Less than 48 hours until the USMNT take on European powerhouse Germany in the final game of the group stage, and they have two emotions going through their head. Happiness and heartbreak. The USMNT have every right to be happy regarding their performance in the two group stage games. If you asked an American soccer fan if the USMNT would have four points after two games, they would say you are crazy. They have four points and have played the best American soccer in a long time. But does heartbreak trump happiness?
The USMNT played their hearts out against Portugal and were 30 seconds away from making the stage of 16. All they had to do was defend for 30 more seconds. Michael Bradley just had to keep the ball at midfield and not give it away. DaMarcus Beasley just had to make sure Cristiano Ronaldo did not play a ball into the box. Geoff Cameron just had to make sure the Portuguese forward did not get a clean chance to head the ball into the back of the net. American soccer fans can blame whomever they want for the heartbreaking tie, but a number of positives did come out of this 2-2 draw.
Yes, the USMNT are not guaranteed a spot in the final 16, but they have every chance of making the knockout stage. The USMNT played great against Portugal. They kept the ball moving and created great chances in the final third. The three center midfielders were heavily involved, unlike the game against Ghana. They got multiple shots off, and created space throughout the field. They also defending well and did not give the Portuguese midfield a chance to exploit them. The play of the outside defenders and wide midfielders are the most important for the USMNT. The outside backs give the American attackers a chance to get into the box and finish chances. They give them more numbers going forward, while using speed and spreading the field. The wide midfielders bring the same intensity and uniqueness to the USMNT. This is where the Americans need to start exploiting teams and finishing the ball in the box.
One area of improvement that can come from these wide players is their final ball into the box. In the final minutes of the game, USMNT substitution played the perfect ball in the box, and other players need to take notes. DeAndre Yedlin played a ball on the ground in the area between the top of the six-yard box and the penalty spot. This is a perfect ball. Playing this ball with pace can create a number of chances. It allows the running midfielders to finish the ball and create other opportunities. It also can lead to an own goal. This hard played ball across the box needs to be more prominent in the USMNT game plan because it led to their second goal.
Many American fans see the draw against Portugal as heartbreak, but the USMNT still control their destiny and should be happy with where they stand in the group stage. They just need a draw against Germany to make the round of 16. If Ghana can tie Germany why can’t the USMNT? The USMNT can also advance with a win over Germany, and even a loss to Germany depending on the result of the Ghana and Portugal game. The Americans have all the confidence in the world and should go into the Germany game with a great game plan and excitement. Many of the American players are half German, and Jürgen Klinsmann did spend many years playing on the German national team.