are played, then you can make your judgment.”

The USMNT were scheduled to face Belgium in a closed-door scrimmage on Thursday before the match was abruptly cancelled on Wednesday afternoon due to traffic concerns for the Belgian side. Instead they'll work out two more times at their training facility as the days count down to their opening game.

“We feel very confident going into this game against Ghana,” Klinsmann said. “But we also know what Ghana represents – one of the top nations in Africa, no doubt about it. … But we are eager to challenge them, we are eager to go eye to eye now. And once those [group stage games] are played, then you can make your judgment.”

Klinsmann also said that his staff watched Portugal’s decisive win over Ireland on Wednesday night in New Jersey and had deployed “our people” at MetLife Stadium for the game. Star striker Cristiano Ronaldo made his return to the Portugal lineup in the 5-1 win after missing the team’s previous tuneup matches in the United States while battling fatigue issues following the European season.

The US will meet Portugal in Manaus on June 22.

“Our job is to stop him,” Klinsmann said. “Once the game comes across in beautiful Manaus, then we can figure out ways to make it really miserable for him. But this is the second step before the first step, and the first step is Ghana. Once we have those three points, which is our goal, then we can talk more about Cristiano Ronaldo."

In other news from the US camp on Wednesday, defender Timmy Chandler skipped training as a precaution after taking a knock during workouts on Tuesday. He is expected to return Thursday, according to a US spokesman.