Tampa Bay Rowdies general manager Perry Van Der Beck earned 23 caps as a member of the U.S. men's national team from 1979-85. Van Der Beck shared his observations with the Tampa Bay Times on Monday following the United States' dramatic 2-1 victory over Ghana in Natal, Brazil, in the team's opening game of the World Cup.
How big is this win for the U.S. team from a historic perspective?
"Because of the success the team has had since 1990 making it to the World Cup, now the team is expected to qualify. We've won our qualifying group (CONCACAF). We get drawn into the group of death against a team that has beaten us the last two World Cups, and to get this result is monumental for the development of soccer in the U.S."
The Americans played from behind in three of their four World Cup matches in 2010. How much did Clint Dempsey's first-minute goal Monday help to settle the team's nerves?
"Dempsey gets the ball in a tight space, and to finish that, it just set the tone. Ghana had to change their tactics and change their attack."
Did you feel the U.S. team was too defensive-minded after scoring so early?
"I don't know whether they meant to do that or if Ghana was just that good at keeping possession. Ghana was getting the ball on the outside and crossing into the box, but they weren't getting anything through the middle. The U.S. did a good job of getting behind the ball, standing their ground and not giving up anything through the middle. That's one of the first principles of defending."
How much did Jozy Altidore's hamstring injury change the complexion of the game for the Americans?
"It's hard to say because I thought (Aron) Johannsson came in and did a decent job. Jozy's such a presence. He commands two or three players at all times. His injury changed the tactics for the U.S., but that's why you've got to build depth in the team. I thought Johannsson did well. I wouldn't say he was out-and-out impressive, but he didn't let us down."
What do you think of the U.S. team's chances against Portugal on Sunday?:
"I think we have a very good chance. (Portugal defender) Pepe going down (Monday) with a red card and having to sit out will make it easier, but with Portugal's loss and the goal differential, they're going to be fighting for goals. It won't be easy. This will be the game that tells us whether we go through to the knockout stage. If we get a result, we should be good to go."