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Analysis

Altidore, Dempsey spark U.S. to rousing victory over Germany.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sunday, June 2, 2013) -- The United States men, playing some of the best soccer it has under coach Jürgen Klinsmann, pulled away to a three-goal, second-half lead over Germany this afternoon but conceded a pair of late goals and had to desperately hold on for a 4-3 victory in front of a capacity crowd of 47,359 at RFK Stadium.

The match and a weekend of events in Washington marked the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Klinsmann started a 3-5-2, with was somewhat strange in that Jozy Altidiore played up top with Clint Dempsey, who played more forward than his usual withdrawn position. When Dempsey sagged back back, the Americans had six midfielders.

Meanwhile, midfielder Brad Evens, accepted much of the responsibilities of a right back even though he has never played that position. Left-side defender DaMarcus Beasley was pushed so far forward into the attack much of the time, he might as well have been listed as a midfielder.

When Germany got the ball, every American, except Altidore, dropped back quickly into a defensive shell. The Germans had an awful time trying to move the ball through a clogged middle and only had some success bring the ball down the U.S. left flank where Beasley continued to have problems with one-on-one defending.

The U.S. got off to a fast start with Altidore, getting the opening goal. Unguarded between Germany’s two central defenders, he received a well-placed cross from midfielder Graham Zusi and used his first touch to find the right corner of the net.

The Americans went ahead 2-0 on a gift when defender Benedikt Howedes sent a routine back-pass toward goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen who got his feet tangled lining up to kick the ball, fell and watched hopelessly as the ball rolled ever so slowly into the net.

The Germans helped the U.S. maintain its two-goal lead by twice missing open shots from 10-to-12 yards out, each time rolling their shot inches wide left. Then, too, a German goal was disallowed for an obvious offside.

Germany came out seemingly a bit more motivated for the start of the second half. It controlled play and pulled to within 2-1 in the 51st minute when Heiko Westermann out-jumped two U.S. defenders to head home a corner kick.

Then, with five minutes of brilliance, Dempsey seemingly put the match out of reach. Altidore took a long pass on the left side and carried the ball to the end-line before pulling it back into the penalty area. The ball bounced and Dempsey beat two Germans to it before drilling a low shot past ter Stegen in the 60th minute.

Five minutes later, Dempsey was carrying the ball right to left before cutting back a nailing a 24-yard left-footer into the upper left corner.

“Having a player like Clint Dempsey on your team is just a privilege,” Klinsmann said. “I think if I look back, I think he’s one of the best players, probably, in U.S. history. You see him perform almost every game on a very, very high level.

“The important parts of Clint’s game right now are having all the tools a player needs to play at the highest level. What is most important is the drive he has, the hunger. You know he’s not satisfied with two goals today against Germany. With his game right now, he’s right on top with the best players around and certainly the top player in the United States. Having him partner with a forward is important because he sends signals on the field. He sends signals to his own players, but he also sends the signals to the opponent and that’s what you need.”

With the U.S. up 4-1 and seeming to coast, both Klinsmann and Germany coach Joachim Löw began to substitute. The U.S. reserves introduced some disarray into the midfield, which had been so strong while Löw’s subs added a great deal of pace to their side.

As the match entered its final 15 minutes, a number of Americans seemed to run out of gas, especially those who had played 90 minutes against Belgium Wednesday. Mainly using speed, the Germans managed goals from Max Kruse and Julian Draxler to make things very interesting, but the U.S. held on for the triumph.

“It got really tense. Then towards the end, (the U.S.) didn’t need to kind of concede the last two goals, but overall a good performance,” Klinsmann said. “We saw a lot of things that we wanted to see.

“You have to be good defensively and at the same time you want to create chances, and there is so much that we know we have to still improve, but looking toward the qualifiers, I think it helps the players to see that they can go to that tempo. That’s why I didn’t want them to stop too early and make substitutions. I want them to go through a little pain when you get tired and you hit the wall and you have to pick it up again.”

The record book will say United States 4, Germany 3. But there should be an asterisk. It’s doubtful that many of the players on the field for Germany today will see many playing minutes at the World Cup in Brazil next year, if they even make the trip. Absent from Washington were regulars Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Goetze, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus and especially keeper Manuel Neuer.

Nonetheless, the win is an important one for Klinsmann’s squad if, for no other reason that, it will provide confidence. The Americans now go into three World Cup qualifying matches over the next two weeks starting at Jamaica in Kingston on Friday. They, come home matches against Panama in Seattle on June 11 and Honduras in Sandy, Utah, on June 18.


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Tim Howard 5: Certainly not his best match for the U.S. He did not make any hard saves and did not do much, giving up a rebound on Germany’s third goal. After a long season in England and a match against Belgium on Wednesday, he looked tired.

Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 5: Beasley looked good going forward, but as a defender, not so much. He still has trouble defending one-on-one, twice getting beaten, but without any consequence. He worked hard, but does not look like the long-term answer on the left side flank

Defender Matt Besler - 5.5: His was a hard performance to judge. Generally, he was fine, but he made a few errors. But were the errors caused by a sub-par performance from his defending partner? He was steady, but had problems as the match wore on.

Defender Omar Gonzalez - 4.5: The best thing you can say about his performance is that it was not a woeful as Wednesday against Belgium. Too often, he simply looks confused. He was at fault on the first German goal and on the German goal that was disallowed. Despite being a Klinsmann favorite, maybe it’s time to begin wondering if he can play at this level.

Midfielder Brad Evans - 6: While he did not contribute much offensively, he was terrific in the midfield and dropping back as the fourth defender. Like a number of his teammates on this hot day, he seemed to tire noticeably in the late going and lost some effectiveness.

Midfielder Graham Zusi - 6: He had a strong first half, capped off with a perfect cross on Altidore goal. He was not much of an offensive threat after that, but did hard work defensively. He too wore down and was replaced just before the hour. He looks like the starter for the U.S. until Donovan is let out of Klinsmann’s doghouse and returns. .

Midfielder Fabian Johnson - 5.5: Coming off a hamstring injury, he was only able to go for 45 minutes, but is clearly better in an attacking role that back on defense. He had solid while in the game.

Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6: Was very good in the first half, both defensively and getting into the offensive flow. But over the final 45 minutes, the long Roma season that only ended last Sunday seemed to catch up with him and he slowed noticeably.

Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 7.5: Were it not for Dempsey’s heroics, Jones would have been the man of the match. He worked tirelessly on both ends and time after time broke up German passes or got to loose balls first. He is becoming the indispensible man for the U.S. in the middle.

Forward Clint Dempsey - 8: He had two sensational goals and worked hard for the entire 90 minutes. One of his best U.S. performances.

Forward Jozy Altidore - 7.5: Started the day with a pretty finish and then then he played hard for the 80 minutes he was in. Hopefully, this will be a turning point for him for the Americans and he will begin to score as he does in the Netherlands.

Reserves

Midfielder Brad Davis (46th minute for F. Johnson) - 4.5: He is clearly not as good, offensively or defensively, as the man he replaced, but he can give you serviceable minutes as long as he is not call on to make big plays.

Defender Edgar Castillo (56th minute for Beasley) - 5: A puzzling half hour plus. He is not the offensive threat Beasley is, but is better with one-on-one marking. He did not have a good appearance possibly because he is tired from a 90-minute performance for his Mexican side Club Tijuana in Brazil on Thursday.

Forward Eddie Johnson (56th minute for Zusi) - 5: Just an OK performance. He does not go up and down the wing as well as Zusi, and had trouble crossing, but he worked hard and had fresh legs when all those around him started hitting the wall.

Forward Terrence Boyd (81st minute for Altidore) - 4: Came on in a role to help kill off the match. Had a couple of judgment lapses when he tried to be offensive when the moment called for being conservative. Made a bonehead play when he tried a long shot with time expiring, while Dempsey and good sense implored him to take the ball to the deep corner to end the match. Resultantly, Germany had one more chance to equalize.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clint Dempsey.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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