Jun 22, 2014; Manaus, Amazonas, BRAZIL; USA midfielder Jermaine Jones(13) celebrates with teammates after scoring a second half goal against Portugal during the 2014 World Cup at Arena Amazonia. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2014 FIFA World Cup PREVIEW: USA vs Germany

The US men’s national team has been an entertaining team to watch. After such boring displays in 2006 and 2010, the USA is finally playing at a respectable level. How respectable you ask? Respectable to the point ESPN totally forgot that Lebron James is entering free agency and started airing countless USA vs Germany previews as if they were beating a dead horse.

Soccer is growing in America and a place in the Round of 16 will be crucial in not only bringing the Yankees closer to the elusive World Cup title, but also popularizing the sport in the United States. Escaping the group of death, advancing to the round of 16, reaching to the quarterfinals perhaps are the recipes to making soccer a major sport in the United States. This match against Germany doesn’t affect the state of US soccer now, it also affects the future.

Jun 22, 2014; Manaus, Amazonas, BRAZIL; United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann moves in to shake the hand of United States defender Matt Besler (5) after their 2-2 tie with Portugal in a 2014 World Cup game at Arena Amazonia. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

But no pressure Jurgen, you shouldn’t wrap your head around that right now. Just focus on beating the Germans.

I mean if the US can beat Ghana and almost escape with a victory over Portugal, surely they can defeat the Germans right? Wrong.

June 21, 2014; Fortazela, BRAZIL; Germany player Benedikt Hoewedes celebrates a goal against Ghanaduring the 2014 World Cup at Estadio Castelao. Mandatory Credit: Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

Die Mannschaft is an elite footballing nation for a reason. First off, the Germans on the USA squad don’t have a prayer to make it to the German national team. Secondly, the players who were controversially omitted from Germany’s national team would easily steal a spot on the US National team. Thirdly, the Germans aren’t dangerous because of their star power; they’re dangerous because they’re cohesive. World class football isn’t exemplified by having the names “Gotze”, “Ozil”, or “Muller” written on the back of the shirt. It’s demonstrated by eleven players telepathically moving the ball like one unit. Germany has shown more of the latter.

Yet there is a good reason to believe that the USA can avenge their loss to the Germans back in 2002 (Or at least tie it). This team plays with their emotions on their sleeves, yet runs the counter attack with such composure. Each player is oozing with so much passion that is contagious towards the entire squad. Maybe it’s my American bias imposing itself in this preview, but you can’t help but get emotional over this team.

Although my brain tells me that the chances of USA beating Germany is the same as the chances of a Ford Mustang beating a BMW M6 in a street race, my heart believes that there might be a little something that USA has to produce an upset. Lets say that something is heart (or in the Mustang’s case, Nos).

Projected Starting XI

USA: Howard, Beasley, Cameron, Besler, Johnson, Beckerman, Jones, Bradley, Bedoya, Zusi, Dempsey

Germany: Neuer, Boateng, Mertesacker, Hummels, Howedes, Lahm, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Muller, Gotze

Jun 22, 2014; Manaus, Amazonas, BRAZIL; Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo (7) makes a cross past United States defender DaMarcus Beasley (7) that led to Portugal

Keys for ‘Murica

– Michael Bradley has to show up. Crucial counter-attacks and exposing spotty defense won’t happen against the Germans, giving USA few options to capitalize on. USA needs a playmaker. Bradley has been absent against Ghana and Portugal despite being in the starting lineup. Yet, USA will desperately need his services to carve up Germanys airtight defense.

– Don’t play Dempsey at lone striker. Dempsey has struggled to win the ball, let alone have a presence when he plays the lone striker position. Yet against the Germans and with Altidore still out, running a 4-4-2 with a less talented striker alongside Dempsey just won’t cut it. In that case, Deuce should be utilized as a false ‘nine’ to be an effective attacker.

– Defensive discipline is crucial! Fabian Johnson had the freedom to attack the flanks in the Ghana and Portugal match. He will be busy against Germany as he will spend more time helping his backline hold off the German attack. It’s important to remember that it’s safer to play for a draw than risk a loss.

Keys for Germany

– Control the midfield. Once Germany establishes their tempo in the midfield, breaking down USA’s defense should be cake.

– Be mindful of the counter attack. USA boast enough strength and athleticism to sneak up on the Germans for a counter attack. Germany’s backline should remain conservative in their positioning and be mindful of potential counter attacks.

– Don’t risk getting injured. Losing the match and earning a second place finish isn’t so bad, considering that they will be playing against a struggling Belgium side. See that’s a win-win for USA and Germany!

Key Battles of the Match

– Bradley vs Lahm – Michael Bradley will be facing his toughest battle yet in what has been a subpar showing at the World Cup. Phillip Lahm has been the centerpiece of Germany’s defense for the past 8 years and a matchup against Bradley is simply a walk in the park for him. Bradley needs to get his thinking cap on and be in full physical condition if he wants to outplay Lahm and create opportune goal-scoring chances for his teammates.

– Beasley vs Gotze/Ozil/Muller – Although Beasley is fast, he is defensively suspect. This is going to be problem once he faces the interchangeable trio of Gotze, Ozil, and Muller. Beasley has to step up and do his part in stifling Germany’s attack give USA any hopes of concealing a draw even if it means throwing his body in front of the ball.

– Zusi vs Howedes – The speedy Graham Zusi will be facing a strong Howedes on the flanks. Although it’s easy to assume Zusi can easily win on his speed alone, he must be mindful that the Germans did a solid job in containing Cristiano Ronaldo. He has to be smart in figuring out how to beat his defender and contribute to the attack.

Staff Writer Predictions

Young Kim: 1-0 USA! No need for expert analyzing here. Anything can happen in this World Cup and in USA’s case, Kyle Beckerman will score on a fluke goal and lead a guided effort to park the bus for the remainder of the match.

Andrew Thompson: 2-1 Germany.  There’s just too much quality throughout the German side and with Altidore out, that takes away the US’s ability to challenge in the air. Jones and Beckerman have been great, but I cant see them besting a midfield trio of Lahm, Kroos and Schweinsteiger. Germany’s front three are completely interchangeable and that will cause nightmares for the back-line, esp. if Johnson wants to rampage forward

Tags: World Cup

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