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Three things we learned from USA vs. Germany

Jun 26, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones AP

Phew. We got there in the end.

The U.S. may have lost 1-0 to Germany in Recife on Thursday, but the objective of making it out of Group G was achieved.

So many had feared the “Group of Death” would haunt the U.S. and halt Jurgen Klinsmann’s side at the first hurdle of their 2014 World Cup adventure. How wrong they were as the USA are heading to the last 16.

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We learned plenty about the U.S. so far during this WC campaign, here are three things we learned from the narrow defeat to Germany.

Engine room excellence

Boy, oh boy, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones are having themselves one heck of a tournament. Beckerman was clean and tidy in possession, clogged up the space in front of the back four superbly and when he had to be dirty and give away fouls he used all of his experience to do it. Jones was playing slightly further forward than usual but was pinching tight alongside Bradley to stop the nation where he was born. The German-American has been the USA’s standout player of the tournament so far. Not just for his stunning goal against Portugal but his work rate, dedication to the cause and leadership skills. The fact that many experts were writing off Jones before the tournament began makes it even better. Alongside Beckerman and Jones, Michael Bradley had his best game of the tournament so far and although he gave the ball away cheaply here and there, the three wheels in the USA’s central cog intertwined majestically to minimize the impact of German’s usually imperious midfield machine. The U.S. lost the game, but I would argue that they won the midfield battle. To stop Germany’s flair players from creating numerous chances is an achievement that shouldn’t be overlooked.

source: AP

It was an intense midfield battle in the rain in Recife. Jones and co. held their own vs. Germany’s stars.

Grinders galore

It wasn’t just in the middle of the pitch that the USA’s gritty nature shone through. At the back Omar Gonzalez stepped in and does what he does best: gets his head on things and uses his size to put off opponents. Matt Besler was sliding into challenges and both full back, Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley, kept going for the full 90. In Beasley’s case, having that much energy after playing two full games at his age was remarkable. Up top, Clint Dempsey put in another shift and even a whack on his already broken nose from Benedikt Howedes couldn’t halt the Texan from leading the line powerfully. We all know how the U.S. is viewed around the world, the nation that nerves gives up and will succeed against all the odds. That aura of invincibility is starting to emanate from the American players, as they proved, once again, that they’re made of tough stuff.

Final third breakdown

If defensively the U.S. looked sound against a German team coasting in second and third gear for most of the game, offensively it wasn’t a bed of roses. After weathering the early storm the U.S. actually nipped the ball back in some great positions on the halfway line but then didn’t do much with it. Apart from Graham Zusi cutting inside from the left in the 21st minute and curling a shot just over the bar, the USA failed to create any real clear cut opportunities until the dying stages when Alejandro Bedoya‘s shot was blocked superbly by Phillip Lahm. That has to be a worry for Klinsmann, as he’s still missing his main striker Jozy Altidore and when you pick the bones out of the USA’s fourth goals so far, two were from set pieces (John Brook’s header and a shot from Jones after a corner was cleared) and two were from Dempsey’s opportunism. If the USA is going to unlock a stubborn Belgian defense, which has given up just one goal thus far and is marshaled by Vincent Kompany, they’ll have to do better to create chances in the final third. If you don’t create chances, it will be hard to advance past the last 16.

  1. txbearmeat - Jun 26, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    Real proud of the guys. What an accomplishment. But I don’t see them beating Belgium. Hope I’m wrong.

  2. mfmaxpower - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    ” the three wheels in the USA’s central cog intertwined majestically to minimize the impact of German’s usually imperious midfield machine”

    Seriously? Majestically? Really?

    We were absolutely dominated in this match, and on a different day, or against a German team that played with fullbacks rather than relying on CBs, we could’ve been blown out. In the first twenty minutes the Germans were able to get behind our defence almost at will!

    And I’m sorry, but you cannot win a midfield battle when you cannot hold onto possession long enough to get out of your own half. Don’t mistake work rates for quality of performance.

    • redrock81 - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:12 PM

      I would agree with you on that.

    • geejon - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:22 PM

      Indeed, the writer must be wearing the most rose-colored glasses available in the world.

      The team couldn’t string together 2 consecutive passes. It was embarrassing. They looked like amateurs out there. Bradley was brutal again. The guy couldn’t organize a dinner table never mind a midfield. It’s ridiculous how easily he gets the ball taken from him or he panicks and gives it away cheaply.

      If he’s gonna play that bad Klinnsman needs to change up and start someone like Yedlin from the beginning and have them play a game based on width, speed and crosses into the box. Going thru the middle with a terrible Bradley will just mean another 90 minutes of never having the ball and kick-n-pray soccer. I thought I’d seen the end of this type of soccer from our national squad a long time ago.

      It’s also incumbent on the squad to try and develop players who can play Bradley’s position. As bad as he’s been there’s not a single person on the squad who can play his position so he can’t even be subbed out never mind benched.

    • kevnit - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:48 PM

      Would please set your analyzing quips to the side and at least support your country? Without our best player playing and barely making it through is good enough for me. Are you even from the U.S.? Enough of the negative shit from all you people. Support the U.S. or shut up.

    • mogogo1 - Jun 27, 2014 at 2:23 AM

      Lots of people getting caught up in the excitement. Germany fully controlled that match. the US looked better than expected in the other two matches but was that just the result of low expectations and poor predictions? Too soon to tell. Ghana ended up totally imploding and sending guys home early and Portugal’s play was uneven at best throughout the whole pool.

      • keytoarson - Jun 27, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Germany was definitely a better squad yesterday. And Bradley probably had his worst game yesterday with losing the ball pretty much every time he got the ball. However, I think he’ll get it together. If you’ve seen MB play in other games other than 2 that he’s done horribly in, you’ll know he’ll be fine. Players have bad games and you can’t judge him on a game where competition is Germany.

  3. eddie0710 - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Belgium hasn’t been playing well. They had a fairly easy group and they struggled in all 3 games. They have loads of talent and potential but they are still a young and inexperienced team. They will be strong contenders in the next World Cup. The US has a good chance of beating them.

  4. lyleoross - Jun 26, 2014 at 9:45 PM

    Someone needs to ask why MB is playing so badly (by the way, the author is correct, it was his best game of the WC, but still his worst in all of qualifying, and the last WC, with the exception of the two that went before). Something isn’t right. He’s not relaxed, or he’s trying to hard, or his role changed in a way that doesn’t work. I don’t know, but MB is not this bad. Remember, he looked better in the last WC, and with Roma. It’s time to find out what’s wrong.

    Other than that, we need to remember where the US is on the world stage. Given that, we looked better. More development through the middle, no not great, but more. Confidence on the front, and while they blew it in the back, they saved it every time (remember, the goal came off of blown midfield coverage, yes, it was that far out). The US squad looks like they belong there, they outplayed Portugal, and they did many good things against Germany. Don’t talk to me about what Germany put on the field, Lowe put up the team he thought would best counter the US, and they didn’t dominate us like they did Portugal. That is significant.

  5. drewvt6 - Jun 27, 2014 at 1:31 AM

    As my buddy said to me this afternoon, “It was Bradley’s best game because I’m pretty sure he was about 10% better than the first two games.”

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