Thursday, March 23, 2006

U.S. Men's Soccer: Germany 4 - 1 U.S.

Well, that was an ugly game wasn't it. Germany completed routed the U.S. 4-1 in a friendly yesterday. This will obviously bolster Germany's confidence after their own 4-1 loss to Italy earlier in the month, and it will remove some of the heat from Juergen Klinsmann, their national coach.

But what does it mean for the U.S.? Does it mean that we are right back where we where in 1998 while finishing last in France? Does it mean exactly nothing? No on both counts. This is certainly not a disaster for the team by any means. Just take a look at the lineups for both teams and some interesting things begin to emerge.

First, Germany's roster yesterday:
GER (4-3-3): 1-Oliver Kahn (capt.); 3-Arne Friedrich (25-Patrick Owomoyela, 82’), 16-Philipp Lahm, 29-Per Mertesacker, 21-Christoph Metzelder; 17-Sebastian Kehl (15-Fabian Ernst, 82’), 13-Michael Ballack, 19-Bernd Schneider (18-Tim Borowski, 68’); 14-Gerald Asamoahl (30-Oliver Neuville, 67’), 11-Miroslav Klose, 20-Lukas Podolski (7-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 46’)
Subs not used: 9-Jens Lehmann, 24-Marcell Jansen, 28-Manuel Friedrich
This is pretty much the team that Germany will use in June when World Cup play kicks off, including two of the most in-form goalkeepers in the world right now.

Now, for the U.S. roster:
USA (4-4-2): 18-Kasey Keller (capt.); 3-Gregg Berhalter, 12-Cory Gibbs (19-Heath Pearce, 77’), 4-Jimmy Conrad, 6-Steve Cherundolo; 15-Bobby Convey, 25-Pablo Mastoreni (14-Ben Olsen, 74), 5-Kerry Zavagnin, 16-Josh Wolff (17-Chris Klein, 17’); 9-Eddie Johnson, 11-Brian Ching (20-Taylor Twellman, 60’)
Subs not used: 7-Benny Feilhaber, 24-Marcus Hahnemann, 23-Eddie Pope
Do you notice something a little different here? There are some pretty big names missing, mostly due to injuries and club committments. I have to think that the result may have been a bit different if some of the following players that will probably be available in June were present. Barring injury all of these players will figure in Bruce Arena's plans as starters or important role players:
  • Brian McBride
  • Landon Donovan
  • DeMarcus Beasely
  • Oguchi Onyewu
  • John O'Brien
  • Claudio Reyna
  • Carlos Bocanegra
  • Clint Dempsey
  • Eddie Lewis
And, of those players on the field yesterday, Josh Wolff left early with a concussion, and Eddie Pope never got off the bench. Both of these players will likely be on the World Cup roster as well.

Everyone in the U.S. Soccer community needs to view this game as a way to evaluate players that are on the bubble for inclusion for the World Cup roster. So who helped themselves?

Barring injury, Kasey Keller is a lock to be the starting keeper in June. Steve Cherundolo and Gregg Berhalter probably will be there too, despite what happened yesterday. Eddie Johnson showed great movement in the first half, reassuring everyone that he is returning to form from his injury. Finally, Bobby Convey, despite a few mistouches, probably helped his case as well.

Everyone else? Brian Ching shouldn't be buying any tickets. Chris Klein looked lost out there, which will clear up the midfield logjam somewhat. Conrad will definitely want to forget his performance in the second half, making his status a little more doubtful [Ed. Note: Soccernet has more along this vein.]

All in all, the U.S. "B" team hung in there with a desparate Germany for 45 minutes. Although Bruce Arena now thinks that scheduling this game was a mistake, I think we learned some things of value. In any case, it doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for the upcoming World Cup in the least.

NP: "You Don't Understand" - The House of Love

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