Brad Friedel knows what it takes to spring a Cinderella run at a World Cup, and he believes the current US national team is capable of doing just that in Brazil this summer.
But to do so, they'll have to start with a victory over Ghana – and raise the standard of their defense.
That was the veteran goalkeeper's expert assessment of his former team in a Tuesday morning conversation with the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show on UK outlet talkSPORT.
“The US have a strong squad,” said Friedel when asked about the Yanks' World Cup hopes. “Very good up front, very strong in the midfield. Very good goalkeeper in Timmy Howard. Probably our biggest weakness would be along our back four. If we have everyone fit, we'll be formidable against anyone.
“However, playing against the world's best player in [Portuguese winger Cristiano] Ronaldo, playing against one of the world's best teams in Germany, is going to be difficult. So that Ghana game is going to be a must-win for us, in my opinion.”
Friedel anchored the USMNT defense throughout their scintillating quarterfinal run at the 2002 World Cup, including a tournament record two penalty-kick saves, before retiring from international soccer in 2005.
But the ageless Tottenham Hotspur 'keeper clearly still keeps an eye on his country's squad, which he believes is short on seasoning in the back.
“Carlos Bocanegra is not being picked any more. He was one with experience,” he noted. “For me, I like [Oguchi] Onyewu when he's fully fit. He's been injured so much in his career and he's now finding some form at Sheffield Wednesday. I don't know if he's going to get a late call-up.
“Possibly Michael Parkhurst, who's gone to Columbus Crew. I just don't know. It's going to be one of those, we'll wait-and-see a couple of weeks before the World Cup starts.”
While hailing the progress his former national team has made on the world stage, Friedel also noted the sky-high expectations it has helped foster back home.
“Most American supporters will want us, and probably only support us fully, if we're doing well. And they kind of expect every American team to do well in every event in every sport around the world,” he said. “So the expectations, in my opinion, are always a little bit too high.
“The good thing with the States is, we're past the point of people of just being happy to be picked in the squad and take part in the World Cup. We're long past that. The players are going to go in and try to win every game. Portugal is a game that we can win. We beat them in 2002. But it's going to be difficult.”