In a night of what seemed like destiny, the U.S. Men’s National Team advanced to the knockout round of the World Cup even after losing 1-0 to Germany. This is the first time the U.S. has advanced to the knockout round in back-to-back World Cups.
The men in Red, White, and Blue were not going to let a little drizzle rain on their parade. Actually it was a downpour in Recife this afternoon, as the United States fought to a 1-0 loss at the hands of the Germans. In a game where the U.S. had little if any possession at times throughout the night, it was a frustrating game offensively and defensively for the Americans.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted to start defender Omar Gonzalez and left midfielder Brad Davis over the likes of Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya respectively. The replacement of Cameron was most understandable, seeing as he had a rough go of it against Portugal. Knowing how Klinsmann has operated so far in Brazil, he has opted to stick with the hot hand. It is quite possible Cameron was not mentally 100 percent recovered from the other night. Even so, Gonzalez has not seen the same level of talent as Cameron on a regular basis for club soccer. The insertion of Davis into the starting eleven was interesting to say the least. Davis up to today had yet to play a dominant roll during the first two games, and even during the three friendlies leading into the World Cup. Facing a German team stacked with talent and stamina, the younger and more athletic Bedoya seemed to have made more sense. More than likely after a less than stellar performance from Davis, he was eventually subbed off in favor of Bedoya.
Even if the roster had been unchanged heading into today’s match, the lack of possession time really hurt the United States. Germany played out of a 4-5-1 formation and toyed with the U.S. all game long. As expected German captain Phillip Lahm, was truly a force on ball. Playing in the role of a defensive midfielder, he distributed the ball to both sides of the pitch with ease. Watching the German passing game was absolutely incredible, and deserves much respect from any opponent. Lahm was not alone in the midfield as on either wing, the Bayern Munich man had teammates Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, and Mario Götze, along with the likes of Mesut Özil.
Heading into the knockout round against Belgium, a key United States player will need to step up. Brazil has been an absolute nightmare for future U.S. captain Michael Bradley. The former Roma and current Toronto FC mid has had a terrible time controlling the ball, and has had too many passes behind his U.S. teammates. This upcoming week of practice will be critical in regaining some form. Only he knows what his current poor run of form is from, but U.S. fans will be hopeful of forward Jozy Altidore’s return, and bringing back the 4-4-2 diamond midfield that had worked so well during friendlies.
Looking ahead to the round of 16 match against Belgium, the U.S. will again need to focus on the midfield and retaining possession. Belgium by many is considered a dark horse to win the entire tournament this summer. In a team filled with Premier League players such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini, youngster Adnan Januzaj, along with many other top tier talent from around Europe, keeping the ball out of their control will be vastly important. Hazard, amongst others, has the speed to leave almost any USMNT defender in the dust if we are not careful.
It will surely be an exciting match, as the U.S. will look to advance to the quarterfinal for the first time since 2002. With hopeful returnee Jozy Altidore up top, that should give the Stars and Stripes a strong, stand up target they have been missing since the first 20 minutes of the Ghana match.