USMNT: Mannschaft Manhandled

dempsey (photo: si.com)

Dempsey: Inspirational. (photo: si.com)

OTF contributor and your man for the US National Team Austin Fido looks back on Sunday’s game vs. Germany…

Germans are very good at football. They win UEFA Champions’ League titles. They win European  Championships. They win World Cups. It may eventually be decided that one of the more extraordinary consequences of Germany’s soccer prowess was convincing the US Soccer Federation that Jürgen Klinsmann is a good coach.

But such skepticism is on hold at the moment, because the USMNT put four goals past Germany and conceded only three. And any time your team beats Germany, it’s a moment to celebrate.

You want to say it was just a friendly. Against a second or third string lineup. Played in the soaking humidity of an early summer heat wave. The Germans punched plenty of holes in the Yanks’ defense and were probably worth a draw. They had more possession and created more chances than their opponents and would have scored the first goal, if  an early chance fell to anyone but centerback Per Mertesacker. And they wouldn’t have gone down 0-2 if goalie Marc-Andre ter Stegen hadn’t been so flummoxed by a high press that he missed a simple back pass and let it roll into his own goal.

Nonetheless, it was a hot day for both teams, just as much a tune-up for USMNT as it was for the Germans, and the US wasn’t at full strength either. Plus Germany’s mistakes and sloppy play were a result of American pressure.

Also our man Jürgen needed this win. It was his side’s first victory of 2013 in which quality was needed — the win against Costa Rica proved nothing other than international soccer players can do hit-and-hope scuffling if required. A 4-1 lead after 65 minutes was ideal. But the late goals USMNT allowed will help dissipate any complacency in the squad. When this fixture was scheduled, a positive yet close result against respectable opponents would have been the desired outcome. And it’s exactly what Jürgie got.

The time for open auditions for the USMNT World Cup squad is ending, but there will be one more casting call at July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup if you wish which will be followed by nine months of call backs and hard decisions. On Sunday’s evidence, Klinsmann’s plan is beginning to come together. There are still more questions than answers around many of the positions, but those who started against Germany could justifiably start against Jamaica. And that suggests selection matters are coming into focus for Jürgie.

DaMarcus Beasley seems to now be the USMNT’s left back “unless” rather than “until”. Edgar Castillo got 35 minutes to make his case, but he’ll need to play more like he has for Tijuana to dislodge DMB. Fabian Johnson got a midfield start this time around, and if all three are fit to play against Jamaica on June 7, the line-up for that match will tell us whether Klinsmann sees Beasley as stop-gap or starter.

Over on the right, Steve Cherundolo’s vacation and Timmy Chandler’s injury have raised a question to which Brad Evans could be the unlikely answer. It’s odd to think that Klinsmann might prefer an MLS utility-man to an EPL starter at right back, but Klinsmann tends to pick the player, not the reputation. And right now, Evans has a better claim to the starting right back spot than Stoke City starter Geoff Cameron — not least because the Gonzalez-Besler center back pairing still looks pregnable. Not so much that the experiment needs to be abandoned, but sufficient that you wouldn’t want them to think Clarence Goodson is the only threat to their international future. Manufacturing genuine competition for places at both full back positions from the players available in the current squad is loaves-and-fishes work on Klinsmann’s part.

Further forward, Graham Zusi looks to have the right midfield position nailed down. It’s his to lose. And if you want USMNT to get seven to nine points out of the next round of Hex matches, you don’t want Zusi to do the things he’d need to do to lose his place.

But the most encouraging sign from the Germany game was Jozy Altidore showing form and confidence in a US shirt. His goal was a sweet first-time volley to the side netting that was all class and poise and power. And then he deftly set up Clint Dempsey with more skills than a nominal target man should possess: controlling with his chest, then showing the defender left, before whipping in a cross with his right while Philipp Wollscheid was still focused on shutting down the other foot.

That’s the Jozy Altidore we want to see in the Hex. And it looks like he might be willing to come out and play.

But that’s all detail. Jürgen Klinsmann’s rickety USMNT bandwagon rolled into RFK without a whole lotta love, and rolled out with a 4-3 victory over the second best players of the second best team in the world. The next stop is Kingston. You on board?

OTF contributor Austin Fido is very happy to have figured out how to type an umlaut. Follow him on Twitter @canetop as he tries to master the cedilla and the circumflex before 2014.

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