World Cup

World Cup Preview: USMNT v Germany

Have you recovered yet? No USMNT game in recent memory has had higher highs and lower lows as the draw against Portugal. Taken out of context, a game in which the U.S. scores two goals and dominates large stretches against a top-ten team with a top-two player, earning a draw, has to be considered a success.

But within the context of the game, how awful does that draw feel? Of course, this is not a post-mortem of the Portugal game, it is a preview of the Germany game. But that feeling you feel? The one of glory spurned, of chances missed, of heartbreak and sickness?

Imagine how the players feel.

Shake it off

Imagine it, because losing that feeling is job #1 for Jürgen Klinsmann and the team. In order to have any chance of a positive result against Germany, everyone needs to play without the memory of the last-second goal. Instead, they need to play with the same fervor and intensity and drive and flair that marked the central 80 minutes of the last game. Because that team came to play. That team bossed Portugal around. That team scored two great goals.

That’s the team we need.

More specifically, Michael Bradley and Geoff Cameron, the players at the center of the goals given up/not scored, need to play well. They are integral to what the U.S. does. Vilifying them might feel good—cathartic, even—but it’s at best counterproductive. They need to be on their games for the U.S. to succeed.

U.S. updates

Jozy Altidore, while still recovering well, has not made it back in time for Germany. This is probably for the best, as it would be tough to change the lineup that started against Portugal. Germany’s team movement is superior to Portugal’s, so maintaining five in midfield is paramount, and the intelligence and guile of Clint Dempsey up top may make a crucial difference for the U.S.

Matt Besler is also fit to play, having shaken off whatever injury he seemed to have suffered in the second half against Portugal.

Matchups

Germany has too many difference makers to list them all, but here’s a few: Götze, Özil, Kröos, Schweinsteiger, Müller, Podolski, Schürrle, Klöse (so many umlauts!). The attacking players for Germany are the most dangerous collection in the tournament (though Messi, Aguero, and Higuain might claim otherwise), and they multiply each others’ talents through constant movement. Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, and Bradley will need to be very disciplined in making covering runs to the flanks and swallowing up any forays through the middle. Meanwhile, Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi will need to be conscientious about tracking back defensively, as well.

There is one position, however, where the U.S. has a clear matchup advantage. Philipp Lahm, long Germany’s preeminent fullback, has been used of late by club and country at defensive midfield. Germany has a few good right backs but, without Lahm, no strong left backs. Instead, they’ve been using Benedikt Höwedes, a converted center back there. While Höwedes has done better than expected, his lack of pace presents a real opportunity for Fabian Johnson.

Johnson has been the U.S.’s standout player thus far, and his speed and skill up the right side could be devastating against a slower, less technically skilled player like Höwedes. Granted, Mario Götze also plays on that side most of the time, but neither he nor any of his teammates possess game-changing speed. Which means that, while Johnson will not be able to shirk his defensive responsibilities, he will have opportunities to get forward.

Gentleman’s draw?

Both camps have vigorously denied any chance of the teams intentionally setting out to draw the match. But saying you won’t play for the draw and doing it are two different things. Such an outcome would send both teams through on five points, so the allure of the tie is obvious. And, while either team could still advance with a loss (Germany’s goal-differential, in particular, gives it a good shot, no matter what) the prime directive in every player’s mind will be “Don’t lose.”

Prediction

The Germans will not take the U.S. lightly, not after seeing how the Americans performed in the last two games, not to mention Germany’s last loss came against the U.S. So don’t be surprised if this game isn’t a technicolor display of German attacking flair, at least not at first. For the U.S.’s part, considering how their games have opened so far, a quiet, composed, controlled first 20 minutes would be a welcome change.

That said, it’s difficult to imagine the U.S. will contain the Germans for 90 minutes. Equally so, as Ghana proved, the German defense is by no means impregnable. Final score: USMNT 1–1 Germany. Everybody goes home happy. Or, rather, everybody stays happy in Brazil.

5 Comments

  1. It’s raining in Recife and is forecast to rain all day tomorrow. Not a lot, but conditions could be slick. Also game time temperature in the upper 70s. Since USMNT had less rest & more travel, this may be a help. It may also keep down the score and hinder Germany playmaking.

  2. So, I have to throw this out there…whatever team wins Group G will have a tougher road to the finals (I believe) then the runner-up…does that factor in to a team’s mindset? Do you want Brazil, Columbia, France or Netherlands, Costa Rica, Argentina?

  3. Ghana suspends its two best players and heavy rain has been falling all night. External factors looking better for USMNT to advance.

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