Three keys to USA-Germany

[BRAZIL 2014] The USA had five days between its first two games at the World Cup but just three days to recover from the Portugal game in Manaus before it faces Germany Thursday in the midday sun of Recife.

On Monday, the starters stayed behind at the team hotel and did bike work. Before flying to Recife, much of Tuesday's practice was spent playing soccer tennis.

Can the USA recover from the heartbreak of a late equalizer that would have clinched a berth in the round of 16?

More important, will be the USA's fitness to survive the midday heat of Recife and hold off a German attack that could present lots more problems than its first two opponents did.

END CURSE OF MANAUS. Two games were played in Manaus before the USA and Portugal played in the Amazon on Sunday night, and all four teams lost their next games. Coincidence? The first thing we'll need to see is if the USA and Portugal have anything left in the tank because one of two teams likely needs a result if the USA is to move on to the round of 16.

Jurgen Klinsmann has always prided the USA's fitness, and it will be put the ultimate test against Germany. The USA is not a young team -- the average age of the 11 starters against Portugal was 29.2 -- and it left everything on the field in Manaus.

Michael Bradley ran more miles (15.4) than all but one player in the World Cup after the first two games, but there is no question about his engine. "He has an engine that is unbelievable," said Jurgen Klinsmann. "He’s covering up for other players all over the place."

Of bigger concern will be the fitness of the likes of Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman and DaMarcus Beasley, all 32, and Matt Besler, who again experienced tightness in his hamstring at the end of the game. Klinsmann said Besler was ready to go, though.

Graham Zusi, for one, said the heat in Manaus wasn't that bad because the game was played in the evening. And everyone had had time to recover.

“You get your shakes in, your meals, ice baths, a little massage if you need it, got your recovery pants on the plane," he said on Tuesday before the team left for Recife. "You try to sleep as much as you on the plane and then when you get back, we all had until the afternoon to get as much sleep as we wanted to. When the afternoon came around, we went down and guys who played a majority of the minutes just stayed at the hotel and did a 30-minute bike ride and then got massages and stretched. Just kind of the perfect situation for us.”

ULTIMATE TEST FOR BACKLINE. The USA has faced two teams that relied on attacking from the wings. It did a good job against Ghana but a not so good job of balls played in the area against Portugal. The backline has always been considered the national team's weak link, and it will face its ultimate test against Germany.

If you listen to the German press, the Germans have not been playing particularly well -- captain Philipp Lahm has come in for lots of criticism -- but they have scored six goals in two games.

After two games, Germany led all teams in solo runs into the area with 14 -- the USA, by comparison, had four -- so players breaking through from midfield will prevent a huge challenge for the Americans. The pressure will be on Beckerman, in particular, to blunt the German combination play from 30 yards in to the top of the area.

ADD VARIETY TO ATTACK. Except for Clint Dempsey's first goal against Ghana that came from a throw-in on the left touchline, almost all the U.S. offense has come from down the right side. The second goal against Ghana and first goal against the Portuguese followed corner kicks created by Fabian Johnson. And the go-ahead goal against Portugal came when Jones fed DeAndre Yedlin, whose only job after entering the game was to turn on his jets and get down the right wing.

That reliance on wide play from the right wing is not likely to get the USA anywhere against Germany, which knows all about Johnson. Six starters played with him on Germany's 2009 U-21 European championship team. Portugal had no answer for Yedlin, but he wouldn't fool Germany if he is brought on again.

In the first two games, the USA generated only 16 attacks down the left wing, fewer than any team except Honduras, and just eight attacks down the middle, fewer than any teams except Iran and Algeria.

More than just getting more wing play from the left side -- time to start Brad Davis? -- the USA will need to get Dempsey more involved in the attack. Yes, he scored the go-ahead goal Sunday night, but he was otherwise largely visible in the second half against Portugal, which means one of two things: a second striker needs to support him up front or Bradley must be pushed more forward.
20 comments about "Three keys to USA-Germany".
  1. Andy Wagner, June 25, 2014 at 7:29 a.m.

    The US blew its chance for an easy advancement into the next round. If things go bad and they likely will, they only have themselves to blame.

  2. Brent Crossland, June 25, 2014 at 8:51 a.m.

    Mr. Wagner couldn't wait to get the first negative comment recorded. You win, sir!

    Yes, the both Portugal goals were due to defensive lapses. You know what, that is the nature of this game. You can dominate 89 minutes of play and lose because a center back is half a step slow.

    My goal for this WC was for the use to look credible and I think they've done that. I hoped for 4 points going into the Germany match and we have that.

    Am I satisfied? Hell no. Bradley's play has disappointed me but Jones and Beckerman have exceed my expectations. We're seeing some new, young players with real potential for the future.

    We're playing one of the best teams in the world. I'll be happy with a good showing against Germany and ecstatic with a draw.

  3. ROBERT BOND, June 25, 2014 at 9:09 a.m.

    1 can Boateng play the whole match 2 will Bastien play more 3 will Ginter come in as backline sub........popsicles less of a factor......

  4. Fingers Crossed, June 25, 2014 at 9:39 a.m.

    The Germans are slow at center back with Mertesacker and Hummels. They can be beaten with pace and quick counters. Ozil, like Ronaldo, has no interest in playing defense so if he is deployed on the wing like he has in the previous two games, the US should be able to exploit that space that he leaves open. The US will get their chances in this game. The strength of the German team is their midfield but that is also our strength as well. It should make for a great 90 minutes. In some ways, I think it is fate that it has come to the final game against Germany. This could be the time where Klinsmann coaches the US team to its biggest moment. We've proven we can compete in the Group of Death and we should believe that we have every chance to win this game if we play well. I just have a good feeling about this game that things will work out for the US.

  5. Gus Keri, June 25, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.

    The curse of Manaus even went further. All teams which lost their follow-up games were eliminated (Italy, England, Cameroon and Croatia). If USA and Portugal lose their game tomorrow, they both could be out of the cup, depending on goal diff or goal scored tie-breaker for USA and Ghana. Today, the last two teams to play in Manaus, Honduras and Switzerland, are in danger of elimination also. Can someone break this curse?

  6. Glenn Maddock, June 25, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.

    It doesn't matter what Zusi says, I've been there with short recovery in this heat. Starters will have rubber legs in 2nd half. The key to advancing could be Klinsi's 3 subs. You have to save one for late injury or cramps, but 2 should be made early in 2nd half unless you are leading, which is unlikely. Also, if its tied after 70 minutes, does Germany put the brakes on. if they are still attacking, then we're in trouble as guys get gassed.

  7. Mark Hardt, June 25, 2014 at 11:11 a.m.

    I agree with Glenn Mattlock bass player for the Sex Pistols. The subs will determine the outcome. Davis should start for Bedoya to provide left side attack. If we need a late goal don't laugh but it might be time to unveil Julian Green along with Yedlin. these two young burners could make Mertesacker and Hummels look like skateboards on the autobahn. I am a Werder Bremen fan and have watched Mertesacker get burned in the Bundesliga. He can be had.

  8. Charles Stamos, June 25, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.

    I feel JK starts the same l/u. He used the subs in the Portugal game properly. Reason for subs in order - injuries, fatigue, then strategy for more offense or defense. The last two can be combined late in the match. Even though a tie is not arranged, a low scoring game can be easily created. That would help both teams advance. Only a lopsided Portugal win or a 2 goal Ghana win can displace a 0-1 USA loss. I see a 1-1 tie or a 2-1 Germany win likely. I also predict a 3-2 Portugal win. Good luck USA.

  9. Gary Wien, June 25, 2014 at 11:35 a.m.

    "I feel JK starts the same l/u. He used the subs in the Portugal game properly. Reason for subs in order - injuries, fatigue, then strategy for more offense or defense. "

    I disagree. I thought several players in the second half were showing signs of major fatigue. IMO, we should have used the final two subs earlier on for energy instead of hoping the subbing would kill time at the end.

    Guys were gassed.

  10. Ginger Peeler, June 25, 2014 at 11:43 a.m.

    Brent, thank you! I had to laugh when I read Andy's post. He must have placed a bet against the US. You had the perfect comeback! My concern is how the USMNT's bodies are going to hold up after Manaus. Question: American football teams used to get rehydrated by injecting fluids at halftime. Is that done or allowed at the World Cup?

  11. John Ropp, June 25, 2014 at 11:46 a.m.

    Many doubted we could shed the curse and beat Ghana; we did. Nearly everyone doubted we could even challenge Portugal let alone beat them; we came within 20 seconds of eliminating them early and still drew a very good team. Now many doubt we can even challenge Germany. If there is a team Jurgen is ready for, this is it. It is likely that Germany is not going to go for blood as they have to think about fatigue management as well. I am not saying they will play for a tie, but they know with a tie or win they go forward, as do we. I love being the underdog... it's almost a win-win for us, and I think our guys are up for it. I believe that we will win!

  12. New WorldOrder, June 25, 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    The teams with the highest probability of winning this tournament are not euro teams. Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Argentina are all the heavy favorites at this point. Some for their current play and others for huge potential as tournament comes along. Euro teams are having a hard time with fatigue/heat factor. If any do advance to top 4 it will be Netherlands and Germany. America will have at leasy 8 in next round. Not a coincidence. quarters will have 4-5 teams in it and I predict at least 3 in Semi's. Can we now see hoe heavily overrated European teams are with Spain, Portugal, Italy, England showings??

  13. Mark Hardt, June 25, 2014 at 12:42 p.m.

    I don't think the Manaus effect will have any bearing because:

    1. USA played at 7 PM local time. It was really cooling off.
    2. US players are used to heat in Florida, Texas, even New Jersey in the summer.
    3. Game will be played at 1 pm local. The Germans will feel the heat more. I lived in Bremen for two years and German are not used to this. MLS players are.

  14. ROBERT BOND, June 25, 2014 at 1:39 p.m.

    Unless die Mannschaft were pacing themselves 2nd game, a game they don't usually win.....

  15. Chris Sapien , June 25, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

    Promised myself I would try not to go there, but wouldn't Landon infuse the left side attack and provide the needed pace to open the German's backline? Instead we get a promising/unproven 19 yr old Julian Green on the bench. Agree, Brad Davis may have a role, and the sense of urgency to write a positive moment in the US Nat's history.

  16. Chris Sapien , June 25, 2014 at 2:37 p.m.

    and Andy, the only thing that may have been blown, was the direction in stoppage that Beasley should have stayed shoulder to shoulder with CR7, and that all three CDs should have been at the top of the 18, so they would never need to run back facing our own goal. Someone on the bench needs to own that lack of instruction, and this is where no CDs with World Cup experience hurt us. (as I predicted without Boca and Goodson)

  17. Kent James, June 25, 2014 at 3:16 p.m.

    Chris, your point about LD on the left is a good one; he'd also be able to exploit Fingers Crossed's (?) point about a slow pair of centerbacks (Julian Green might also do this, but I haven't seen him play enough to know if he's comfortable in the middle or how well he finishes, both of which LD can do). I think we've done well so far, but at this point, anything could happen...To beat Germany, I think it will have to be on the counter (probably on the ground up the middle). But maybe with smart defense, and a conservative German approach, a 0-0 tie. Who knows what will happen with the other game; Ghana could explode for 4 goals against a tired Portuguese team, or Portugal could get it's pride back, Pepe could solidify the defense and Ronaldo and Nani could play the way they're capable of playing and exploit an erratic Ghanaian defense.

  18. ROBERT BOND, June 25, 2014 at 3:42 p.m.

    Love the optimism-DFB fans always just fret, as we have the record for 2nd.....

  19. charles davenport, June 25, 2014 at 9:13 p.m.

    Ghana will win its game, question is by how much; Will Germany's "slow but experienced" centerbacks outperform American youth and inexperience on the back line? I tend to think so, but "Stay tuned".

  20. Bryan Kempf, June 26, 2014 at 2:31 a.m.

    Maybe Ghana will win, like the Ivory Coast did. Oh wait... And Ronaldo will have to produce the goods to keep the press somewhat off his back for the next two years until the euro's. GO USA!

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