March 25, 2017

Klinsmann’s US comes out on top and lessons learned from Germany’s US Trip

Germany finished the second part of their US tour with a 3-4 loss to Jürgen Klinsmann’s US national team at RFK stadium Washington DC on Sunday.  The game was a great showcase for US Soccer’s centennial celebrations but it also underlined the strengths and weaknesses of Löw’s team and was a great opportunity to experiment and build on their progress with the World Cup inching closer and closer.

Löw made five changes from the game against Ecuador.  Ter Stegen started in goal in place of Adler.  Lars Bender filled in at right back and Höwedes played in the center alongside Mertesacker.  In midfield, Sven Bender and Reinartz replaced L. Bender and Neustädter and Schürrle and Klose replaced Kruse and Sam.  It was the first time in 39 years two twin brothers had started for Germany and Klose also had a chance to equal and break Gerd Müller’s all-time goal record. Alas, history had to wait.

In contrast to the Ecuador game, in which Germany started well, it took Löw’s team a good hour to get into the match.  By then the US had taken a deserved 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Jozy Altidore and an own goal from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.  Heiko Westermann pulled a goal back after the break but the US continued to have the upper hand and scored two more through Clint Dempsey’s two goals in four minutes.  The introduction of Max Kruse and Sidney Sam livened things up afterwards and Germany made it a nervy finish thanks to Draxler and Kruse’s goals but the turn up in energy was too little too late.

Reactions

Löw: We had a hard time getting in the game in the first half.  And what happened is also naturally disappointing for a young goalkeeper.  He made a mistake, but afterwards he did his job very well.

Klose: We didn’t have enough possession or the right intensity.  Despite that, several of the players did their job well during the trip.

Kruse: We are happy that it didn’t end 4-1 for the US.  That said, the 3-4 isn’t enough for us either.  Let’s see what the next week or months holds for me. I’m just happy to have been a part of this trip.

Höwedes: You could see today how the high temperatures affected us.  But the team also showed a lot of spirit.  We didn’t give up after the 4-1 and got right back into the game.

Podolski: In the first half we lacked the right intensity and aggression.  We did much better in the second half.

Max Kruse and Julian Draxler impress

Perhaps more than anyone, the trip benefitted Draxler and Kruse.  Prior to the trip overseas, Draxler was limited to a few cameo appearances here and there and always remained adrift in the pecking order behind players like Özil, Götze, Müller and Reus.  Löw showed a lot of faith in him by selecting him to the preliminary squad for the EUROs last year and again by picking him for the first team instead of the U-21s ahead of next week’s EUROs.  Filling in for Özil, Draxler showed superb poise and command of the field in both matches.  He was constantly looking for the ball in both games and was always a part of Germany’s dangerous attacks  His touch and eye for a pass are especially exemplary for his age and his ability to play on either flank will give Löw many options going forward.

Kruse meanwhile was barely a topic of discussion a year ago.  The step up from the 2.Bundesliga to the first was seamless and his season with Freiburg exceptional.  His call up came warranted and he proved that he can more than hold his own in the national team.  Against Ecuador, he played the lone striker role to perfection in the first half and had a significant impact coming off the bench against the US.  His relentless running and intelligent mobility always created space for his teammates and he always poses a great threat in front of goal.  He remained humble after the US game but Löw will, or should, undoubtedly continue to select Kruse in the months leading to Brazil.

Improving defense is a must

To no one’s surprise, Germany’s defending was again at the center of their struggles in both games.  Much has been said, on this site and several others, about their defensive frailties and continually changing back lines.  To be fair, these two games didn’t leave Löw without many options or choices for consistency but the same patterns and trends were again noticeable when their opponents attacked.  Whether it is nerves, poor positioning or just miscommunication, Germany allow other teams opportunities to score that otherwise should not be allowed.

Going back to the 2010 World Cup, Germany have kept only nine clean sheets in 38 games.  Of those nine clean sheets, the only notable performance that stood out was against Portugal in the group stages of the EUROs.  The rest were either in friendlies or against the minnows of qualifying.  Suffice to say, it’s a criticism that has been ever-present over the years and one that was very much a factor in their elimination in the semifinals to Italy last summer.  Selecting a first choice back four is crucial for Löw until the end of the year and going into the final stretch of World Cup preparations.

Depth will be key

Whatever else comes out of this trip, one thing is certain.  Löw will be spoiled for choice come the squad selection deadline next year.  With a talent pool upwards of 30+ players, he will have every type of player available to choose from.  The majority of the Bayern/Dortmund/Madrid contingent will almost be guaranteed a spot in the squad barring any injuries but that still leaves room for a handful of players that will be competing fiercely for a spot in the squad.  That level of competition has not existed in the setup in quite some time and should not only get the best out of the players but benefit the team’s development tremendously.

Header courtesy of dpa

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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