The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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June 22, 2014

Fever pitch on pitch!

World Cup: U.S., powerful Portugal battle tonight

— MIFFLINBURG — Team USA will beat Portugal tonight and advance to the exclusive Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

So said Valley youth players between games Saturday at the Mifflinburg AYSO Region 607 Tournament, which drew hundreds of future World Cuppers to the pitch on a sunny day full of competition.

Players on squads from Milton, Tyrone and Warrior Run said they’ve been watching the World Cup, in Brazil, and will be ready to scream for Team USA tonight. “USA! USA!” Milton players chanted in unison.

Parents will likely hear the same tonight in living rooms across the nation, where 630,000 children are members of AYSO squads.

At least 11 million households watched Team USA beat Ghana on ESPN, a record high for the all-sports network’s coverage of men’s FIFA World Cup matches, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Eleven-year-old Hayden Durussell, of Warrior Run, believes Team USA is positioned to advance because of squad captain Clint Dempsey, a forward for the Seattle Sounders.

“Up front,” Hayden said, “he’s the best player.”

Dempsey will play tonight despite breaking his nose in Monday’s opener against Ghana, but the Americans will be without striker Jozy Altidore, who suffered a strained hamstring in that game.

Hayden’s friend Brayden, a Warrior Run teammate who declined to give his last name and age, thinks Team USA will beat Portugal — but not Germany, the squad he thinks will win the Cup and which the Americans meet on Thursday.

But for tonight, Brayden says the Americans will prevail 3-1.

“Maybe the USA will win,” said Ella Pearson, 11, of Tyrone. “I’ve been watching, and every time I’ve cheered they have won.”

So she’ll keep rooting for Team USA.

“They have really good players,” she said.

Ella and teammates Laura Cohler and Kendall Markley, both 11, all will watch at home tonight, they said.

Trace Witter, 8, of Milton, thinks an earlier loss to Germany spells trouble for Portugal.

“They haven’t been doing really well,” he said, “but the USA is doing really well.”

Final score, according to Trace: 1-0, USA.

“Dempsey is really good even though he broke his nose,” said Ethan Rhodes, 7, who predicts a 3-2 U.S. win.

“I was really sad when that happened,” said Gabe Yost, 9, Milton, who envisions a 2-1 U.S. victory. “But he’s back.”

Milton players Dominic Ballo, 8, says USA 5-4; Jonah Strobel, 7, says USA 3-1; and Xzavier Minium, USA 2-1.

The youths said they admire Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, a forward whom the Washington Post calls “the planet’s premier performer.”

Alex Hazzoum, 11, of Warrior Run, believes Ronaldo will help Portugal best Team USA, but he didn’t predict a score.

 

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