The four-time World Cup champions came from behind to defeat a lackluster American performance in front of a full crowd in Hartford, Connecticut. Christian Pulisic’s beautiful goal in the 27th minute was nullified by an Ilkay Gundogan equalizer minutes before the interval. The second half saw the Germans in complete control as Füllkrug and Musiala both scored to increase their tally.
We take a closer look at how it all went down, the context of some of the key plays within the flow of the game, and what it means for the team going forward.
Team USA: (4-2-3-1/4-3-3): 1. Turner (GK) — 19. Scally, 4. Richards (Carter-Vickers, 65′), 13. Ream, 2. Dest — 6. Musah, 8. McKennie (Cardoso, 74′) — 21. Weah (Aaronson, 65′), 7. Reyna (de la Torre, 46′), 10. Pulisic (Paredes, 75′) — 20. Balogun (Pepi, 66′).
Pulisic is once again the USMNT captain, as Tyler Adams is still unavailable for selection. Rentschler Field appeared to be at full capacity and showing strong support for both teams on Saturday evening.
The game has kicked off, and for a moment, it looked like the Yanks had taken the lead. In the 4th minute, Captain Pulisic was played through on goal and put it past Ter Stegen, but the flag was raised after the play. It was a warning shot for the Germans, as the Americans showed how they could be a threat on the counter.
Germany looked fluid in their forward movements. Although the Americans are effectively halting their advances before they reach the attacking third, they struggle to progress beyond their own half after regaining possession. The visitors seem to be targeting Chris Richards in their attacks, and he appears a bit unsettled in possession. Leroy Sané looked the most dangerous out of the four takers, and his speed is becoming a huge concern for the U.S. backline.
The newly acquired AC Milan winger had a great opportunity to give the USMNT the lead in the ninth minute from a blistering counter-attack. Jamal Musiala fails to make a sliding interception to initiate the break, and then Gio Reyna passes to Tim Weah inside the 18-yard box. Weah delivers a cross to Christian Pulisic in front of the goal, but as he’s bundled over awkwardly, he can only direct the ball into the arms of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Germany comes close to taking the lead moments later in the 11th minute. Pascal Gross makes a central run that goes untracked, and Jamal Musiala’s square cross locates him in space at the top of the penalty area. His low shot eludes a diving Matt Turner but squarely hits the bottom of the right post.
It’s becoming evident that Gregg Berhalter is adjusting his tactics step by step. At first, it looked like the USMNT were playing in a 4-3-3 formation with Reyna dropping a bit deeper, but as the game progressed, Reyna took on the No.10 role in the 4-2-3-1 setup. The Americans defended in a classic 4-4-2 shape with either Pulisic or Reyna positioned up top, with Folarin Balogun and either of them occupying the left flank. Weah provided support on the right flank to assist Joe Scally, who hasn’t played all too well thus far.
The Barcelona keeper looked to have hacked down Pulisic in the box but the referee ignored the penalty claims. It resulted from a superb pass from Gio Reyna to Balogun, and with the U.S. breaking with a two-on-one advantage, he passes the ball to Pulisic, setting up a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper.
Füllkrug really should’ve made it 1-0 to Germany as he forced Turner to make a fine save. The German BVB striker managed to find a small bit of space between Joe Scally and Tim Ream, with the former sliding for a cutback, but Turner is well-positioned to make the stop.
Moments after the huge Turner save, in the 27th minute, Pulisic scored an absolute worldie in the top right corner where MATS had no chance of saving. The ex-Chelsea winger took control of the ball at the top of the penalty area, shifted onto his right foot and unleashed a magnificent curling shot into the top corner! You could say it was against the run of play, but the Americans were posing several questions, and they finally got their reward.
Calamity at the back as Ilkay Gundogan scored the equalizer in the 39th minute while the entire defense was ball-watching. Leroy Sane dissects the U.S. defense with a lateral run at the top of the 18-yard box, ultimately slicing into the penalty area past a sliding Yunus Musah. Sane attempted to maneuver around Matt Turner, and the U.S. goalkeeper managed to get a slight touch to thwart a shot, but it was poked right to the Ex-Manchester City treble winner, who hammered it home.
It is all Germany in the closing stages of the first half, as the USMNT is hoping for the half-time whistle to blow. The final play of the game saw Jamal Musiala take on the whole American midfield. While Sergino Dest eventually steps up to intercept his forward pass, Dest tries to play from the back instead of clearing the ball. He’s swiftly dispossessed, but Weston McKennie makes a crucial block on the ensuing shot, which would have otherwise been unopposed towards the goal. Dest eventually moves up to intercept the forward pass, he attempts to play from the back rather than clear the ball. He is quickly dispossessed, but Weston McKennie steps in to make a crucial block on Sané, preventing what would have otherwise been an uncontested attempt against Turner.
It was an entertaining half for the neutrals, a proper end-to-end contest on display with a sold-out crowd. The USMNT had several chances and looked really good in the first 30 minutes of the match, but later fell apart. The European powerhouse, under their new Head Coach Julian Naglesmann, made the Americans pay after lapses of concentration in the latter parts of the half.
Gio Reyna was substituted at half-time by Berhalter, and Luca de la Torre came on to replace him. This meant the USMNT reverted to a midfield three, which led to some struggles in creating opportunities for the attackers in the first half. However, this slight tactical adjustment, which saw Reyna play a bit further up, positively altered the Yanks’ dynamic, and abandoning it could prove to be costly. It’s worth noting that Reyna hasn’t played any minutes this season for BVB after recovering from injury, so this substitution might also be a strategy to gradually ease him back into play.
It was complete chaos in the opening ten minutes of the second half, which saw several opportunities for Germany and one for the Americans. Matt Turner was called into action straight from the whistle, as Richards blocked a shot from Füllkrug and dealt with a tame effort from Gündogan.
The U.S. then has a chance of its own. Christian Pulisic’s cross to the mouth of the goal narrowly misses Folarin Balogun. The U.S. came close to capitalizing on Germany’s missed opportunity on the other end.
Füllkrug once again tested Turner and it’s not even five minutes into the half. The midfield is nowhere to be seen, and the German captain effortlessly runs into the space and finds the Dortmund striker, who forces Turner to make a save down at his near post.
The U.S. nearly found themselves caught too high up the field once again, and Dest narrowly escaped another mistake. Dest is the lone defender back, dealing with a two-on-one situation, and he almost intercepts Florian Wirtz’s under-hit pass to Leroy Sane, but somehow misses it. However, Dest redeems himself by preventing Sane from taking a shot on goal while the U.S. defense regroups, and the opportunity is squandered.
The USA has been disorganized throughout this game, and while some blame can be placed on the players for their positional lapses, it’s the Head Coach’s responsibility to address and rectify these issues. The midfield appears overly vulnerable. Even when facing a formidable team, under Berhalter, it seems impossible to compete with any top-tier side not named Mexico.
The U.S. defense is torn apart once more in the 58th minute and Niklas Fullkrug capitalizes on the disorganized defending at long last. Gosens sends in a killer ball to the Dortmund talisman, who has all the time in the world to pick a spot. While Füllkrug seemed to have been offside at first glance, Dest looked to be the one keeping him onside.
It’s gone from bad to worse for Berhalter’s team in the 61st minute as Jamal Musiala increases his country’s lead. Musiala dances around, gaining freedom towards the goal, and everyone seems to just stand and watch. Matt Turner, who is turning out to be the only Yank awake, steps out to block Niklas Füllkrug’s attempt. However, the German striker’s quick thinking helps redirect the ball to Musiala, who’s alone in front of the net. Tim Ream was too slow to realize, and it was an empty net for the Bayern Munich star to tap into.
Leroy Sané had a golden opportunity to make it 4-1 to Germany but he missed an uncontested chance in the 70th minute. Musiala eases past Scally, who is having a rough time dealing with the German trio of Musiala, Wirtz, and Sané. The ball reaches Sané alone in the penalty box and just barely misses the bottom left corner.
The USMNT is having an extremely hard time trying to beat the German press, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. Every pass they attempt is met with two German players right at an American’s neck, waiting for them to make a mistake so they can pounce. The gegenpress is so suffocating even us viewers are feeling it, it’s incredible.
Berhalter substituted key USMNT players like Pulisic, Weah, Balogun, and McKennie as they prepare for Ghana on Tuesday. It’s worth noting that Cameron Carter-Vickers replaced Richards and looked quite solid. While it might not change much at 3-1 down and with the Germans easing off the pressure, it’s a bright light in a poor showing. Both teams seemed to have taken their foot off the gas, and the match ended with a 3-1 loss for the Americans.
Despite still being vulnerable at the back in the first half, it was still significantly better than whatever that abomination of a second half was. Taking off Reyna greatly affected our play, and the structure of Berhalter’s team was so easy to break down, like a four-piece jigsaw puzzle. It takes about four easy passes and Germany is on the counter. My man of the match goes to Matt Turner because if it weren’t for some of his saves, the scoreline could’ve been a lot uglier.
We’ve seen in recent history that Germany has been fragile, especially in the World Cup. The USMNT really should have threatened their backline and put more pressure on MATS. Even though they recently hired former Bayern Munich manager Nagelsmann, a jet-lagged Germany under a new coach is something we really should have exploited more.
Although that’s not to say they’re a bad side, the U.S. hasn’t beaten a top-ranked opponent, barring Mexico, since Jurgen Klinsmann was at the helm. Despite not having nearly as much talent at his disposal compared to Berhalter, he is able to grind out wins against top sides, famously winning against Germany and the Netherlands back in June 2015 at their home soils. Gregg Berhalter as U.S. coach is now 4-4-6 (wins-draws-loses) against top 20 teams via FIFA rankings, with three of those four wins coming against Mexico.
To add even more context, under Gregg Berhalter, the USMNT has secured victory in only two out of eight matches against European teams. These two wins were achieved in friendlies against Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the squad he has at his disposal, this is an unacceptable record. Some may say it’s a friendly, but friendlies are what prepare you for competitions, such as Copa America in the summer. Nearly every American in the camp was in form for their respective clubs. Even if it was against mighty opponents, there were individuals who looked completely lost, especially defensively.
Next on the agenda for Team USA is a match against Ghana on Tuesday at Geodis Park in Nashville, Tennessee. Ghana suffered a 2-0 defeat to Mexico Saturday night.