Three thoughts on the USA's friendly win over Germany
WASHINGTON D.C.—Three thoughts on the U.S.'s 4-3 victory against Germany in a friendly on Sunday:
• The U.S. needed this confidence boost. Yes, it was only a friendly, and yes, this was Germany's B or C team, and yes, the U.S. nearly bungled a 4-1 lead, but you can't deny that beating Germany anytime, anywhere is something you have every right to feel good about. On a day when U.S. Soccer was celebrating its 100th anniversary, Jurgen Klinsmann's team had one of the more impressive performances of his tenure, not just beating Germany but displaying some of the entertaining, dangerous playing style that Klinsmann promised when he took over in 2011. Clint Dempsey (two gorgeous goals) and Jozy Altidore (a terrific opening strike) played with the verve they have shown over the last two seasons in European club soccer, and a U.S. team that was bulldozed 4-2 by Belgium on Wednesday will now carry some much-needed confidence into three upcoming World Cup qualifiers. If the Americans can attack this way and play better defense on Friday in Jamaica, they'll take three points and avenge Klinsmann's worst loss, a 2-1 qualifying defeat last September.
• These weren't just goals, they were highlight-reel goals. We haven't seen so many aesthetically pleasing goals in one U.S. game in a long time. The variety of the ways the Americans struck was impressive: Altidore's 13th-minute strike, his first U.S. goal since 2011, was the result of a seamless build-up and the kind of confident touches the Americans need to have against the world's top teams. The midfielders made smart passes to take advantage of space down the right side, with Clint Dempsey delivering a nice ball to Graham Zusi, who hit it first-time (no small detail) to Altidore for a perfect volley into the net. As for Dempsey, what more can you say about his remarkable individual goal from distance to make it 4-1? Bruce Arena once famously said of Dempsey: "He tries s---." And that's what Dempsey does more than any other U.S. player. And with the highlights came one of the all-time lowlights you'll ever see: An own-goal by German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen of such staggering ineptitude — he guided a backpass into his own net — that you had to see it to believe it. (And we no doubt will on blooper shows for a while.)
• The U.S. still needs to improve on some things. Germany has tremendous resources of talent, and perhaps it wasn't surprising that a late-game rally brought the Germans back from 4-1 to 4-3. But the U.S. has to use its friendlies against top opponents to prepare for the rigors of World Cup '14, and there may well be a game in Brazil when the U.S. has to protect a lead. Fans can only hope it goes better than it did here on Sunday. It's still a win in the grand scheme of things, but there are some caveats. Omar González seems to work best with Matt Besler in central defense, but González needs to eliminate the one big error he has had in recent games. (Here it came on allowing Heiko Westermann a free header to score Germany's first goal.) Jermaine Jones had the fortune of playing next to a solid Michael Bradley on MB's return, but Jones still has a penchant for losing balls in the midfield. And Tim Howard probably could have done better on Germany's third goal instead of parrying a shot straight to Julian Draxler. All things considered, though, the U.S. will look back on this centennial anniversary game and have mostly good thoughts about a confidence-building performance.