We are ready. This nation and this team are ready for today’s monumental matchup against the powerhouse juggernaut that is Germany. Everyone knows what the pundits will say before the match. Everyone knows roughly what the line on the game is. Nate Silver, the God of statistics, gives us a 15% chance of winning, but the only thing I could care about less than the Vegas Line is Nate Silver’s special algorithm-driven numbers games. Silver gave the same or perhaps slightly lower chances to UConn in the Final Four of this year’s NCAA tournament. Any observant fan of college basketball knew those odds were way too low, and the observant fan of soccer will know the same for the U.S. against Germany.
The statisticians and gamblers couldn’t take into account Ghana’s perfect counterattacking game plan against the Germans, which almost earned the Black Stars the victory they couldn’t come close to achieving against the Americans. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsman has been a genius tactician so far in the World Cup, and a matchup against his home country provides a legendary opportunity for Klinsman to show the world just how good he is.
We are going to send our wings forward anytime the Germans overextend, allowing Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi to swing the ball toward goal where Clint Dempsey up top and Michael Bradley from the middle will be crashing toward net. The U.S. needs Bradley to step up and become the excellent passer he has been in past competitions. If Bradley performs up to his potential or even ¾ of that, the U.S. will be able to mix up the attack and stuff it down the middle of the German defense with link-up play between Bradley and Dempsey. Jermaine Jones will hopefully be bale to join Bradley in the attack during periods of the match, but he will need to get back quickly to defend when the Germans have possession. It is absolutely essential that the U.S. does not turn the ball over in the midfield or in our half of the field. That would lead directly to German chances and probably goals. Lastly, look for wingbacks Demarcus Beasley and even more frequently Fabian Johnson to come forward from the back and aid the attack.
The U.S. will have to get forward, possess the ball for periods, and create chances even though all we need is a tie to advance from the group. Today, the best defense is a good offense. A decent offensive showing throughout the match will take pressure off of the American defenders and goalie Tim Howard. The U.S. attackers should keep this in mind and must understand that a 40-yard field goal into the upper deck behind the German goal is a much better play than a turnover in the midfield. Just ask Michael Bradley.
The Germans conceded two goals to Ghana and many more goal-scoring opportunities, which should give the U.S. team confidence going into this match. We have the talent to create chances, the coach to orchestrate an effective game plan, and the individuals to score goals. After his magical 2nd-half goal against Portugal, Jermaine Jones must be coached like (baseball star) Mike Trout at the plate with a 3-0 count, 2 runners on, down 3: Give the man the green light for God’s sake. Jones, after all, is German, and as an important aside, he has not yet publically disclosed which team his 5 German children will be rooting for today.
Back to baseball: It’s given me pause and satisfaction that the people of New York City are showing off much more national soccer team swag than baseball paraphernalia this week. The Yankees may be playing the half-a-game ahead division rivals Baltimore Orioles, but the World Cup is on. The. World. Cup. This is a big deal, and even Americans seem to understand.
I’m inclined to believe that countries earn World Cup wins not only on the field of play, but also in the streets, subways, buses, offices, apartments, mansions, bars, and dorm rooms at home as well. Obviously host nation Brazil is in a state of pandemonium at the moment, but other countries are living and dying with their teams as well. Normal life in cities such as Montevideo, Uruguay and Medellin, Colombia is put on pause to the point where public transportation and public schools stop operating during the countries’ World Cup matches. The whole city of Santiago, Chile erupted when their team beat defending Champions Spain:
We here in the U.S. do not make as much noise or have holidays for the World Cup. Not yet. If our team can make it to the knock-out stages and pull off the wins to get to the quarterfinals or semis, who knows what will happen. Maybe petitions to the President like this one will get more signatures. Unfortunately even a victory or two more probably won’t get us days off of work. The first problem for American fans is that we are used to major sporting events happening at night, after work. The World Cup chooses not to respect our workmanlike sense of sports decency. The second problem is deeper and perhaps worrisome to American soccer fans but slowly improving. A good friend recently told me:
Not to bash any other sports, but to me there are two seasons: Baseball and football. Then there is that one perfect time of year where both seasons overlap. That two month period by far exceeds any other sporting event during the rest of the year or 4 years.
And it’s not just his opinion—it’s an opinion shared by many Americans. I almost agree with him, and I love soccer. There’s that magical time when the NBA Christmas Day special falls in the middle of college football Bowl Season and the NFL playoffs are approaching as fast as Ray Lewis making a hit. But the World Cup is us against the world. It is truly on an international level. And our match today and any others our team might get the chance to play in this World Cup could do wonders in getting people excited about O Jogo Bonito, The Beautiful Game. Americans’ distrust of the institution of soccer is completely reasonable and similar to our distrust of the metric system and anything French. We know what is ours and what isn’t ours, and soccer isn’t ours. We also don’t flop and have intensely loathe players who are willing to flop in an attempt to get calls from the ref. That isn’t the American way.
We are comfortable with baseball, football, basketball, and even hockey, because the best leagues of these sports are located in the U.S. and because they all have a lot of scoring (or a lot of hitting in hockey). Some Americans feel that soccer is like a boxing match where you can’t touch the other player or they’ll fall and get a foul call from the referee. What’s the point? That myth needs to be debunked, and who better to embody the toughness in soccer than Clint Dempsey. The man took a boot to the face and broke his nose for his country, for us. He kept playing injured and played the next game as well, and he’ll be on the field attacking as hard as ever against Germany. You could say he’s our Evander Holyfield.
Here are some other key players in our match against Germany:
The assist-master has forced his way into the starting eleven with two assists in the last two games and not just any two assists. The first was a perfect corner that found the head of John Brooks and then the back of the goal to beat Ghana in the 86th minute. The second was another perfect cross—this time in normal gameplay—to Dempsey for the goal that should have been the game winner against Portugal. Zusi is clutch and gets the job done. Look for him to get another assist today against das Germans.
Beckerman is the enforcer in the middle. He’s the defensive specialist power forward, the guy in hockey who is supposed to go out there and hit everyone, the middle linebacker. Beckerman is going to need to be able to stop the Germans from attacking our goal at will. Tim Howard is an excellent keeper, but he will need help today, and Beckerman is pretty much our first line of defense. If he is able to clog the middle and keep the German players from getting clean looks around the top of our box, the U.S. defense should be in good shape.
Michael Bradley: Will our best player finally show up?
Somehow we’ve been playing great soccer lately without our star midfielder and the supposed leader of the team in the lineup. Well, Bradley is in the lineup, and he is on the field, but he has simply not performed. Someone has to say it: If Bradely doesn’t get his sh*t together in the first half against Germany, he shouldn’t be on the field for the second. Sometimes, it’s better to have a backup playing at his best than a star playing terribly. After giving Portugal and Christiano Ronaldo the credit they and he deserve, you have to look at the end of that match and see the facts: Michael Bradley lost the U.S. that match. Start the running the clock with 40 seconds to go before the final whistle, before we win and automatically qualify for the knockout stages, and Bradley’s abysmal turnover is the reason we lost. The U.S. needs Bradley to forget his folly and, as the All-American Rejects would say, move along. Here’s a video to help us fans move along ourselves:
We may not be the country of Coldplay but we are the country where cold Northeasterners and the Playboy Mansion coexist. Peacefully. We may not be overflowing with soccer talent but we overflow with national pride everyday. We may not be the better team today, but we can be the winning team, and that’s all we care about, because we’re winners. Two World Wars. Let’s not go there. Instead let’s all of us—from Nogales, Arizona to Harlem, NYC to Kennwick, Washington to Clint Dempsey’s hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas to Jermaine Jones’ kids in…wherever they are—let’s all of us together watch our boys play today and take pride in the beautiful United States of America. There’s nothing else to say. Beat Germany. I believe.
by Jake Montgomery