USMNT Report: Tipping Point Nears After Germany Loss

Despite a 1-0 loss to Germany, the United States is on to the Round of 16 full of confidence
by Herb Scribner   |   Friday, June 27, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

It’s true the United States Men’s National Team lost to Germany.

But in a way, this loss feels like a win. The 1-0 loss to the German side in a wet and flooding Recife was enough to send the United States through to the Round of 16 on goal differential, putting the USA into the knockout round of the World Cup.

So the Americans are moving into the knockout phase with confidence, as they did enough to get out of what many called the Group of Death. And confidence may be a key component of what comes next in the tournament.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann was ecstatic after the Germany loss, mostly because of the energy the USA had.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s huge for us getting out of this group that everybody said, ‘You have no chance.’ We took that chance and now we move on. We really want to prove a point.”

And Tim Howard admitted he’s got a lot of respect for Germany, and that this loss by the USA isn’t all that surprising.

“Hats off to Germany, I think they have an opportunity to win the World Cup, that’s how good I think they are,” Howard said. “We had a chance right there at the end, but we go again, we get to the Round of 16. It shows how far we’ve come. That we’re not happy just getting there, that we want to progress, and we still got a little bit left in us.”

MAN OF THE MATCH: Kyle Beckerman — Beckerman has been one of the most stable USA players during the World Cup, and he surely continued that streak against Germany with key defensive decisions in the final third. Despite his yellow card — something he’s prone to getting in MLS with feisty retaliations — Beckerman made up for it by keeping things composed in the back, keeping Mesut Ozil at bay and defending well in the final moments.

ANALYSIS: It wasn’t long ago that the USA defeated a Germany B team 4-3 in the Americans’ centennial celebration match. Many writers, myself included, pointed out that the US had to push extremely hard to beat a secondary German side, and that the top German players would wash the Americans out like a flood storm — much like that one that hit Recife on Thursday.

But maybe we were wrong.

The US, coached by Germany’s former head coach, contained Germany and didn’t allow the team to take too many devastating chances. Thomas Muller’s goal came off defensive mistakes, which are bound to happen when a streaking hot player like Muller is finding his way near the net. But overall, the USA matched Germany in physicality, speed and compassion on the pitch. Maybe Germany was playing light, given the next round was mostly guaranteed for them, but no matter the case, the US matched them for a majority of the match.

Everything seemed to be working right for the US. Clint Dempsey continued to impress up top, nearly scoring late to give the USA an equalizer. Graham Zusi had an excellent shot on goal, and Omar Gonzalez stepped up in many ways to keep the backline in order. Despite letting up that goal, Tim Howard was once again strong in the net, showing he’s easily one of the world’s top goalkeepers.

But the strength of the USA came from the midfield. Beckerman stayed defensive and didn’t let Germany get the better of the USA. His passes were mostly on point, and he was surely passionate about the game, earning a yellow card in the second half, which he does when tries to overcompensate in a fiery way. Michael Bradley was a bulldog for much of the match, pressuring the Germans and forcing them to make quick decisions in the backfield. And Jermaine Jones went toe-to-toe with his German league members, taking the physicality to them and punishing them with slick passes through the midfield.

When all works well against Germany, there’s little to be upset about for Klinsmann. A win or a draw would have been ideal, but a 1-0 loss to a perennial World Cup favorite — full of young, talented players all reaching their primes — is hardly something to be upset with. And as Klinsmann said in the post-game interviews, now the team can focus on one opponent — Belgium — and devote training, practice and energy to beating that side.

Belgium isn’t exactly an in-form team, either. Unlike Colombia, France or Argentina, Belgium is barely sneaking out victories and can’t seem to find a rhythm. If the USA can bother and pester the Red Devils as well as they did the Germans, then a return to the quarterfinals doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

Making it to the quarterfinals could have more effects than just giving the USMNT a good showing on the world stage. It could be that one game, that one move, to make all the USA supporters and soccer fans devote their time and sports minds to soccer.

The USA is nearing a tipping point for its soccer culture. Play like they did today, and the Americans may come home to a much different country.

NEXT UP: July 1 — World Cup: United States vs. Belgium, Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil. 4 p.m. EST, ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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