Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 25, 2014

Giant task awaits U.S.A. against Germany

BECKLEY — The collective blood pressure of American soccer fans will surely be high today.

The fate of U.S. soccer in the 2014 World Cup will be determined when the United States and Germany meet on the pitch in Recife, Brazil today at noon. The match will be broadcast on ESPN.

With a win or a draw, or a draw between Ghana and Portugal, the Yanks will advance to the knockout stage. With a loss, the fate of the U.S. will be determined by goal differential.

Currently, Ghana is down two goals to the United States. If the U.S. loses by more than two goals and Ghana beats Portugal by two or more goals, the Black Stars will advance and the United States will go home.

For the Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal squad, who are down five goals to the U.S., chances are even more slim. It would take a defensive disaster on both the United States and Ghana’s behalf to send the Paulo Bento coached team through.

n Defensive blunders prove costly

If there’s one thing the United States cannot afford against Germany, however, it’s a defensive meltdown.

In their opening match of the World Cup, Germany dominated Portugal, 4-0, netting a hat-trick from 24-year old Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller.

The United States defense was the glaring question mark going in to the World Cup. The U.S. defense once featured seasoned vets like Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit and Frankie Hejduk. But just as happens in sports, the miles began to add up and those four have retired from international soccer.

U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has relied on one seemingly ageless presence, DeMarcus Beasley — playing in his fourth World Cup — and a group of talented, but inexperienced players in Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler as his starters. Omar Gonzalez, DeAndre Yedlin and Ghana hero John Anthony Brooks have all also spent time in the back line.

For an inexperienced squad, the U.S. defense has played exceptionally well, save for three costly mistakes.

Both Johnson and Cameron have failed to track a player, Johnson on Ghana’s Andre Ayew and Cameron on Portugal’s Silvestre Varela, giving up goals. Cameron, the former West Virginia Mountaineer, also failed to properly clear a deflection early against Portugal, allowing Nani an easy goal.

Had it not been for those three unfortunate events, the United States would most likely be able to rest ailing players against Germany, but instead, they’re playing for their lives. They, along with the midfield, will need the game of their lives to keep the dangerous German attack at bay.

n Will the real Michael Bradley please stand up?

When Klinsmann announced the roster for Brazil, former Roma and current Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley was a no-brainer. Instead, it was the addition of Klinsi’s pet project Jermaine Jones and Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman that left many American fans concerned. After two matches, it seems Bradley is the one who is being questioned.

There is little doubt that Michael Bradley played much better against Portugal than he did against Ghana, but it seemed at times that Bradley was out of place. With Dempsey playing as the lone forward, Bradley was forced to play forward more, something he isn’t quite as used to. Had it not been for a poorly struck ball on a keeper-less net and a costly turnover in the final seconds of the match, Bradley’s performance wouldn’t have been so bad.

It is time, however, to get off of Bradley’s back. He is one of the most talented players for the U.S. and big players tend to show up in big games. For the Stars and Stripes, there may not be a bigger game than this.

n When it comes to Germany, Klinsmann knows best

The United States and Germany have played two prior times in the World Cup, once in 1998 in France and again in 2002 in South Korea. The U.S. failed to win either of those matches, with the 2002 result sending the Yanks home early. In 1998, Klinsmann scored one of the two goals that gave the Germans the victory.

Eight years later, Klinsmann returned to the World Cup with Germany, only this time as the manager, helping to lead Germany to a third place finish.

There may be no one person, outside of the current German national team, who understands what it’s going to take to defeat Germany more than Klinsmann. His former assistant for “Die Mannschaft”, Jogi Low, is now the manager for the team. Many felt that while Klinsmann was the face of the squad, Low was the tactical mastermind behind the team’s success.

Klinsmann can silence those critics by putting together a game plan today that will only add to his giant stature in Germany.

He can defeat them.

E-mail: jrollins@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.

 

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