Final Thoughts: USMNT 4-3 Germany

(Image, USSoccer.com)

(Image, USSoccer.com)

The United States Soccer Federation couldn’t have asked for a better Centennial celebration.

The Yank’s 4-3 win over Germany had it all; highlight reel goals, epic blunders, attractive, forward moving play, stalwart defending – and even a late game collapse to keep spectators on the edge of their seats.

While facing a talented yet decidedly B-Level German side, the United States showed well, giving another glimpse at the potential this side could have just ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.

Here are some final thoughts on yesterday’s encounter:

CONFIDENCE BUILDER

It’s an inevitable fact of life; leading up to friendly encounters, fans and pundits alike will always argue about the relevance (or lack there of) of these individual encounters.

Once the matches are played, however, their meaning is magnified (or downsized depending on the circumstances). This victory against Germany served as a big boost for a near full strength American side. Unlike their match against Belgium, the U.S. was able to field their proper starting defensive unit in both the backline and the midfield. With that padding, the attackers came to life and put in memorable performances as well.

All around, it was a promising sign of the possibilities this team can muster when their stars come out to play.

ENTER, ALTIDORE

You would be hard pressed to find a player on the U.S. National Team that is more criticized than Jozy Altidore.

Even as he lit up the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, the young Jersey native failed to find the back of the net for the U.S. Some said his play was lazy. Others simply labeled him overrated.

In the end, the evidence was clear; you shouldn’t expect a Carlos Tevez or Kun Aguero with the former Red Bulls striker. Altidore is a target striker. When service finally came his way, he did what he had done all year with AZ – finish. Graham Zusi’s cross into the box and Altidore’s majestic volley is exhibit A of what this young forward can do when fed the ball in a dangerous spot.

Klinsmann should take note and tailor the offense to that strength.

THE DYNAMIC DUO

While Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey will steal all the limelight from this hard fought performance, there is another pair which should get equal acclaim. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, at their best, give you the perfect mix of grit and distribution in the midfield. As discussed earlier this week by our staff writer Patrick MacDonald, the U.S. is simply a different team when Bradley is in the mix. And while Jones is always a yellow card waiting to happen, he can also be one of the team’s best midfielder stoppers when on his A-game.

GONZALEZ (ALMOST) THE SOLUTION

By all means, LA Galaxy centerback Omar Gonzalez has all the tools to be a disruptive force on the U.S. National Team’s backline. As a matter of fact, he is – most of the time.

However, a disturbing trend continues to follow the MLS standout. Gonzalez lacks 90 minutes worth of concentration. His reaction, at times, is too slow for the fast paced world of the international game. This time, his lapse happened on a free header that sprung Heiko Westermann into the box for what could have been a deflating goal. Had it not been for some magic on offense, that moment would have been magnified.

Gonzalez works best with Besler, who has been surprisingly stable as his backline partner. He has to work on keeping his focus. It only takes one moment on the world stage to get beaten, and Gonzalez hasn’t been able to prevent that lapse.

DEMPSEY LEADS WHEN INSPIRED

Much like Gonzalez, a pattern has appeared in the play of Clint Dempsey that should cause some alarm. Whether for club or country, he plays best when motivated. That was on full display over the course of the team’s last two matches. You could see his hopelessness get the better of him against a dominant Belgium side. Then, against Germany, his motor had no end as he played a vital part in shutting down the visiting side.

When consistent, Dempsey can be, as Klinsmann noted, one of the games very best. He showed it again against Germany. The next trick is sustaining that drive for every encounter.

CREDIT KLINSMANN

It’s easy to pile on Klinsmann when things are going badly. He has promised U.S. Soccer a facelift and that has not happened. Instead, the U.S. repeatedly looks more the lamb than lion – even in victory.

Sunday’s win, however, had his fingerprints all over it – and for that, Klinsmann deserves full credit. The centerback tandem of Gonzalez and Besler are his creation. The gamble on playing Brad Evans on the right paid off. Moving Fabian Johnson to his natural midfield position strengthened the team’s forward movement. Keeping Bradley and Jones in the middle continues to build their promising play. Graham Zusi has blossomed under his watch as well.

With all other pieces in place, the Dempsey/Altidore combination was free to attack. Finally.

Has the Klinsmann system so long promised finally arrived? Or was this just a cameo appearance? Future matches will tell the tale.