This weekend’s MLS Cup isn’t the only game in town, thanks to the FIFA World Cup draw going down today. We consulted the one and only Tony Meola to share his thoughts on both as he prepares for yet another soccer event supported by the insurance giant Allstate.
Meola didn’t expect an easy draw for the games in Brazil, but landing in the “Group of Death” doesn’t represent an impossible task. Meola sees the positive in every difficulty and thinks the U.S. has a chance to make it through the group behind Germany.
“Germany is Germany,” Meola remarked. “They are the obvious favorites in the group.”
But he doesn’t see Portugal as being invincible despite having arguably the best player of the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. He doesn’t believe that the 2014 Portuguese squad is better than the one that dominated in 2002. He also thinks that it will be difficult for Ghana to beat the U.S. three times in a row , making that opening match against Ghana a must-win for the Americans.
Meola believes Klinsmann is “the right guy” when it comes to preparing for this World Cup and his native Germany. He is also the right choice when it comes to choosing the squad. This difficult draw may change how he chooses his team; that is surely a possibility at this point.
Several players have work to do to make this summer’s USMNT squad, but Meola predicts that two players from this weekend’s MLS Cup are not among them. Matt Besler is a lock to make the squad, while Graham Zusi should make the squad, playing on the right. Both should get opportunities to play in the opening three games of the World Cup.
Terrance Boyd and Sacha Kljestan are two players still “on the fringe.” Altidore is the only lock as a striker, while Eddie Johnson and Aron Jóhannsson seem to be favorites to fit into a 4-2-3-1 system that Klinsmann has found success with. Form and scoring goals at the time of selection are going to be key for Boyd, who is an absolute star in Austria.
Meola believes Kljestan must make the most of his remaining opportunities, but his selection depends on numbers. The middle of the field is congested and it is unclear how many midfielders will be headed to Brazil. It really is “a matter of need” for Klinsmann.
Meola is convinced that being flexible and changing lineups based on a deep bench is going to be crucial for any team to succeed in the World Cup. He called Bruce Arena “a master” in this area, prompting a change in mentality for American managers.
The MLS Cup was the other major topic. The former USMNT goalkeeper sees this weekend’s match as an ideal situation.
“The best two teams in MLS are playing right now. That’s exciting.”
Meola predicts the game will be a low scoring affair, one that will be won in the midfield. RSL seems to have an edge in this area, benefitting from their vast experience in their midfield. Veteran Ned Grabavoy will be the “X Factor” in tomorrow’s matchup.
Sporting KC will have a strong home crowd on their side, one that can pressure the opponent and give their team a confidence boost. It really is a special situation, a true showcase for MLS. It is also special for Meola, going back to a city and a club that has not forgot him. He was part of the first Sporting Legends class, SKC’s Hall of Fame. His name will remain part of the stadium forever, a pretty cool honor.
Giving back is the biggest reason for Meola’s trip to Kansas City. He participated in yet another Good Hands FC event, providing players with gear, MLS Cup tickets, signed merchandise, and some great training. Meola even got some help from current MLS stars in Will Bruin and Will Johnson, who served as guest trainers.
Good Hands FC is always special and represents the best the beautiful game has to offer. Legends and stars giving back, thanks to a company that cares about their clients and sports in America. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
We would like to personally thank Allstate for their commitment to soccer over the years, helping grow the American game and supporting ISN along the way.
Also congratulations are in order for Brandon Ponchak, who won our Twitter contest and two MLS Cup tickets in the process!
Good Hands FC Event Photos