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Second-half outburst sends Germany past U.S. 4-2 despite Mathis pair.

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U.S.-Germany analysis

Keller’s heroics can only go so far in holding off superior German side from 4-2 triumph.

(Wednesday, March 27, 2002) -- Thanks to some stellar goalkeeping from Kasey Keller, the United States managed to hold on -- barely ­- for the first hour against Germany tonight in a friendly match between two nations honing their rosters for the World Cup which starts in just over two months.

In the final 30 minutes, there was no stemming the flood.

Coach Bruce Arena cannot be very happy with a 4-2 loss to the Germans before a sellout crowd of 29,000 at Osteestadionwhat in Rostock tonight. The U.S. was outfought, outmuscled and outhustled by a bigger, taller stronger opponent. From the start, the Germans moved the ball quickly and created numerous chances. They completely dominated the midfield and kept the U.S. back on its heels from the opening whistle.

Excellent first-half defensive efforts by David Regis on the left side, and Jeff Agoos and Eddie Pope in the middle of the back line, helped stem the German attack. It was Keller, however, who kept the Americans in the match.

Keller made a half-dozen extremely difficult saves in the first half, complemented by a wonderful clearance off the goal line by Agoos, to keep Germany off the scoreboard until the 44th minute when Christian Ziege curled home a perfectly-placed free kick to give the hosts a big lift -- and a 1-1 tie -- going into the interval.

When Clint Mathis was able to put in his own rebound -- he was originally set up by a deft pass from Jovan Kirovski -- totally against the run of play, it looked like the Americans might be on their way to a most improbable win or draw. It was an illusion.

Keller started the second half with another four fine saves in the first 15 minutes before the roof fell in. The relentless German pressure in the midfield finally paid dividends. There was nobody near Oliver Neuville when he drilled a perfectly placed 12-yard header into the far left corner to back it 2-1 in the 61st minute.

Four minutes later, Oliver Bierhoff was standing alone on the U.S. six-yard line and the Germans needed three quick passes to find him for a blast into the roof of the net before Eddie Pope’s late challenge for a 3-1 advantage. In the 68th minute, the U.S. was helpless to stop the Germans from passing around the perimeter of the box before Torsten Frings went up for a cross over midfielder Chris Armas to nail a 10-yard header into the right corner.

There was nothing Keller could do to stop any of the goals. The shots were simply too hard and came from in too close.

"I am satisfied with our effort," German coach Rudi Völler said. "The players gave everything throughout even if the team was thrown together rather at random. But the Americans managed to breach our three-man line of defense and we had a few positional problems."

What can be made of individual U.S. performances.? The German pressure in the midfield forced the U.S. to change its style. Midfielders Earnie Stewart and Eddie Lewis were repeatedly forced deep into their own end, not allowing them to get into the offensive flow.

Striker Jovan Kirovski received no service whatsoever and was ineffectual except on Mathis’ first goal on which he preceded his pass with a nice move down the wing. Mathis, in turn, was the only American player to be anything close to a consistent offensive threat tonight, putting away two impressive goals and coming close twice more.

This was billed as Landon Donovan’s opportunity to show Bayer Leverkusen, the German media and fans that he is ready for the Bundesliga. Except for a couple decent touches in the second half when he found some space, he was never a factor.

While Germany's starting lineup was missing approximately seven players who might be expected to start in the World Cup, and others destined to make the final roster, the talent pool is deep enough that there was no problem fielding an impressive team, not to mention one with players hungry to impress.

"We played this game like a friendly, but they played it like a real game," Keller said. "That was one of the differences. We were outmatched all over the field tonight. The Germans beat us in every phase of the game. They are a bigger team and when you are smaller physically, you just have to play a little bigger."

The U.S. was missing three key players to injuries. With Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien in the middle, and Brian McBride up top, some of the German pressure might have been relieved. However, facing a side missing more than twice as many important players, where does that leave the Americans in the World Cup against the best sides on the globe?

Tonight, the U.S. could not stand up to the unrelenting pressure from a very talented side. Eventually, the defense was beaten down and Keller ran out of heroics.

"They beat us physically, but some of our guys won some of their individual battles," Arena said. "But we also had some guys bail out on some plays."


U.S. Player Ratings:

Starters

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 7: A brave effort. The way his defense played in front of him, he could not have been faulted if he had given up eight.

Defender David Regis - 6: One of his better recent efforts for the nationals, solid for 90 minutes, letting little through the left side.

Defender Jeff Agoos ­ 5.5: After a strong first half, was overrun in the second. He seemed to lose his legs after about 60 minutes, possibly the result of a long flight after a hard Saturday night Major League Soccer match.

Defender Eddie Pope ­ 5.5: Another player who seemed to lose his legs as the second half progressed. Twenty-four hours in the air after a late Saturday night MLS match in California might be too much to ask of a player trying to regain full fitness after an injury layoff.

Defender Steve Cherundolo - 5: A difficult performance to judge. Made some outstanding plays, but had positional problems at times that left teammates exposed.

Midfielder Chris Armas - 5: Not one of his better national-team performances. Was beaten in the air by the taller Germans, and had problems both with their pace and physical play. Yet another player who seems to be a victim of travel and MLS responsibilites.

Midfielder Landon Donavan ­ 5: Never a factor in the match. Was called on tonight to be a holding midfielder in place of Reyna, and that is not his game. He did look better in the late going, when he was given space, but that won’t happen often at this level.

Midfielder Eddie Lewis - 5.5: Played a fine defensive game as he was pushed deeper and deeper into his own end by the German midfield pressure.

Midfielder Earnie Stewart - 5: Never managed to get into the match offensively, repeatedly called on to retreat to cover for defensive deficiencies. Stewart is most effective when surrounded by players who can move the ball forward. That was absent tonight.

Forward Clint Mathis - 7: The only consistent U.S. threat, producing two goals. Might have secured a starting World Cup position with this effort.

Forward Jovan Kirovski - 5.5: Considered more effective playing behind two strikers, was again called on to play on top. Had some good touches, played hard, but without receiving much service could create little.

Reserves:

Forward Joe-Max Moore (54th minute for Kirovski) - 5.5: A nice showing under difficult circumstances, he helped stretch the German back three allowing the U.S. to manage a couple of decent, late chances.

Midfielder Cobi Jones (68th minute for Lewis) ­ 5.5: Did not contribute much, but the match was so far out of reach by the time he went in, he did not have much of an opportunity.

Defender Gregg Berhalter (72nd minute for Agoos) ­ 5.5: Helped in back because of his ability in the air. By the time he entered, Germany was safely ahead and content to lay back and not pressure as much.

Defender Tony Sanneh (72nd minute for Cherundolo) ­ 5.5: Was not pressured much either, but did well handling what little he faced.

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