The USA is through to the round of 16 despite losing 1-0 to Jogi Low's well-drilled German side.
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it wasn’t a good result at all. But in the end, the USA will care little about how it escaped Group G. A 1-0 loss to Germany combined with a 2-1 Portugal win over Ghana was enough to inch the Americans into the round of 16.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Thursday’s match:
Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision making: The U.S. head coach had plenty to prove heading into the group stage, after his controversial decision to leave Landon Donovan off the roster prior to the tournament. The jury may still be out on Donovan, but Klinsmann’s lineup and substitute decisions have come up trumps in Group G.
Klinsmann brought John Brooks off the bench against Ghana, which proved to be an inspired decision after the Hertha Berlin defender scored the winner. Klinsmann’s call to bring DeAndre Yedlin to Brazil was questioned by many, as the youthful Sounders right back has shown his defensive vulnerability in MLS play this season.
However, Klinsmann and his staff saw Yedlin as a late-game impact substitute at right midfielder, and that’s exactly what he’s been. He set up the team’s second goal against Portugal and again created havoc versus Germany.
Finally, Klinsmann made a big call to bench Geoff Cameron against Germany in favor of the rusty and out-of-form Omar Gonzalez. The LA Galaxy center back repaid his coach in spades, however, making a number of crucial interventions that saved his team at least a couple goals. Right now, Klinsmann can seemingly do no wrong.
With a little help from my friends: The U.S. got out of the so-called “Group of Death,” which obviously is the most important thing. However, just like in 2002, the USA limped over the finish line in its group, starting with a win, then tying its second game before losing its final match and relying on a favorable result in the group’s other game to clinch progression.
Just after Asamoah Gyan equalized for Ghana against Portugal, the African side had a golden chance to take the lead, but Majeed Waris somehow contrived to miss a simple header from six yards out. Cristiano Ronaldo would later seal the USA’s place in the round of 16, but if Waris had done better, the outcome of that game could have been much different. Bottom line: the U.S. needed only to draw to ensure progress and were it not for a Ghanaian reprieve, it would be headed home.
The attack: When the U.S. went down 1-0 against the Germans, there was a sense that it was all on Portugal at that point, because there was little hope that Klinsmann’s men could actually threaten Manuel Neuer’s goal. Perhaps it was fatigue, or maybe just the quality of the opposition, but the USA spent most of its time bunkered in against Germany, hoping to avoid conceding rather than going for a goal of its own.
In the end, the U.S. didn’t really threaten until the last five minutes of the game, and finished the match with a grand total of zero shots on goal. Luckily, the team will have an extra day of rest before its round of 16 game. Will Jozy Altidore recover in time to come to the rescue? Regardless, the Americans will need more from their attack.