I was at work and my brother-in-law text me, “US in a group with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana…man that’s tough”. I can still see it in my mind and I remember just standing there thinking to myself about how unfair the draw was for USA.
My first thought was that the USMNT would be lucky if they could even score a goal, much less them actually get any points. Needless to say, if someone would have told me that United States would be even on points with Germany, I would’ve told them they were insane.
Through all my doubt, here we are: United States and Germany, leading the Group of Death, are sitting with four points a piece, while Portugal and Ghana are trailing at one point a piece. USA can actually lose and advance, but it’s not very American to settle for a loss (or even a draw). How can USA grab three points and come out as champions of the Group of Death?
USA need to forget everything. Seriously! They need to forget everything except soccer and breathing (yes, that is a Spongebob reference). They need to forget giving up a late equalizer to Portugal that denied them guaranteed advancement. They need to forget the unforgiving humidity of Manaus, as well as their lengthy travel schedule, and focus on Germany for the early kick-off in Recife on Thursday.
Michael Bradley needs to forget his poor performance against Ghana and his so-so performance against Portugal, and come out and play up to his stellar standards that USA has come to appreciate and depend on. He also needs to move past his loss of possession that resulted in Portugal’s equalizer because USA need him at his best.
USA needs to forget the ties they have between themselves and Germany: their German coach, five players with a German parent, and their 4-3 win against a suggestive German “B” team last summer. If USA could manage to forget everything and play the way they have up until now, they might just be able to take down the European juggernaut that is Germany and take a full three points with them as well.
I usually don’t believe in this formation because it leaves a lone forward up top to handle the full workload of scoring and holding up plays. However, Germany definitely seemed to struggle immensely in the second half against Ghana, who ran the 4-5-1. Germany’s strength is in their midfield. Germany’s midfielders could be confused for artists with the art they perform on the field, but they could not find any passing lanes when the Ghanaian holding midfielders parked in front of Ghana’s shaky defense.
Germany’s weakness is in their defense. Germany is a monster of a team, and I personally would not take them on in soccer, but I feel pretty confident I could beat Per Mertesacker in a foot-race. They intimidate well on corners, but Clint Dempsey can get in behind this German back line and do some serious damage. Should DeAndre Yedlin come in, makeshift left back Benedikt Howedes might actually have to resort to fouls to keep Yedlin’s blazing speed at bay. A few long passes over the top might see a few balls in the back of the German net.
Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman have been the concrete foundation for USA at this year’s World Cup. The 4-5-1 puts both Jones and Beckerman in their favorable position and also allows Jones to occasionally venture forward, which can be very lethal for USA’s opponents according to his highlight goal against Portugal from several yards outside the box. The 4-5-1 fits the USMNT and could be one of the biggest keys to beating Germany.
3. Play to Win
The entire world believes there is some unnamed pact between USA and Germany, in which they will show up Thursday and play a little kickball and go home after 90 minutes. This scenario would see both teams go through to the Round of 16 and no harm done and no injuries.
It’s not American to play halfway through anything and settle for less than we deserve, nor is it a common German occurrence to play at less than excellent. USA will need to fight for the win. Germany will be looking to build momentum back going into the knockout stages after their brief “hiccup” against Ghana. The Americans will also need to pick up steam if they hope to have momentum entering this year’s Round of 16, and a win against Germany will be sufficient inspiration for US to take on anyone.
United States will have to play collectively the best game of their lives to stand a chance against the German Giants. If USA can execute these three components and catch a little luck, the “Yanks” could just do the unthinkable: win the Group of Death.