TSG’s USA vs. Germany Preview: Friends In Löw Places?

Two heavyweights go head to head far away down the pitch....

Two heavyweights go head to head far away down the pitch…. (illustration by Ben Saufley)

Can’t knock the hustle…

The US is entertaining. Give ’em that. Hollywood 101N.

Whether it’s a full-scalped Landon Donovan’s shifting crossover against Germany in a 2002 clash that built Oliver Kahn’s lore or going down to nine against eventual 2006 World Cup champs Italy and boxing out a draw. Whether it’s the US’s 2008 Olympic meltdown versus the Dutch, or Landon’s heart-stopping Algeria roller to win the group …. or a last-minute Sean Johnson Olympic berth-preserving save attempt…

It’s the theatrical.

The US gives their fans something to watch for — and Sunday, even through a deflating ending, was no different as some dude not named Ronaldo ghosted in from the left and left Tim Howard pondering the meaning of life.

The USMNT goes toe-to-toe with Die Mannschaft of Germany early Thursday in a poker game concerned with managing scores and keeping defensive integrity intact. With the US’s stoppage-time capitulation against Portugal and Germany up big on goal tally and differential, this may be a game of red rover where no one gets sent over.

Will the US bunker? Will Germany bunker? Who risks going forward?

It’s no secret that the US under Jürgen Klinsmann has practiced a more pragmatic and conservative approach to “attacking games.”

At Brazil 2014, the US has steadfastly refused to break their shape to create chances up the field.

This is, of course, not out of character for a Klinsmann team that used possession as a defensive mechanism and employed the same three central midfielders in multiple permutations throughout qualifying.

Against Portugal, despite calls to the contrary–including here in our preview–Klinsmann refused to challenge and stretch the heart of the Portuguese defense, electing to employ a 4-5-1 and work 3-vs-2’s on the flanks instead of attacking more vertically.

It was a defensive strategy designed to mitigate risk centrally and beat back Portugal’s full-backs with their lack of cover in their 4-3-3.

It was very Sun Tzu of Klinsmann…

“By persistently hanging on the enemy’s flank, we shall succeed in the long run in killing the commander-in-chief….almost”

I added in that last part there. But in other words, you’re not coming down the middle on us.

It’s taken full tanks of exertion from Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones–who must be in contention for World Cup Best XI at this point.

On a warm night in Philly nearly three years ago, the  Dreds set out for this moment. (photo: Matt Mathai)

On a warm night in Philly nearly three years ago, the Dreds set out for this moment. (photo: Matt Mathai)

But perhaps the key to all of this for Klinsmann has been the introduction of Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman in the central midfield role. With Michael Bradley’s attacking capabilities and forward positional defense a must in a States’ attack that’s found it difficult to get chances in the run of play and Jermaine Jones proving to be too much of a destroyer for the deep midfield, Beckerman was re-inserted into the line-up against Nigeria in the final Send-Off game.

The US immediately–and finally–looked balanced.

It’s a role not wholly unlike — though not identical to — the famous libero or sweeper role that Franz Beckenbauer is credited with birthing for West Germany in the late ’70s, in matches that Klinsmann must’ve tuned into in his youth.

It’s a role that progressed forward through German all-time appearances leader Lothar Matthäus who moved aft from the midfield for the 1994 World Cup to pronounced effect. Matthäus was famously was quoted ahead of his team’s knockout round effort against Bulgaria as saying: “I am not here to be a great star but to achieve a team goal.”

That could be the embodiment of Beckerman, who few knew before this most recent US qualifying effort outside of MLS fanatics and the state of Utah.

Michael Parkhurst, US international/Columbus Crew captain.

Michael Parkhurst, US int’l/Columbus Crew captain.

Let’s bring in Columbus Crew center-back and one of the best technical defenders the US has ever produced, Michael Parkhurst on the necessity of Beckerman’s role and the US’s shape:

“I like the 4-1-4-1 the US played against Portugal.

Beckerman plays a pivotal role in the midfield as the holding ‘6’. He allows the outside backs to get forward and also gives Bradley and Jones the ability get up and help the lone striker.

His job will be even more important against a German team who interchanges positions with their front 6 so well and often plays with a withdrawn striker. Its also important in this formation that the other 2 central midfielders do push up and get into the attack like we saw Bradley do a bit more against Portugal.”

Game on for the RSL captain and US.

You’re not coming down the middle.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview.

As usual, it goes:

About The Opponent: Germany

TSG: What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

US Keys To The Match

Low on the line.

Low on the line.

About The Opponent: Germany

Under Joachim Löw, Germany executed a subtle identity change that had Die Mannschaft bolting through Euro 2012 until they banged up against Italy’s Azzurri–the same Azzurri that bowed out yesterday for the second straight time in the group stage. Pouring out a limoncello for you, Pirlo.

It was that match–a 2-1 defeat at the feet of Mario Balotelli–that toggled the light switch for Löw.

In the 2010 World Cup, and for the majority of that Euro 2012 tournament, Germany sat deep against teams and ignited vicious counterattacks. In the semi versus Italy, the lack of forward pressure meant Italian maestro Pirlo could ping passes forward at his leisure; the sitting deep failed to put the correct pressure on Antonio Cassano, who made himself available between the lines.

Löw, who had largely been aggressive–some thought borderline arrogant–in his player selection and tactics was faced with the realization that he wasn’t squeezing all that was possible out of his team by merely playing defend and counter.

Before the next competitive match in September of 2012, here was Löw’s sentiments on the UEFA web site:

“We will have to completely change our tactics – which used to be, ‘if we have the ball we are active, if not we drop back.

“Our aim in the next months will be to play a high pressing game, even against attacking sides. We have to be more active when defending without the ball.”

Löw is almost executing on those tactics here at Brazil 2014.

Germany steamrolled Portugal in Game One in an absolute masterclass by Löw. With more than six months to prepare for a Portugal 4-3-3 that is anything but dynamic, Löw was surgical in how he attacked Portugal. The Veloso-Alves Chasm, getting in behind Pereira, floating Mesut Ozil out to the space vacated by Ronaldo remaining high in the attack were all targeted to great effect by Löw.

However, with limited time to prepare for a less-telegraphed and physical side, Germany struggled. Falling behind 2-1 against Ghana, it took an old strategy–the cross in the box–and an old World Cup friend–the regal Miraslav Klose getting up off his rocking chair on the sideline and finishing at the far post–to dig out a draw against the physical Black Stars.

A possible German deployment on Thursday.

A possible German deployment on Thursday.

Germany rolls out in a 4-3-3 with what appears to be two distinctly tasked bands of “3.”

The first line is comprised of Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Mesut Özil. The whole key to their attack is range of position and overloading the opposition. Though Özil will usually play a bit deeper and wider than the other two, all three are licensed to find space and create mismatches.

Since the US defense will obviously be zonal in their low block, the ability to effectively pass attackers on as they seep through the zones and/or check to the ball will be critical if the US is to avoid being victimized like Portugal at the hands of Germany.

The next band of “3” is Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Phillip Lahm. They work in unison to synchronously cover the backline while making incisive runs forward and looking to throw defenders off their marks. It is rare to see more than one get up into the attack without the other two staying back, but it happens at times.

Khedira in particular has been late to his rotations when Lahm has advanced. This present an opportunity for the US.

Much has been made of Löw’s perplexing use of four central defenders across his backline.

It appears to make little sense.

Inside is Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker and Dortmund’s Mats Hummels. Despite their club résumés and high popular opinion, neither defender–Hummels due to injury, Mertesacker due to Mertesacker–is dominant, especially when either are asked to pull outside of the center pocket. Both can be caught in the air (see goals from Ghana on Saturday and from Austria in qualifying) or simply caught out (witness Sweden’s repeated abuse of Mertesacker in their 5-3 loss last year).


“Crosses in the air from wide positions will be eaten up by their big, strong back 4.  We have to get their CBs running facing their own goal while dealing with crosses, particularly on the ground.”

On the right, is Jérôme Boateng, a player worthy of his position, but who could certainly be used centrally to help narrow the space between the lines with his speed. On the left, is Benedikt Höwedes who Ghana targeted incessantly. It would not be surprising — with Fabian Johnson’s effect on the game — to see Löw go to the bench for Erik Durm, the 22-year-old Dortmund left-back with the explicit instruction to merely keep Johnson in front of him.

Manuel Neuer is Germany’s dynamic keeper. A terrific shot stopper, Neuer’s distribution is a weapon when he catches the opponent snoozing. However, he came into this Cup banged-up — a right shoulder injury had him so limited that he couldn’t even job in a sling the first few days of training. Interestingly enough, both Ghana goals came low and to his right — the shoulder he may not want to crash down on. It may be nothing — or it may be Tim Howard’s rib cage in 2010. The US has to test him.

When Germany are playing well, the front six appear to be interchanging as one and the back four is high, controlling any outlets. Prior to Pepe’s red card in Game One, the forwards and midfielders were applying enough pressure to force Portugal to play through the air to a thoroughly overmatched Almeida. This is is the ideal for Germany.

There are three key players for Germany by this eye: Özil, Lahm, and Müller in that order.

Ozil on the approach against Ghana.

Ozil on the approach against Ghana.

Özil is the key. His sharp off-ball movement to get open in dangerous places and his ability to make nearly any pass makes him a danger in possession the moment he collects the ball. Özil will be looking primarily for the feet of Müller, who probably works harder off the ball than anyone not named Ronaldo (non-World Cup 2014 Ronaldo that is).

The “x-factor” is Mario Götze, who put in a clumsy finish against Ghana, but played duck-duck-goose with the Portugal backline for the first 45′ of that one.

If you’re looking at a hierarchy of tasks for the US defensively in this one it should go: 1) Track and pass your runners. There cannot be any communication gaffes; 2) Deny the ball to Özil; 3) Be aware of where Muller is at all times; 4) Send help when Götze is on the approach from the corners.

Behind that front motion, Phillip Lahm will be pulling the strings.

Lahm, a dynamic attacking full-back on teams past, is now controlling the midfield and in traditional clichéd fashion “sees two passes ahead.” Given time on the ball, Lahm will pick you apart, but he’s also apt to make a forward run to clear space or create an overload. The US should man-mark him from the outset.

However, Lahm, in partnership with Khedira and Kroos, really left a lot to be desired against Ghana. He was untidy with the ball, shied away from challenges, and his partners didn’t pick up the slack. Kroos, whose defensive tenacity will be needed in the left-central zone, has had trouble playing his trademark deep balls and Khedira has just not looked right since his return from injury. Veteran and World Cup star of yesteryear Bastian Schweinsteiger may be brought into the side in Khedira’s place, which would be a smart move.

Regardless, all three (or four) of the German midfielders had lengthy club campaigns and looked a step slow–as most do, to be fair–against Ghana. Worse, however, they shied away from winning 50/50 balls. US coaches surely took notice of it and will call on Jones, Beckerman, and Bradley to summon the strength to impose their will for 90′ more against Die Mannschaft.

Klinsmann: Divided, he stands?

Klinsmann: Divided, he stands? (illustration by Don Whelan..)

TSG What Are Looking For:

♦ Michael Bradley vs. Phillip Lahm

Arguably, the most pivotal match-up in this one.

This has not been Michael Bradley’s World Cup as the expectation was, perhaps, heading into it. Bradley — nearly infallible for the States’ during qualifying — has, since the Send-Off Series, been deployed higher up the pitch than any time previous in his US national team career.

Maligned in the first game against Ghana because he wasn’t “Michael Bradley,” the Toronto FC player still had a passable game helping cover the center of the pitch frequently and carrying the ball forward. Bradley’s next game against Portugal was better, but sputtered at the end.  Noticeably fatigued, he attempted to get to an errant Jermaine Jones pass about a minute before the whistle.

It was Bradley’s attempt to control the ball late, and his subsequent coughing it up, that ignited Portugal’s attack.

Bradley looking to keep his head up against Germany...

Bradley looking to keep his head up against Germany…

It’s hard to figure out what’s troubling Bradley unless you’re inside the locker room. The decison-making appears sound, but it’s almost like Bradley’s body is not letting him do what his body is accustomed to doing. Balls up the flanks that Bradley would typically play in stride have been popped up or measured long. Bradley’s also been dispossessed more frequently than ever before in a US jersey.

Germany presents a grand opportunity for Bradley to impact the match.

In attack, he’ll be tasked with finding a spot between the defensive and midfield bands of Germany, something that the US’s opponents have offered in uncharacteristic abundance so far this campaign.

When the ball flips though, Bradley will likely be tasked with minding the man who Pep Guardiola recently called, “the most intelligent player I’ve ever trained.”

That player is, of course, Phillip Lahm, who had an uncharacteristically poor performance against the Black Stars. However, despite being less than radar-precise with his passing, Lahm still did some serious good work off the ball to get into dangerous spots and open room for others.

Bradley will need to recognize when to stay with Lahm and when to pass on him in defense, knowing that tracking one of the German captain’s handful of forward runs may be necessary, but also puts himself out of position on a turnover and demands that he exert even more effort.

He’ll also attempt to fluster the Germans in deep possession so Die Mannschaft’s attack can’t rev its engine at will.

(Note: It’s ironic that Bradley, whose pops was usurped by Klinsmann, will be tasked with shutting down the player that has been the most ardent critic of Klinsmann’s tenure as German national team manager.)

♦ The Gap & The Counter

Here’s Michael Parkhurst on how the US needs to attack Germany:

“The US can be successful on the counterattack against Germany. They are a good possession team who like to get forward and attack, but Ghana were able to exploit them with speed on the counter — and if we can do the same, we will have chances.

Their back, consisting of 4 CBs, is not the most mobile group.  Isolated  1-vs-1 we can get the better of them and get in behind.  In possession, it will be important to get our outside backs forward, similar to the Portugal game.  Unlike Ronaldo, the German wingers will be more honest and get back defensively.  The more we can keep them pinned back and keep their striker isolated, the easier it will be for the US defensively.”

Germany appears to be a team whose history forces it to wrestle with the system that Löw wants to establish. Löw’s rollout of the 4-2-3-1 since signing on as coach had established defensive solidity in the middle ahead of the center-backs and taken advantage of Germany’s wide players while continuing to rely on the apple pie of many a German team — the target striker.

With the manager’s move to a 4-3-3 in the Spring of 2013, it enabled more dynamic attacking options up top, but reduced the depth and the ability to play two-line passes. Germany’s wide forwards don’t play off a central false nine (in this case, Müller) so much as they all merely look to find space.

It’s antithetical to the history of German soccer and has worked wonders–as Germany asphyxiated Portugal by overloading the Veloso-Alves chasm–but it has also bogged down.

Screenshot (5)

With Germany’s fullbacks reluctant to get into the attack with or without the ball, their attack can get very flat creating large gaps between the midfield and backline bands. If the US can link through this zone and find an advancing Johnson or Dempsey over the top, their could be pay dirt on chances.

A possible US deployment Thursday.

A possible US deployment Thursday.

11 At The Whistle:

Here’s Parkhurst on the US depth and options:

“It will be difficult to recover, no doubt.  Mentally and physically, that game will take a big toll on the team.  That said, the US has an entire staff there whose job is to get the players recovered as quick as possible.

On the whole I would expect most players to be available to go again Thursday.  However, you have a team of 23 and must have trust in all the players to get the job done so I think the most important thing is to have fresh legs.  Anyone is who not prepared to go 90, I would change out.

In these types of intense and physically demanding games, a fresh reserve is better than a starter whose tank is only 80-90% full.  Don’t expect to see 10 new faces but I could foresee 2-3 changes to the lineup.”

GK: Tim Howard

The skinny: Tim Howard has made big saves in yet another match. Repeat, Tim Howard came up big again. Let’s put any doubts to rest. We also got to see a trademark Howard throw.

DEF: Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Tim Chandler

The skinny: For Cameron, there is concern over what seemed like a horrible performance against Portugal. However, the first goal concession–like Michael Bradley’s attempt to control the errant midfield ball at the death–was a mistake of execution, not of decision-making. The same is true of the final play in what ultimately ends up being a 3-v-1 centrally.

Where Cameron will need to pick it up is on his distribution.  The US cannot afford a few shaky moments in the back and a few interceptions in the middle of the field, which can hurt you on a quick counter.

Ok… so, why the shock Chandler inclusion?  Here’s why:

Mesut Ozil passing attempts in the final third against Portugal (left) & Ghana (right).

Mesut Ozil passing attempts in the final third against Portugal (left) & Ghana (right).

Özil often floated wide right outside and was picked up by the opposite full-back. In this case, that can be a fresh Chander on his stronger interior foot. It’d be a gambit and maybe a big head-game played by Klinsmann to add yet another German to a line-up against Germany, no?

CDM: Kyle Beckerman

The skinny: Head on a swivel.

CM/CAM: Junior Jones, Michael Bradley

The skinny: This is Jones and Bradley’s opportunity to physically impose their will. They have to make Lahm and company reluctant and conservative in possession.

LM/RM: Brad Davis, Graham Zusi

The skinny: Brad Davis’s entrance seems plausible if you… well … let’s consider the possible reasons:

1) Tim Chandler may deputize at left-back. Davis complements Chandler by offering the width that is foregone with the German-American in the back.

2) The US, while asymmetrical in formation, wants to offer balance. If the US pushes Fabian Johnson high and on the right, it will leave the opposite full-back behind.  Davis would enable the width that would normally come from…

3) Germany is no bueno when getting bombed on in the box from the left

4) Tracking Jérôme Boateng if he joins the attack is much much different than tracking Daniel Opare or João Pereira. He’s still fast, but he’s not lighting.

Ok, totally talked myself into a Chandler-Davis pairing on the left. Godspeed, USA. Godspeed.

STR: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: In my best Steve Ballmer voice (and some more Ballmer fun), “The (GER) Left Channel! The Left Channel, the Left Channel! The Left Channel. The Left Channel. The Left Channel.”

First two subs: Diskerud for Zusi, Wondo for Davis

Keys To the Match for the US

⇒ Chase Lahm and Özil off the ball; better yet, deny them.

⇒  Communicate and pass attackers appropriately. Watch for late runs from the German midfield band of three.

⇒  Attacking the left channel extended (to the flank) of Germany. Ghana found plenty of opportunities there.

⇒  Pump some crosses into the box. Germany have been uncharacterically suspect at times in the air. (Parkhurst disagrees…says go ground.)

⇒  Initiate a few take-ons of Mertesacker, who can be bested 1-v-1.

48 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Eric L on 2014/06/25 at 1:54 AM

    After the Portugal match I have not been able to put into words the way I was feeling after the whistle. I immediately figured it out while reading this article, “and left Tim Howard pondering the meaning of life.” Great preview once again.


  2. Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/25 at 6:44 AM

    I am not sure if you are advocating for the use of Chandler here or that you think Klinsmann will use him.

    Either way I think it would be a mistake. Beasley and Besler have a good relationship and understanding. I think that Chandler didn’t really show well there. In a game where the front three of the opposition will be ghosting around communication and understanding will be key. Beasley should start.

    I could see putting Chandler in the game in the midfield. But the complete lack of a backup LB really makes it hard to start both Beasley and Chandler at the same time. I really dislike the idea of switching a defender onto the opposite side of the field from where they started.

    I posted elsewhere about moving Johnson up to the midfield. Yedlin is very much a fullback (stays wide, serves crosses), where as Johnson comes inside to shoot that channel between the left back and the centerback. I could see them working together well. Further you still have cover if one gets injured. Also as Cameron and johnson haven’t really looked to have a great understanding together Yedlin might work better there. Its a pretty big gamble, but Johnson driving central with Yedlin running the overlap might be the fastest/most dangerous combination we have.

    I know Bedoya has to be pretty gassed by now, but I could see him starting as a second striker. I know he has played there pretty well for Nantes. I also remember a quote of him saying he was playing central in some practices for the US team. He has struggled with his crossing, but has been putting in an effective defensive shift covering for Johnson. I think Bedoya matched up on Lahm could be pretty effective.

    With that in mind I like the following 4-2-3-1:

    My subs would be Mix for Bedoya, Zusi for Johnson, and then if down Green or Davis for Beckerman (Side Jones back to the 2 Band), if up maybe Brooks for Beasley and slide besler to LB, really depends on if the Germans put Klose in.

    But I think more likely is:


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/06/25 at 10:10 AM

      I think Klinsmann goes Chandler here to play some mind games. It’s a guess at best.

      I do think it hard to go three in a row for Beas though.


      • I can understand the discussion of Chandler from a technical standpoint and what he might bring, but the part that worries me is one of your keys: “Communicate and pass attackers effectively.”
        Communication along the back line has been an issue for months at this point, but the one place where it hasn’t seemed to be is with the Besler-Beasley partnership on that left side. Bringing Chandler in to the mix when he’s made a couple of coverage gaffes and struggled to communicate as far as his runs up the field go, it really worries me that it will leave major holes on that side of the field.
        Then again, Chandler is fresh and DeMarcus is not, so there’s that.


  3. Posted by Drew on 2014/06/25 at 7:04 AM

    A great read, thanks!


  4. Posted by jon on 2014/06/25 at 7:35 AM

    As I commented after the Ghana match, Bradley seems to be the victim of “nerves.” Which is just what we used to call it in my playing days when “[one]’s body is not letting him do what his body is accustomed to doing.” That slight uptick in adrenaline output can throw off spatial ability just slightly. Against Portugal, I thought Bradley was almost back to himself, but he has looked ever so slightly lacking in confidence and the poor first touch that allowed Eder to start the final Portugal attack will not help. I hope to see him use it as motivation to be even better against Germany. It will take a lot of mental discipline to keep his mind clear and rest sufficiently leading up to the match.

    If he comes through, it may be the Bradley v Lahm matchup that determines the outcome. I am half-hoping that the teams simply play out to a 0-0 draw though, which is what Tony Sanneh seems to expect as quoted by ESPN.


    • Posted by Snack Time on 2014/06/25 at 8:58 AM

      There’s sort of been an immense amount of spotlight action on Bradley leading up to this tournament. All of the extra media attention, coupled with Donovan’s absence and the desire to find the next poster-boy of US soccer, has turned a lot more eyes (and ESPN microphones) towards Bradley. Who wouldn’t be a little more tense?

      It’s interesting to see that Bradley and Lahm, both of whom are seen as midfield cogs of their respective teams, are both taking a little heat for playing out of their “best” positions. Which one will adjust better?


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2014/06/25 at 10:12 AM

      To me, wholly unfair to criticize Bradley. He has a Herculean task of both defending and being the primary support attack wise.

      He’s run more than any other player.

      And that last sequence there should’ve been failover defense.

      When he was 17, his dad got fired from the MetroStars and he hit the game-winning goal to push the team into the playoffs after his father’s dismissal.

      I think any claim of “nerves” is bunk, imho.


      • Posted by KMac on 2014/06/25 at 10:46 AM



      • Posted by Chazcar2 on 2014/06/25 at 11:34 AM

        I would agree. Its not like that situation was an easy play to make. People also were critising his lack of persuit. But he did persue for a bit, then looked up and saw the US had 5 (!) back to defend 2, maybe 3.

        Really not his fault in anyway. I can’t believe anyone would seriously argue it was. Its like arguing if he had completed 2 more passes the US would have won.


        • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2014/06/26 at 6:27 AM


          The Portugal loss was a team loss and was not Mikey’s fault. Drop him? Great idea, just tell me who is guaranteed to perform better.

          When you have Reyna’s old job, being the team timekeeper, the guy who sets the tempo, probably gets the ball the most and kicks off most of the teams attacks, you are always in the forefront for the good and the bad just like Reyna was when his giveaway led to Ghana’s goal in the 2006 World Cup.

          It comes with the territory.

          MB 89.5 can play better and based on this team’s past patterns, I expect this game to be the USMNT’s best of their three.

          It is also the final exam for JK’s program. Germany is a genuine Championship contender, not a paper tiger like Portugal, an inconsistent performer like Ghana or all those “ weak” teams in CONCACAF.

          Germany are in good form and playing with something on the line and are the best team JK’s boys will face since he took over. This should tell everyone just how good a job JK has done with this bunch regardless of what happens afterwards.


  5. Posted by nordy on 2014/06/25 at 9:20 AM

    “But perhaps the key to all of this for Klinsmann has been the introduction of Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman in the central midfield role.”

    *slow clap*

    I’ve been yelling this (to myself) every time I hear a commentator praise JJ, as they almost always fail to mention Beckerman’s role. Glad to see someone who’s more tactically astute than me agrees.


    • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2014/06/25 at 9:56 AM

      It’s been 3 games like this and right now I can’t remember a time before Beckerman was there. What was that even like? Must have been sad.

      He has to be the next name in the 11 after Howard, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones. Then Beckerman. Then figure out where to play Fabian. Then Besler/Cameron. Then the LB and LM/RM?


    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2014/06/26 at 5:57 AM


      Beckerman has consistently been supported by JK since JK’s first game in charge.

      Both of them have regularly demeaned, insulted and ridiculed because the vast majority of the US fan base believed the Ball boy would have been better than Beckerman.

      Now most of these hypocrites are jumping on the band wagon. It is probably enough for the Crofton Flash to know that he is now a valued regular starter regardless of who the US plays.


  6. Posted by Spiritof76 on 2014/06/25 at 9:37 AM

    Matt, thanks so much for your great work as ever, and really cool to hear Mr. Parkhurst’s thoughts as well.

    Curious what links you meant to insert on #3 in the LM/RM section for the USMNT? (“plays like this and this”).

    If yall haven’t seen it, the FIFA match statistics for each game are fantastic. (http://resources.fifa.com/) Against Portugal, by the time Bradley made the costly error he had run more than 7.5 miles, running farther, and harder more often than any other player on either team. He completed more passes than any other player on the USMNT, bested only by Moutinho for Portugal. Bradley ran more than 1.2 miles farther than Jermaine Jones and 1 miles farther than any player on Portugal. Try running 30 laps around a track and then playing soccer. He made a few errors, but I am definitely in the camp of cutting Michael freaking Bradley some slack.

    Also, for instance, Kyle Beckerman hit a faster “top speed” than Cristiano Ronaldo, which I think lets us know that we might now be able to count on Cristiano to pull a Cristiano on Ghana. Sad.

    Anyway, super excited about tomorrow. Y’all have fun and be safe out there!


  7. Posted by huckleberry on 2014/06/25 at 10:35 AM

    I agree on the lineup, except I start Wondo from the beginning. We need someone up top to work with Dempsey.Also Brooks for Besler, who’s had 2 muscle problems in 2 games. This gives us 4 fresh legs.



  8. Posted by KMac on 2014/06/25 at 10:44 AM

    GREAT Stuff as always Matt. You give me hope for the result needed.
    I was also reading a zonal marking piece earlier this year on how Italy beat Germany in June 29, 2012 Euros with a “diamond” formation. Granted it was against what looked like a 4-2-3-1 and not a 4-3-3 by Germany. But I wonder if Klinsmann got the diamond idea from this game/result for the basisgood strategic/tactical approach. Some of the players/roles are different then vs. now for Germany, but some of the same themes seem to ring out? Below is the link.


    Italy kept a high line to keep Gomez away from goal. Using pace (Balotelli) at the top also did wonders to stretch their back / middie lines – not Deuce, but Fabian/Yedlin could help here as pointed out. Bradley will play the Montolivo role to press high to disturb Lahm (or whoever Low roll’s out). Interestingly, Italy flattened to a flat 4 in the mid (sound familiar), especially when Germany had the ball out wide.

    I think Klinsmann will have to push Lahm et all deep (Kroos in the 2012 game), and attack the same weaknesses Italy and Ghana did. Toward the end of the match, if down, bring in the extra pace if needed.


  9. Posted by SamT on 2014/06/25 at 10:51 AM

    The World Cup is a time for the best to bring their A-game. Thank you for bringing yours, Matt. Great read.


  10. Posted by jolazo on 2014/06/25 at 11:26 AM

    Wasn’t the Chandler-Davis combo a disaster in the warmup friendlies? Davis didn’t give Chandler enough support or track the late runner, and Chandler got sucked inside too much (although he recovered well until that last turnover).

    I could see one of them, but not both.


  11. Posted by Spiritof76 on 2014/06/25 at 11:56 AM

    One more thing yall, and then I’ll hush up (I’m excited/antsy and over-rationalizing!)

    The USA and Ghana have played a combined 15 consecutive World Cup games that were either tied or won/lost by a single goal. No +-1 scenario eliminates USA w/o tiebreakers. The most dangerous is “GER+1 , GHA +1” in which case we just have to score more than Ghana (time to bust out the “vier vor drei” (4-3) shirts!)

    USA|| consecutive draw/+-1 results
    1) 1-1 v ITA
    2) 1-2 v GHA
    3) 1-1 v ENG
    4) 2-2 v SLO
    5) 1-0 v ALG
    6) 1-2 v GHA
    7) 2-1 v GHA
    8) 2-2 v POR

    Ghana|| consecutive draw/+-1 results
    1) 1-0 v SRB
    2) 1-1 v AUS
    3) 0-1 v GER
    4) 2-1 v USA
    5) 1-1 v URU
    6) 1-2 v USA
    7) 2-2 v GER


    • Posted by Kevin_H on 2014/06/25 at 12:54 PM

      Interesting point, but do games from 2010 and 2006 have much forecasting ability? It is also convenient to only start counting games in which the -/+1 criterion applies (seems a little statistically dishonest). Nevertheless, I promise I don’t mean to be a buzzkill – I hope your point is valid.


      • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2014/06/25 at 1:55 PM

        Ha! No, you’re right. My only points were that A) a -/+1 game is much more likely for both teams than I would have thought and B) in that case, USA is in better shape than I might have intuited. We could obviously lose to Germany 5-0 or Ronaldo could pull a Ronaldo and Portugal could beat Ghana 3-0 or any number of other scenarios. But then it gets really complicated really fast.

        Don’t know how predictive 2006 and 2010 games are. Or 2014 for that matter. Every game is new and different.


    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2014/06/26 at 5:49 AM


      It would be nice if you were right but 2006 and 2010 have nothing to do with this team, as others have mentioned.

      Maybe more to the point, I don’t think this edition of the USMNT has lost a competitive game to anyone by more than one goal except for the Costa Rica qualifier, which qualifies as a one off given Mikey’s unusual timing on his injury.

      Barring weird stuff, I see no reason why the boys can’t get a result vs. Germany.

      And I’m not yet convinced that Portugal are going to bend over and let Ghana humiliate them but we’ll see.


  12. Just have to say it. I miss what Landon Donovan could add to this team at LM in matches like this. LD and Parkhurst should have made this team. Appreciate Parkhurst’s insight. Inspiring to see the team really working as a team though, no matter who plays.


  13. If the US loses by 1 and Ghana wins by 1 (or whatever results that see us tie on points and GD), how is the tie broken? I seem to remember it’s not head to head which would see us go through after beating them.


  14. As usual, quality preview from the Shin Guardian.


  15. Posted by Usually Ranting on 2014/06/25 at 5:52 PM

    Good read. I actually agree with what you’re advocating for Matt. In terms of a few changes here and there.

    I have a crazy feeling about this game. That it will be a lot different from what we expect. Hopefully for the better.

    My biggest worry is fatigue. This is a quick turn around for a team that just played in the Amazon. And a lot of travel (Manaus is far away from SP and SP isn’t exactly close to Recife). Tired legs against this German team is bad news. The Germans, it should be said, didn’t exactly have an easy game against Ghana either. But they did have an extra day of rest and less travel.

    My 3 lineup changes would be:

    Chandler for Beasley. I agree w/ Matt, I don’t think Beasley can go 3 straight. Or we shouldn’t try and find out if he can. Chandler is worrisome in so far as communication and lapses in concentration, but he’s had moments of real excellence and he’ll have the ability to match the Germans physically. Plus the familiarity of playing against these players and knowing their style.

    Davis for Bedoya. As stated above, we’re going to need classy service to stand a chance offensively. He can supply that. Clint can make the runs.

    Yedlin for Zusi. This might seem crazy, but here is the thing. Ghana attacked Germany w/ pace and strength on the ball. Literally, they were the more athletic team and Germany couldn’t push them around. I think the US needs to have some semblance of that on the field and it could come through Yedlin. He can cover for Johnson if Johnson gets forward. And he can provide what Johnson provides (pace and the ability to cut in and get to the end line) if Johnson has to stay back. By putting him out on the wing, you get the bonuses of Yedlin (his attacking) without the negatives (his iffy defending/tracking). Yes, putting Zusi on the bench means you lose something in possession and in service. Plus he’s just a smart player. But I think Zusi and Davis are too redundant. Having both on the field is going to leave Dempsey on an island. Yedlin could really keep the Germans honest. And the US isn’t going to have a ton of possession anyways so they might as well make themselves dangerous when it counts. I think that Green or even Diskerud could make a similar contribution. But Green gets pushed around too easily and is a liability defensively and Diskerud isn’t fast enough and also, can be a liability in terms of tracking back. Yedlin will run his face off.


  16. Posted by Mark on 2014/06/25 at 6:18 PM

    I don’t think the U.S. will have recovered physically or mentally from the Portugal game, which felt like a loss, while Germany has an extra day’s rest. Hence, this could go 2-0 or 3-0 Germany. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them play conservatively in the first half, knowing the U.S. is vulnerable to late goals. And they’ll be even more vulnerable now because of lingering fatigue from the short turnaround. I sense the Portugal game was the chance for the U.S. to get to the knockout round and it slipped away in the last 30 seconds. I don’t support calls to bench Bradley, but Klinsmann shouldn’t hesitate to substitute him in the second half if he looks like he’s gassed. I think Johannssen could be an interesting sub in this match if it opens up in the second half, and obviously he’ll be fresher than a lot of other guys.


    • Posted by Arthur on 2014/06/25 at 8:07 PM

      Your point on Jóhannsson seems right to me. If Jurgen had played Jóhannsson earlier at left mid, I think he would be the presumptive attacking choice on the left flank, particularly as the first sub off the bench if the US is tied or needs a goal. I still think Jóhannsson should see a large number of minutes, and I would not mind seeing him play for Davis in Matt’s lineup. Jóhannsson’s speed, freshness, and quickness with the ball at his feet inside the box spells trouble for a slow, tired German defense. I agree with Parkhurst that it would be better to attack this lineup through the ground, utilizing our speed through quick one touch passing.


  17. Posted by Josh on 2014/06/25 at 6:49 PM

    I have never been more fired up for a match in my life. Let’s do this.


  18. Posted by Arthur on 2014/06/25 at 8:15 PM

    No worries yet about Jones being on a yellow card and possibly missing the next game due to yellow card accumulation? Wow, either Jones has demonstrated his ability to flourish within the USMNT and its playing system, or US fans have become a bit slow on picking out things to be worried about on the squad. I agree with Matt that the former is definitely true–Jones is playing at a Best XI level–but slightly shocked that with all the post-Portugal Bradley hate, the haters did not fixate upon Jones’s yellow-card status.


  19. Posted by ATroy on 2014/06/26 at 5:10 AM

    Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari sent home after clashing with Appiah and others in the Ghana federation. Muntari was already out for the Portugal match, but now also no KPB. How does this affect the minds of Ghana?


    • Boateng has always been a hit or miss proposition for Ghana. So maybe his loss is not big deal.

      Muntari on the other hand is Ghana’s version of JJ so his loss hurts Ghana and helps the USMNT cause.


      • Posted by Spiritof76 on 2014/06/26 at 5:42 AM

        Muntari wasn’t going to play today anyway (suspension), which I think will have an enormous impact on the Ghanain midfield and gives me hope Portugal can pull a result.

        Muntari covered more ground in their first two games. Besides his ability with the ball, he covered more ground through the first two games than any other player on that team.


  20. Posted by ATroy on 2014/06/26 at 5:38 AM

    Also, torrential rain in Recife has put the city under water. There’s no way that amount of rain will not affect the field conditions.


  21. […] « TSG’s USA vs. Germany Preview: Friends In Löw Places? […]


  22. […] too exhausted last night to put up a tactical preview. Luckily, +1 to the Samba The Shin Guardian had me covered. Consider this the TL;DR […]


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