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  • 08:03 AM ET  06.18
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Michael Bradley (right) and the U.S. must stop Brazil's Kaká.
Ross Dettman/Getty Images

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Three questions before today's showdown between the U.S. and Brazil at the Confederations Cup (9:55 a.m. ET, ESPN2):

Can Clint Dempsey get it together? The Americans need at least a tie to survive in this tournament, and for that to happen they'll have to get a huge game from Dempsey, who has been an enigma in recent months for the national team. The Fulham midfielder may well be the U.S.' top field player in European club soccer, but his form at international level has been mediocre to poor for a while now. Dempsey made little impact against Italy and didn't work well together with left back Jonathan Bornstein as Italy dominated that side of the field. Dempsey has scored against Brazil before. I think he'll need to do it again for the U.S. to have a shot at a result Thursday.

Is this José Francisco Torres' time to shine? Look for U.S. coach Bob Bradley to start Torres in place of the suspended Rico Clark, with one big change from Clark: Torres is a more offensive-minded player, so will the Pachuca midfielder be able to handle the pressure of being a creative force against Brazil? And can Michael Bradley adjust to a more defensive-minded role alongside him, one that may involve shadowing Kaká? If the U.S. was looking for a source of confidence against O Seleção, they surely got it watching the tape of Brazil's 4-3 last-minute victory against Egypt.

Can the U.S. defenders close down on shots from outside the box and limit the danger of Dani Alves? The Americans have given up a string of goals from outside the penalty box of late, and they need to put more pressure on that space against Brazil without over-committing and letting Alves maraud in to create havoc from the back line.

What do you see happening in this game? Will the U.S. play defensively in hopes of a tie or counter-attack with abandon? (Bob Bradley noted yesterday that Egypt found spaces to attack against Brazil.) Which U.S. player has the most pressure to perform? And who would you like to see who didn't play in the first game against Italy?

Post your thoughts below, and check back after the game for reactions from both teams...

Grant Wahl's new book, The Beckham Experiment, comes out on July 14. You can pre-order it here. You can also find him now on Twitter.

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