The United States will play their final game of the group stage against soccer heavyweights Germany. The U.S. need a win or draw to guarantee a spot in the next round. Vegas has the United States as 8:1 underdogs to win the match, while the draw is much more probable at just over 3:2. The Yanks have impressed thus far in their time in Brazil, but they need one more result if they do indeed want to keep playing in the 2014 World Cup. Here are five ways the U.S. can get it done.
5. Jürgen Klinsmann’s Background
The U.S. manager is a former German player and manager and knows more about the current Germany team than almost anyone not directly involved with the German federation. He is also a good friend of current German manager Joachim Löw who was previously an assistant while Klinsmann managed the Germans. Klinsmann’s background should give the United States an advantage tactically when taking on this very strong German side. He’ll be able to prepare his team in a way that is not possible for most sides because he understands the ins-and-outs of the German team. If Klinsmann can properly prepare the U.S. on the strengths and weaknesses of the Germans, they may have a leg up mentally that could take them from an underdog to equals with Die Mannschaft.
4. Clint Dempsey’s One-on-One Brilliance
In the United States’ first match with Ghana they scored 31 seconds into the game. It took an excellent piece of individual play by Clint Dempsey and a fantastic finish that saw the ball bank off the post and into the back of the net. If the U.S. want to get the result they are looking for against Germany, they will probably need to score at least one goal, and with striker Jozy Atidore out, they will rely on Clint Dempsey up top. He’s scored in both games thus far and has the technical ability to take on any defender in the world. The Germans are gigantic at the back, but they are not particularly fleet of foot. The United States are not expected too take many chances while the match is tied so the opportunities will have to come from Dempsey. Just one piece of brilliance could mean the different between a charter flight back to the U.S. or on to the Round of 16.
3. Staunch Back Four
In the opening match with Ghana the U.S. defenders put together 81 minutes of scoreless football before they were finally broken down. If they can repeat the performance against a German side only needing a draw to top the group, the U.S. should keep them out of the net. Geoff Cameron is coming off disastrous night in Manaus where he whiffed on a cross that led to the first Portugal goal and then lost his mark in the last seconds of the match that allowed the equalizer. However, his teamwork with fellow central defender Matt Besler has been getting better and better and they may be ready to put together the team’s first World Cup clean sheet since the miracle game against Algeria. The outside defenders are both expected to help out on the attack, but with a draw sending the U.S. through, they may focus more on defending than they did against Portugal. If they play their best game as a unit, they are good enough to keep the Germans at bay.
2. Michael Bradley’s Redemption
The U.S. conceded a crushing last second goal that kept them from defeating Portugal and clinching a spot in the next round. Instantly American supporters looked for a scapegoat on which to to blame the devastating goal. They settled on Michael Bradley. He gave the ball away recklessly in the center of the field and it essentially became the first pass on the break that broke American hearts. Bradley hasn’t been at his best thus far in the World Cup, but a world class player like him doesn’t stay down long. The U.S. will need to have a presence in the midfield to relieve some of the pressure on the back four. Bradley’s ability to pick out perfect advancing passes breaks down defenses as quickly as picking the wrong Jenga block. He’s the general of the American midfield and he’s had consecutive poor matches. However, the U.S. have beaten and drawn two formidable sides so far. If he’s back to his normal self, they should be able to hang with the big boys.
1. Fabian Johnson Down The Flank
The German defense looked suspect in the match against Ghana. Consistently the Black Stars attacked the right flank and found tons of space that they eventually used to the tune of two goals. In the American match against Portugal, they found success down that same right flank as Fabian Johnson was able to get forward and occupy the space Cristiano Ronaldo left open. Johnson’s ability to stretch the German defense is the number one way the U.S. can get themselves into dangerous positions in this do-or-die match. Obviously the Yanks won’t want to take put themselves in an exposed position with Johnson going forward, but the same was thought against Portugal’s dangerous counter game, and Johnson still flooded forward and caused problems. Johnson may be the most improved player on the U.S. roster and he’s certainly playing at a higher level than that of Christian Atsu who was the man flanking Germany to death Saturday. If Johnson can indeed get forward, it’s not out of the question that the Americans could put the ball in the back of the net. Whether it’s at a time when the U.S. are down or while the game is tied, Johnson’s involvement will ultimately determine American success or failure at the most vital time.