Riding the crest of an emotional wave after their dramatic 2-1 victory over Ghana, the relatively young and untested 23-member soccer squad will rely on the experience of its senior athletes, some with Summer Olympics experience.
Team USA has a storied past at the Olympics – failing to qualify for some Summer Games, and when competing, not advancing beyond the pool play round.
Still, emerging from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the American contingent finished ninth, are three stalwarts. Either on or off the pitch, this trio will lead by example.
Michael Bradley in many ways is the backbone of this squad. With significant national team experience and overseas club play under his belt, the 26-year-old was a finalist as recently as 2013 for the U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year.
Coming off of a good match opener against Ghana, Bradley will incite fellow midfielders to step up their play against Portugal, itself bolstered by its own strong midfield.
Goalie Brad Guzan is the perfect backstop for Team USA, if starter Tim Howard were to get injured. Competing at the professional club level since 2005, the 29-year-old has amassed five shutouts in eight World Cup qualifying appearances. Count on this 6'4" tower of power to step in to fend off Portugal strikes in a substitute role.
Last, cheering from the sidelines will be Jozy Altidore. This world-renowned phenom, who competed in Beijing as an 18-year-old, pulled his left hamstring in the Ghana opener. Winning both the U.S. Soccer 2013 Male Athlete of the Year; and the Futbol de Primera Player of Year 2013 awards, the deft forward hopes to return to action in the knockout round, contingent on one more American win in Group G.
Chris Wondolowski, a likely fill-in for Altidore recognizes the loss. "Jozy is a special player. You can’t [replace him]," Wondolowski said in a MLS Soccer interview.