The USMNT gave us a wonderful memory last week, coming from 3-1 down to beat the Netherlands 4-3 in Amsterdam. It was one of the most remarkable US men's games of all time, as well as a completely absurd game in which both teams hit the woodwork about 20 times a piece. Normally international friendlies don't look that much like an all-star game, but it was pretty fun on this occasion. Even crazier was seeing the US create chance after chance on the road against a traditional world power.
This time around, the task is even tougher: Germany won last year's World Cup by beating the two teams that have the world's top two players as well as handing Brazil their biggest humiliation ever. Oh, and they also completely suffocated the US in the group stage en route to a win there too. This game isn't about revenge so much as it is seeing if last week's benchmark can be built upon, or if it was just a fluke.
Key player: Michael Bradley
In Amsterdam last week, Bradley had a spectacular game in leading the US to its unlikely comeback win. Of course, the Netherlands ended up being a basket case of a team on the occasion; Germany is going to be much more organized (not to mention just better overall). They're not the World Cup champions for nothing.
As such, Bradley's playmaking is going to have to be paired with his customary defensive effort and some intelligent use of the ball. Setting up chances is great, but there will be plenty of times where the USMNT needs Bradley to set the tempo and be an outlet in this one as well. Given that the American roster is short of numerous stars and features a defense that could have conceded 7 goals to the Dutch, Bradley and the rest of the midfield are going to have to put in a heroic shift in shielding them from a the elite German attack.
Key question: Can we keep having fun?
Look, there were plenty of flaws in that last game. Nonetheless, the USMNT played a Dutch team that was using this game to get their act together for a virtual must-win Euro 2016 qualifier and scored four times, while also hitting the woodwork twice. Even at 3-1, the US performance was good. The problems that were there were correctable, rather than structural, "this is going to take months" stuff. And then there was that whole comeback! It was the most fun I've had watching the US in ages.
Germany is going to be a much smarter opponent, particularly in the back. To keep having fun with the national team, we as fans need to see the attack keep up the strong work from last week while pairing it with smarter, more cohesive defending. If this game gets stretched, the defensive play we saw against the Netherlands will mean Germany is probably on their way to a four- or five-goal outburst.
However, there's correcting the problem - by playing balanced soccer - and there's over-correcting. The USMNT had a "respectable" 1-0 loss last summer against the Germans, but it was a performance that involved an almost comically deep bunker and no shots on goal for the Americans. That was not fun, and more importantly it gave the US no chance of taking points. Jurgen Klinsmann is all about saying he wants to be proactive; if his team can be proactive against the world champs, this will be a really enjoyable game.
Match date/time: Wednesday 6/10, 2:45 EST (8:45pm local)
Venue: RheinEnergieSTADION (Cologne, Germany)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer 2Go (English)
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