Clever play, ruthless finishing results in historic USA win vs. Germany
COLOGNE, Germany —
Germany forward Andre Schürrle stepped in front of a media throng on Wednesday night and tried to explain how the World Cup winners lost to the U.S. men’s national team on home soil.
As Schürrle pondered the question, he noted that the team had watched film from the U.S. victory in Amsterdam on Friday. He followed up this note by picking out one thing in particular, one observation to capture the way the U.S. approached this game. His verdict essentially mirrored how Bobby Wood summed up the impetus behind this stunning 2-1 victory.
"We don’t get these games a lot," Wood said. "I think our whole team was ready for it mentally and physically. We just went at them."
Those principles drove this trip and endured in the face of withering scrutiny in the early stages. Germany placed the Americans under considerable pressure in the early stages and snatched the lead through Mario Götze inside the first 15 minutes.
Instead of folding or permitting the Germans to take the game to the point of no return, the Americans adjusted to the demands set forth. They figured out how to restrict the Germans in possession and sort out some of the issues in defense. They eventually scraped their way toward a position to build upon for the remained.
"They’re a very a good team," U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. "They have good players. They have players who play at big clubs. Any game they play, they can step on the field and they have a certain ease in the way they circulate the ball. At the beginning, we started in more of a diamond. After about 20 or 25 minutes when we tweaked that to where defensively it was a little flatter, we were able to cover the width of the field a little bit better. That, for me, was when things started to turn."
As Germany focused on possession, the Americans started to find space. They committed numbers forward earnestly on the counter and placed the German defense under pressure with a combination of determined running and tidy work in possession. Those efforts led to a protracted sequence on the ball, a sumptuous diagonal from Michael Bradley and a tidy equalizer from Mix Diskerud to restore parity before the break.
Klinsmann injected experience and pace at halftime to amplify those efforts and ensure the positive spell continued. Former Seattle teammates Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin combined to cause problems on the right with their familiarity and Yedlin’s searing pace. Kyle Beckerman partnered with the irrepressible Bradley (He was the absolute, best player on the field tonight," Klinsmann said) in the center of the park to interrupt the German rhythm once and for all.
"The shape was better in the second half. We were more compact," Klinsmann said. "We closed down passing lanes and a lot of those things we needed to do. When they start playing one and two touches, it’s very, very difficult. And then we got the momentum in the second half and we turned it into their half. That was pretty exciting."
All of that work allowed the Americans to pursue the game earnestly. They didn’t want to play for a draw or protect their hard-earned gains. They wanted to take the chances in front of them to tip the scales in their favor once and for all.
The chances came and went as the second-half progressed. All but one of them fell to the Americans. There were blocks and saves along the way. There were moments where the heads could have dipped and the players might have wondered whether the precious winner would ever arrived. But they kept plugging nevertheless.
Their deserved reward finally appeared three minutes from time. It captured the best traits from this trip to Europe — the astute recognition, the clever movement, the incisive combination play and the ruthless finishing — and cobbled them together into a winner likely to endure the test of time.
"It was a good buildup on the left hand side and Michael gets the opportunity to switch the play and unbalance them," Evans said. "I saw Jordan [Morris] check in and just hit a hard ball into the ground. Somehow, he knew Bobby was behind him. It was something we worked on yesterday. It was a great finish by Bobby."
Wood’s second winner inside the span of a week justified all of the belief channeled and expelled on the night. They coped without a cadre of influential absentees. They meandered through the difficult times. They emerged stronger for figuring out themselves. They relied on their strengths to unsettle teams with more experience and more talent. They were rewarded for their belief and their work with a fantastic result.
These are the lessons Klinsmann has preached since he took charge. There are still gaps to address and there are still weaknesses to shore up, but the conviction is present and the results reinforce it. It is the most important component as this team moves forward and sets its sights on the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the challenges ahead.
"We should take confidence," Bradley said. "It’s the start of a big summer, an important summer. Really, it’s the start of a few important year with the Gold Cup now, World Cup qualifying beginning in the fall, Copa America next summer, hopefully a Confederations Cup the following summer and then a World Cup. We should continue to feel like we’re moving ourselves along. It doesn’t matter who we play against. We can step on the field and cause anybody trouble and beat anybody."