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Americans’ defense does job in win against Ghana

  • United States' Matt Besler, right, slides under Ghana's Jordan Ayew to take the ball away during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

    United States' Matt Besler, right, slides under Ghana's Jordan Ayew to take the ball away during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • United States' Geoff Cameron, top and Ghana's Andre Ayew challenge for the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

    United States' Geoff Cameron, top and Ghana's Andre Ayew challenge for the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, left, and United States' Geoff Cameron jump to head the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

    Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, left, and United States' Geoff Cameron jump to head the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

  • United States' Matt Besler, left, talks to United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard as they walk off the pitch at the half during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    United States' Matt Besler, left, talks to United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard as they walk off the pitch at the half during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard grabs the ball as he makes a save at the feet of his teammate Geoff Cameron, right, and Ghana's Andre Ayew during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

    United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard grabs the ball as he makes a save at the feet of his teammate Geoff Cameron, right, and Ghana's Andre Ayew during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

  • Chile's Eduardo Vargas, second left in white,  celebrates scoring the opening goal as Spain's Sergio Ramos, left, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, react during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Chile's Eduardo Vargas, second left in white, celebrates scoring the opening goal as Spain's Sergio Ramos, left, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, react during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • Chile's Eduardo Vargas, second left in white,  celebrates scoring the opening goal as Spain's Sergio Ramos, left, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, react during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Chile's Eduardo Vargas, second left in white, celebrates scoring the opening goal as Spain's Sergio Ramos, left, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, react during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo makes a save against Spain's Sergio Ramos during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

    Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo makes a save against Spain's Sergio Ramos during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

  • Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo makes a save against Spain's Sergio Ramos during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

    Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo makes a save against Spain's Sergio Ramos during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

  • Chile's Alexis Sanchez races against Spain's Sergio Ramos to get to the ball during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

    Chile's Alexis Sanchez races against Spain's Sergio Ramos to get to the ball during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

  • Brazil's Neymar, left, and Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez challenge for the ball during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.  (AP Photo/Francois Xavier Marit, pool)

    Brazil's Neymar, left, and Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez challenge for the ball during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Francois Xavier Marit, pool)

  • Spain's Fernando Torres, second from right, is surrounded by Chilean defenders during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

    Spain's Fernando Torres, second from right, is surrounded by Chilean defenders during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • Spain's Fernando Torres, right, goes to ground during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

    Spain's Fernando Torres, right, goes to ground during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

  • United States' Matt Besler, right, slides under Ghana's Jordan Ayew to take the ball away during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

    United States' Matt Besler, right, slides under Ghana's Jordan Ayew to take the ball away during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • United States' Matt Besler, right, slides under Ghana's Jordan Ayew to take the ball away during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
  • United States' Geoff Cameron, top and Ghana's Andre Ayew challenge for the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
  • Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, left, and United States' Geoff Cameron jump to head the ball during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
  • United States' Matt Besler, left, talks to United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard as they walk off the pitch at the half during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  • United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard grabs the ball as he makes a save at the feet of his teammate Geoff Cameron, right, and Ghana's Andre Ayew during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
  • Chile's Eduardo Vargas, second left in white,  celebrates scoring the opening goal as Spain's Sergio Ramos, left, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, react during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • Chile's Eduardo Vargas, second left in white,  celebrates scoring the opening goal as Spain's Sergio Ramos, left, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, react during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo makes a save against Spain's Sergio Ramos during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
  • Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo makes a save against Spain's Sergio Ramos during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
  • Chile's Alexis Sanchez races against Spain's Sergio Ramos to get to the ball during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
  • Brazil's Neymar, left, and Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez challenge for the ball during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.  (AP Photo/Francois Xavier Marit, pool)
  • Spain's Fernando Torres, second from right, is surrounded by Chilean defenders during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
  • Spain's Fernando Torres, right, goes to ground during the group B World Cup soccer match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.  (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
  • United States' Matt Besler, right, slides under Ghana's Jordan Ayew to take the ball away during the group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014.  (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

SAO PAULO – After one game and one impressive win, the U.S. defense is holding its own.

Slowing down world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday in Manaus figures to be a far stiffer test for this young group.

For all the times the Americans heard how inexperienced their back line would be heading into the World Cup, they’re riding high with confidence after Monday’s 2-1 opening win against Ghana. The victory greatly increased their odds of advancing out of a talented Group G, which earned the nickname “Group of Death” the moment the draw came out.

“These 23 players, I think we all deserve to be here, really,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “We’ve earned that right to play here. All these players have shown throughout training camp in Stanford and all that that they are more than capable of handling different things, and we have size, strength, speed back there as well.”

While starter Matt Besler was removed for the second half of Monday’s victory in Natal as a precaution because of a tight right hamstring, John Brooks showed he is a reliable fill-in – and delivered the game-winner on a header in the 86th minute. Besler’s leg is expected to be fine by Sunday, Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.

Left back DaMarcus Beasley became the first U.S. player to appear in four World Cups. In a wide-open game, right back Fabian Johnson didn’t show quite the same ability to get forward as he did in warm-up matches. Center back Geoff Cameron was a steadying force.

“I thought they did extremely well with the unexpected changes. I think all of the guys did very well together,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “I thought Cam was an absolute monster back there for us. He found himself in great spots to clear some really dangerous balls. (Besler), when he was in there, was as solid as ever, and Brooksie came in and obviously did his part as well, and got that eventual game-winner. And the outside guys, Beas and Fabian, were their old selves, getting up and down the line, as dangerous as ever.”

For many of the Americans, being a bunch of World Cup first-timers hardly seems to matter. Only six players on Klinsmann’s 23-man roster were on the 2010 U.S. team in South Africa.

That attitude stems partly from the fact Klinsmann has downplayed the youth issue from Day 1, refusing to let it be an excuse or something to even give a second thought. Klinsmann insisted from the moment his team reported to training camp at Stanford, Calif., on May 14 that he was unconcerned about the back four’s lack of experience.

“There’s always a first time in life in whatever you do,” said Klinsmann, who gave the Americans a day off from training yesterday to enjoy time with family and friends in Sao Paulo before returning to the field today. “It’s for some the first World Cup, though it’s the first of hopefully many World Cups to come for them.”

After Clint Dempsey scored 30 seconds in, Ghana was forced into attack mode – making the defense work.

Cameron has shifted to center back from his position on the right for Stoke and seems unfazed by the change in responsibilities. Sporting Kansas City defender Besler had experience playing alongside Cameron previously.

The defensive unit keeps making strides the more it’s on the field together.

“Just with practicing, experience, the different movements, understanding each other’s game,” Besler said. “All three games of the sendoff series were important, but the Nigeria game was most important, with the way that we played, the way that we came out, defended as a team. We gained confidence from that game.”

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