Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

U.S. World Cup coach Klinsmann sounds more confident as opener approaches

NATAL, Brazil — Jurgen Klinsmann speaks with pragmatism. He books his airline tickets with hope.

The U.S. coach caused a stir in the lead-up to soccer's championship when he said that "I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic."

But on the eve of the Americans' opener against Ghana, he revealed this: "I booked my flight after the final."

The U.S. has never advanced after starting with a loss, and it is grouped with the 37th-ranked Black Stars along with No. 2 Germany and No. 4 Portugal.

A two-day downpour has flooded some streets in this northeastern Brazilian beach town. While the skies started to clear a bit Sunday, the forecast was unsettled for Monday night's game, when the Americans try to avenge losses to Ghana that knocked them out of the past two World Cups.

Klinsmann sounded just like the U.S. Postal Service.

"It's raining. If it's snowing. If it's — what else? — thunder or lightning … field wet, field dry, heat, humidity, whatever," he said Sunday. "We're not worried about that stuff at all."

A total of 3.11 inches of rain fell Friday and 2.95 more Saturday, according to AccuWeather's Anthony Sagliani, and by late Saturday night cars had to navigate at least 18 inches of standing water. Natal's City Hall declared a flood alert and evacuated dozens of residents as a precaution in the Mae Luiza neighborhood in the city's west.

Still, the field appeared firm during workouts Sunday at the new Arena das Dunas, whose wavy, asymmetrical exterior was designed to resemble the nearby sand dunes of a city nearly as close to west Africa (1,800 miles) as to the American base camp in Sao Paulo (1,400 miles).

The forecast calls for a temperature of about 80 degrees (27 Celsius), high humidity — Natal is 400 miles south of the equator — and a slight chance of showers.

"The weather is what it is, and as players that's not something we can control," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "You get to this point, you're not worried about little details, about whether the wind is blowing, whether the sun is out."

Thousands of U.S. fans are expected. The American Outlaws supporters group chartered two Boeing 767s from Houston that brought 530 fans to Brazil, and the U.S. Soccer Federation said it sold its official allotment of about 2,000 tickets.

Ghana beat the Americans by identical 2-1 scores in the final group-stage game at Germany in 2006 and in the second round at South Africa four years ago. The U.S., appearing at its seventh straight World Cup and 10th overall, has never lost to a team three straight times in the tournament.

"It's going to be like they're coming for revenge," said Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan, whose overtime goal was the difference in the 2010 match.

Teams that won their openers have advanced 85 percent of the time since the 32-nation format began in 1998. Just 9 percent of nations starting with a loss advanced, and 58 percent of those beginning with draws reached the knockout rounds.

"This is just an awesome moment, because that's the biggest stage you can have, where you kind of want to show that you improved, and nothing better than against the team that beat you the last two World Cups," Klinsmann said. "So this, as we mentioned before, is like start the whole World Cup with a final."

Ghana lost a shootout to Uruguay in the 2010 quarterfinals. The Black Stars are the youngest of the 32 World Cup teams with an average age of 25 years, 6 months, according to FIFA, while the U.S. is the 12th-oldest at 27 years, 10 months.

"Now people back home believe we can do more, which puts pressure on the players," Gyan said.

Barring late injuries, Tim Howard will be in goal, and Fabian Johnson figures to start at right back, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in central defense and DaMarcus Beasley at left back. Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Bradley anchor the midfield, and Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will be up front. The fourth midfielder likely will come from among Alejandro Bedoya, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis. Beasley would become the first American to play in four World Cups.

The Americans will wear their red white and blue road uniforms. While confident, Ghana coach James Appiah sounded wary.

"America years back I believe was more interested in baseball," he said. "They are a big football country now."

Comments
Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

Man with multiple gun arrests now accused of fatally shooting Durant High football player

The first time deputies arrested Samuel Morrissey Jr., he faced charges of possession of marijuana and carrying a concealed firearm. He plead no contest in September, and the judge gave him a break by withholding adjudication. Ten days later, the 20-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning wins 3-1, advances to the semifinals

Lightning wins 3-1, advances to the semifinals

TAMPA — The Lightning closed out its quarterfinal series against the Devils with a suffocating defensive effort.The Devils finally solved Andrei Vasilevskiy in the waning moments with goalie Cory Schneider on the bench and the Devils skati...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Captain’s Corner: Variables are all that is constant when it comes to art of fishing

The unique variables and ever-changing conditions of fishing are what set it apart from most other sports. Basketball goals don’t move, baseball diamonds are basically the same and tennis courts never change. Fishing, on the other hand, is constantly...
Updated: 1 hour ago
2018 NFL schedule: All 256 games ranked

2018 NFL schedule: All 256 games ranked

When the NFL released its schedule Thursday night, we were going to rank the best and worst games. Instead, we entered the Times schedule-evaluation laboratory and ranked all 256 based on their attractiveness and the quality of the teams involved.One...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Live blog: Lightning aims to eliminate Devils in Game 5

Live blog: Lightning aims to eliminate Devils in Game 5

Follow our live coverage of the opening-round NHL playoff series between the Lightning and New Jersey Devils. Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journalists will chronicle the action on and off the ice through updates, analysis, ph...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

UPDATE, 4:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier was back at the Trop, and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand and protective wrapping on his right, the day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb. He said the surgery went "as good ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

The Rays have made it official – or as official as things can be with them – in naming RHP Yonny Chirinos as the fourth starter in their rotation.The Rays had been using three, and two "Bullpen Day" slots when playing five straight days.B...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

Bucs not listening to outsiders, but expectations remain high for 2018

TAMPA —Wait 'til this year seems to be the refrain at One Buc Place, even though the team was strangled by expectations in 2017. But a solid offseason that has already brought a rebuilt defensive line, new center and place-kicker has renewed th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Devils top D Vatanen out today vs. Lightning

Devils top D Vatanen out today vs. Lightning

TAMPA — Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen will not play today because of an upper body injury suffered during the first period of Game 4, coach John Hynes announced this afternoon.Mirco Mueller will replace Vatanen in the lineup.Game 5 be...
Updated: 5 hours ago