5 Takeaways from USA Soccer’s 2-1 Victory over Germany

usa-vs-germany-2015Just a week after their big win over the Netherlands, Team USA earned a 2-1 victory over defending World Cup champion Germany. This now marks two victories over top-ranked international squads, causing many to wonder where the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) is headed. It definitely feels like good things are coming in the future, that’s for sure. But what exactly is it that’s going so right for this team, which, despite a Round-of-16 World Cup appearance, seemed over-matched against soccer’s elite? Let’s analyze five points from the 2-1 win over Germany to determine what they are doing right now.

1. As Michael Bradley goes, the US goes

The 2014 World Cup wasn’t Michael Bradley’s finest hour, as the American midfielder had some tough games. But you’d never know that by looking at the 27-year-old now. Bradley played an excellent field game against the Netherlands, then followed up this performance with another gem against Germany. In fact, it was his sweet cross-field pass that set up the game-tying goal. Assuming USA is to win the Gold Cup next month, they’ll need Bradley to at least be on his A or B-game. Considering the latest results, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

2. USA is winning without Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore

clint-dempsey-ghanaOne year ago, if you were to tell a die-hard soccer fan that USA would beat both the Netherlands and Germany without Clint Dempsey (child born) and Jozy Altidore (injury), they’d think you were crazy. And crazy is definitely the right word for what the Americans have done without their star players against top-flight international competition. Sure, these are only friendlies, and teams are always utilizing tweaked lineups that aren’t their best. But still, when you have an unknown like Bobby Wood step up and nail game-winning goals, it has to be encouraging for the overall US soccer system. On a side note, Wood isn’t even on the 35-man provisional roster for the Gold Cup.

3. The Americans have Incredible Speed

This American squad can definitely match other teams in regard to speed. This is especially the case with DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris, who can create mismatches with their running ability. Teams will definitely have trouble containing Yedlin and Zardes on the flanks, which will give USA plenty of scoring chances in future international matches. So suddenly, the Americans, who featured below-average speed at the World Cup, have changed one of their greatest weaknesses into a huge asset.

4. The Tough, Grind-till-the-End Mentality is Back

While USA may not have been the most-talented team at the 2014 Cup, they did earn lots of praise for their never-quit attitude. Unfortunately, this mentality was largely missing in late 2014 and early ’15 matches, where they lost embarrassingly to Ireland (4-1), Chile (3-1) and even Denmark (3-2). However, things are looking up again as the USA toughness is back, and they’re grinding matches out until the end while waiting for their opportunities. And these opportunities definitely did come late against both the Netherlands and Germany.

5. Every Player has to compete for their Spot

Soccer: Friendly-USA vs GermanyUnder Jurgen Klinsmann, there’s no complacency in regard to a player’s international roster spot. As we saw with Landon Donovan before the 2014 Cup, Klinsmann won’t let big names decide who plays and who doesn’t. That said, there are a few players who’ve shown enough to be safe, including Bradley, Yedlin, Dempsey, Altidore, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Zardes, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. However, from an overall perspective, Klinsmann is bringing a real European attitude to the table, where every spot is up for competition and players need to work hard to start, no matter how talented they are.

Analysis of US Men’s Soccer 2-0 Win over Panama

michael-bradley-vs-panamaThe US Men’s soccer team concluded their offseason friendly schedule with a 2-0 win over Panama. Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley provided the two goals, with the latter bending a beautiful corner kick straight into the net. The results were definitely great for the USMNT, as they snapped a five-match winless streak. Furthermore, Jurgen Klinsmann got just his second victory since the 2014 World Cup. So what are the implications from this win moving forward?

The Team is Finally back on the Winning Track

Klinsmann continues tinkering with his lineup, this time going with a 4-2-3-1 formation and Jozy Altidore as the lone striker. Dempsey played behind Altidore in his natural position and did really well while adding another career international goal. Bradley added some insurance to boost the Americans to their first win in a while. Sure, the victory doesn’t count for anything because it’s merely a friendly. However, the win should propel US Men’s soccer as they head towards more-serious 2018 World Cup qualification matches.

The Stars are playing Well

clint-dempsey-vs-panamaComing into this match, some were beginning to question where Bradley fits into the USMNT’s plans moving forward. Well, he’s still one of the biggest names on the US team and he definitely played like it against Panama. If nothing else, Bradley will be taking all future corner kicks for the American squad….but he’s likely to have a much larger role. And Dempsey certainly looks comfortable playing behind Altidore, which could lead to more experimentation with the 4-2-3-1 formation. Klinsmann hopes to develop more stars within the next three and a half years, but for now, Bradley and Dempsey will continue carrying the banner.

The Defense could improve

The downside of the much-discussed 4-2-3-1 is that it led to some defensive questions. DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Besler were the only true defenders on the back line, while Jermaine Jones played center back and Brek Shea started at left back. Yedlin looked pretty mediocre on the right side before leaving in the 72nd minute following a rough challenge. Shea has good attacking skills, however, his defense could be exploited by better teams. Luckily, Panama didn’t give the Americans too many challenges to worry about in this contest.

Moving Forward

CONCACAF qualifying starts on March 25th, with the US Men’s soccer team traveling to Denmark to face a competent Danish team. From there, it’s on to Switzerland on March 31st, and back to San Antonio, Texas on April 15th for a match against Mexico. All of these games will challenge the Americans and show what the team is really made of. But despite the step up in competition, you can bet that Klinsmann will continue trying different formations in an attempt to find his team’s sweet spot. With the 2018 World Cup quite a ways off, the German-born head coach still had plenty of time to get this team’s confidence and performance up.

USA ties Portugal – Contemplating Scenarios to Advance

team-usa-group-of-deathWe and countless other news outlets had discussed last night’s big match between USA and Portugal from many different angles. On one side, you had the young, but scrappy Americans who were coming off a big 2-1 victory against their rivals, Ghana. Then there was Portugal, a normally powerful team with the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, Ronaldo was banged up and three important Portuguese players missed the game with injuries/red cards. So who won this much-discussed match?

Well, it’s very possible that you’ve seen that it ended in a 2-2 tie. There was nothing anti-climatic about this tie, though, as Ronaldo floated a beautiful pass to Silvestre Varelain, who headed the ball in with less than a minute of stoppage time remaining. Despite Ronaldo’s excellent pass to give Portugal a glimmer of hope of reaching the knockout round, it wasn’t his best effort.

He missed several good opportunities to score a goal, including one where he got ahead on the right side of the flank, only to cut himself off from a better shot and miss wide right. There were several other chances where he just couldn’t put the ball in the net. To anybody who was watching the game, it was clear that the Real Madrid’s knee problem limited his impact.

If you want to talk about missed opportunities, though, USA missed big time in not winning this match. Nani pushed a shot past a falling Tim Howard to put Portugal up early in the match The score would remain 1-0 until Jermaine Jones nailed a beautiful hooking shot from outside of the box. With less than 10 minutes left in regulation, Clint Dempsey used his midsection to score what had the feel of a match winner.

ronaldo-usaAfter several squandered opportunities by Portugal, it looked as if the Red, White and Blue would win their second match in a row and automatically advance to the knockout round. However, that’s when Ronaldo found Varelain for a last-second goal.

It was a hot, humid game that was filled with mistakes on both sides. Of course, one might give these teams a pass considering that Manaus, which is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, reached 84 degrees with 70% humidity. The heat was so bad that officials called for a water break before halftime, the first time that this has happened in the history of the World Cup.

That said, USA could have a tougher time recovering for when they face Germany on Thursday, June 26th. So you might want to take this factor into account for USA vs Germany betting. Now, let’s take a look at some scenarios that American fans should be hoping for if their team is to advance to the knockout round.

Current Group G Standings

Germany: 1 W, 1 D, 0 L; 4 Points, +4 Goal Differential
USA: 1 W, 1 D, 0 L, 4 Points, +1 Goal Differential
Ghana 0 W, 1 D, 0 L, 1 Point, -1 Goal Differential
Portugal 0 W, 1 D, 0 L, 1 Point, -4 Goal Differential

USA can advance with a Win or Tie against Germany

For the US, it’s simple: win or tie and you’re in. Of course, it won’t be so simple because they’re facing a German team that some predict will win the 2014 World Cup. Don’t count on Germany taking it easy either in the third and final group play game either because they have a lot at stake. Assuming they win or tie, they’ll face a second-place finisher from another group. You can certainly bet, though, that USA won’t be rolling over for a more talented squad.

USA can advance with a Loss and Ghana/Portugal Tie

Nobody dreams of backing into the next round. However, the US would take such a scenario given the German team that they’re facing. Assuming Portugal and Ghana tie, the Americans would be into the knockout stage no matter what.

USA can advance with a Loss and beating the Winner of Ghana vs Portugal on Goal Differential

This is another not-so-glamorous scenario because it again involves USA losing. But assuming the Germans do win, USA will be hoping for the winner of the Ghana/Portugal match to finish worse on the goal differential. The best-case scenario would involve the Portuguese winning because they’re five goals behind the US in this statistic. If Ghana wins and USA loses, the Ghanaians would have a very realistic chance to advance. Check out the math on this below:

Ghana wins by 1, USA loses by 1 – Most goals scored is the tie-breaker
Ghana wins by 2 or more, USA loses – Ghana advances
Ghana wins by 1, USA loses by 2 or more – Ghana advances

As you can see, the margin is slim for the United States if they lose and Ghana wins. Of course, we certainly can’t count out Portugal from jumping the US either. Ronaldo and his side won a game against the North Koreans by a score of 7-0 in the 2010 World Cup. But then again, Ghana is definitely no North Korea…

Any way you put it, the Americans would definitely do themselves a huge favor by simply winning or tying their next match against Germany. This is no small feat, that’s for sure. But it’s not completely out of reach either for a team that desperately wants to advance to the knockout round.

USA vs Portugal Betting: Despite Injury, Ronaldo feared

ronaldo-usa-fearedGTBets.eu Line on USA vs Portugal (June 22nd)

USA (360)
Draw (289)
Portugal (-120)

The USA takes on Portugal today in what will be a defining match for Group G, which some have labeled the “Group of Death.” As we discussed before, USA has many things going in their favor already, including key injuries on Portugal’s side.

Cristiano Ronaldo happens to be one of these injuries, although he’s still playing today. The Real Madrid striker suffers from a patellar tendon knee injury, which hasn’t kept him off the pitch. However, the lingering knee issue does prevent him from being 100% and one wrong step could put him out for the 2014 World Cup.

Of course, the Americans are preparing as if they’re facing the world’s best player when he’s in perfect health. And this is definitely a good idea when you consider what Ronaldo can do to opponents in short order.

Previous Ronaldo Heroics

After losing their first match against Germany 1-0 and beating Denmark 3-2 in Euro 2012 group play, Portugal needed a win against the Netherlands to advance. Things looked bleak, though, as the Dutch went up by a score of 1-0 early on. But then Ronaldo stormed back and scored two goals to propel his side to a win and a spot in the quarterfinals.

Then there was the match that actually put Portugal in the 2014 World Cup, a playoff game against Sweden. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had scored a goal to put the Swedes within one more strike of moving to the Cup. However, Ronaldo went on to score two more goals to give himself a hat trick and guarantee the Portuguese a spot in the world’s biggest soccer tournament.

What to expect against USA

ronaldo-usa-feared-1The Americans know better than to expect a ginger Ronaldo playing at half-speed to protect his knee and future. His teammates don’t expect this either, especially Raul Meireles, who strongly believes that Ronaldo will show up in the sweltering heat of Manaus today.

“We know Cristiano, we don’t expect anything else,” Meireles said of his superstar teammate’s tireless effort. “Cristiano is the best player in the world and he is always competing to be the best player. This group has gone through difficult times before and I hope this will be another occasion when we will be successful.”

Meireles’ words hint at the two comebacks that Ronaldo provided against Sweden and the Netherlands. But then again, they were dominated 4-0 by Germany in their opening round, with “CR7” being completely stopped. That said, the urgency is definitely there, but Portugal is up against a lot of giants right now.

They are sitting at minus 4 on the goal differential, have zero points, and rank last in Group G behind Germany (4 pts), USA (3 pts) and Ghana (3 pts). Besides Ronaldo’s knee injury, Portugal will be without at least four starters against the US in central defender Pepe (red card), leftback Fabio Coentrao, striker Hugo Almeida and goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Centerback Bruno Alves could also possibly miss the match since he has a serious thigh injury. Meanwhile, USA is only missing striker Jozy Altidore while Clint Dempsey will play with a broken nose.

Win or Go Home

Despite all of their injury problems, Portugal head coach Paulo Bento will be expecting the best out of his team. In fact, he has to or else they’re going home. “This is the scenario we have ahead of us,” said Bento. “If we draw, we practically pack our suitcase. It is not a scenario we are unaware of. It is not a situation we are unused to.”

Is this going to be another one of those against-the-wall situations where Ronaldo provides heroics? Or will this be one time too many for a team that’s survived plenty of close brushes in the past? We’ll see when the USA vs Portugal match takes place at 6:00 ET today (June 22nd). If you’d like to do some last-minute 2014 World Cup betting before the game, check out the lines at GTBets.eu. We not only have lines on all of today’s matches, but also World Cup live wagering opportunities too.

USA vs Portugal Betting Preview

usa-portugal-world-cupGTBets.eu Line (June 20th):

When 2014 World Cup groups were drawn, the US Men’s National Team was facing pretty grim prospects. Sure, they were ranked 14th by FIFA at the time. But they were facing two of FIFA’s top three teams in Portugal and Germany. Add in Ghana, the team that had knocked them out of the last two World Cups, and they were looking at a very difficult task.

Fast-forward to now and what once looked like the Group of Death is looking more like the group of hope. Thanks to an 86th-minute header by reserve defender John Brooks, USA beat their nemesis, Ghana, by a score of 2-1, which has put them atop Group G along with Germany.

Next up is Portugal in a match that could very well decide if the US advances to the knockout round, or if they’ll need some help and an excellent performance against Germany’s powerhouse team. America and Portugal face off on Sunday (June 22nd) at 3:00pm in the heat and humidity of Manaus. That said, let’s take a closer look at this matchup, including the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.

USA: Sharpening their Play is a Must

clint-dempsey-ghanaStrengths – Clint Dempsey got the United States off to a hot start by scoring the fifth quickest goal in World Cup history. Coming from the left flank, he made a marvelous move to the inside and booted the shot in. From here, USA held Ghana for the next 81 minutes, until striker Asamoah Gyan delivered a perfect back heel to André Ayew, who knocked the shot past US keeper Tim Howard.

With the score at 1-1, the Americans finally took to the offensive, which resulted in a corner kick that Brooks headed in for the game-defining score. After a victory over their rivals, confidence is sky-high on the American side and this is one of their greatest attributes.

Another plus for USA is that they feature a scrappy, bend-but-don’t-break defense that held Ghana for most of the match. This is no small feat when you consider that the Ghanaians are among the fastest teams at the 2014 World Cup. Assuming they can show the same amount of effort against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, they have an excellent shot of at least tying the game, if not winning.

One more strength worth mentioning is their head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s seen and coached some of the best, including the German team that finished third in the 2006 World Cup. The hard-driving coach is great at motivating his squad and getting the most out of them. Plus, he came up with a pretty good gameplan against Ghana. Can he do the same against Portugal?

Weaknesses – Despite beating Ghana, there was plenty for Klinsmann to pick apart. Aside from the quick goal and beautiful move by Dempsey, the US didn’t put together a very good offensive effort. Their passing was among the sloppiest seen out of any team this summer and they didn’t do a very good job of maintaining possession. This is a huge reason why the Americans were constantly facing pressure from Ghana.

michael-bradley-world-cupAnother problem was the play of midfielder of Michael Bradley. The AS Roma man is one of the best players on this team, however, he looked far from that against Ghana. Bradley made a lot of poor passes and didn’t defend well either. He really needs to come back stronger against Portugal for USA to maintain possession better.

As for injuries, striker Jozy Altidore is out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring injury. And his replacement, Icelandic-American Aron Jóhannsson, didn’t look too impressive in his relief. Dempsey’s broken nose could also be a minor factor since he’ll probably be playing with a mask.

Portugal needs to Battle through Injuries

Strengths – The strength of Portugal lies with their star, Cristiano Ronaldo. Often called the best player in the world, Ronaldo is always a threat to score multiple goals. He showed this with a hat trick in a 4-2 aggregate playoff victory over Sweden that powered the Team of Shields into the 2014 Cup.

Another player to watch for on the Portuguese side is midfielder João Moutinho. He didn’t exactly have the best season for Monaco, however, he’s an exceptional passer who’s just waiting to wake up. Assuming he and Ronaldo are both on versus USA, the American side could be in a lot of trouble.

cristiano-ronaldo-world-cupWeaknesses – Whatever injury concerns that the US has are nothing compared to Portugal. Ronaldo is dealing with a lingering knee issue that’s prevented him from being 100%. Then there’s defender Fabio Coentrao, who will miss the rest of the 2014 World Cup with a groin injury. Coentrao’s injury only hurts worse when you consider that Pepe, the team’s best defender, will also be out against the US after receiving a red card against Germany. If this isn’t bad enough, injured forward Hugo Almeida is likely to miss the rest of the group stage.

Besides all of the injuries, another problem for Portugal will be confidence. They’re coming off of a disastrous 4-0 loss to Germany. To consider the possible effects of this, look at defending champ Spain, which lost 5-1 to the Netherlands, only to follow this up with a 2-0 loss to Chile. Some might say the demolishing by Germany might motivate the Portuguese. But it could easily go the other way too.

USA vs Portugal Betting Prediction

If there were no injuries to account for in this match, Portugal would be the favorite. However, they’ll be without three starters due to injuries and Pepe’s red card, meaning USA will have an easier go of it. The key will be for the Americans to play their best soccer against a depleted team. They’ll also need to take notes on how Germany held Ronaldo in check. Since Ronaldo has less support going into the match, we like the US.

Prediction: USA wins 2-1

Why was Landon Donovan left off the US World Cup Roster?

landon-donovan-off-world-cupThis week saw the shocking omission of Landon Donovan from the 23-man, US World Cup roster. Many considered Donovan to be a lock for the national team’s trip to Brazil. After all, he’s one of the few Americans with World Cup experience and he still has something left in the tank.

But for weeks, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann insisted that Donovan was not guaranteed to make the final cut. And while some saw this as merely coach speak meant to inspire everybody to work hard, it’s clear now that the German wasn’t bluffing.

Klinsmann could’ve waited until the June 2nd FIFA deadline to make the final cuts. However, he chose to cut the final seven players now, rather than wait. Donovan was joined by Clarence Goodson, Brad Evans, Terrence Boyd, Joe Corona, Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst. Klinsmann spoke about his decision to trim the roster as soon as possible by saying:

It is an exciting moment when you have narrowed the roster down as a coaching staff. These 23 players you have chosen can now focus purely on Brazil. We can go into more specific things about technical approaches and about the opponents. For the players, it is very important to know that they are now part of it and they can relax and know they are going to Brazil. After 10 days [in camp], we thought the point had come to make that decision.

Okay, so this explains why he got rid of the final seven players already. However, there’s still the issue of why he decided to include Donovan among them.

landon-donovan-off-world-cup-1Some fans are outraged by the Los Angeles Galaxy forward being given a pink slip. One only has to look at the stats to realize the impact that he’s made, scoring 57 goals in 156 international appearances and delivering 58 assists – both clear-and-away American records. Beyond the stats, Donovan has provided some electrifying moments for Team USA, such as when his energy and speed helped push the US into the Quarterfinals in 2002. Just four years ago, he provided a last-minute goal against Algeria in group play, which was the boost that America needed to reach the knockout round.

Given everything we’ve just discussed, it’s no surprise that many have questioned Klinsmann’s decision. Bruce Arena, who coached the 2002 and 2006 US World Cup teams, and currently coaches Donovan on the Galaxy, said, “If there are 23 better players than Landon, then we have a chance to win the World Cup.” Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl expressed his opinion by writing, “Cutting Landon Donovan will prove to be a mistake.”

Many fans have chimed in, questioning the selection of youngsters like Julian Green (18), DeAndre Yedlin (20) and John Brooks (21). USA fanatics also questioned Brad Davis’ inclusion, noting that he’s 32 – the same age as Donovan – yet his 14 caps are nowhere near Landon’s 156 international appearances.

So what reasoning did Klinsmann offer to quiet the natives? Well, he didn’t really provide much of a reason at all behind leaving Donovan off the team. What he did say was that other players were “a tiny little bit ahead of him.” Klinsmann also made vague references to Donovan no longer having the exceptional speed or unparalleled one-on-one skills that he once possessed.

landon-donovan-off-world-cup-2More so than his diminished skills – which are still good enough to be one of America’s top 23 players – what kept Donovan off the US roster was his motivation in recent years. In 2012, he publicly questioned whether or not he wanted to be on the Cup team in Brazil. Then Donovan took a sabbatical overseas, which included a lengthy stop in Cambodia where he found himself and regained the motivation to play soccer.

Unfortunately, he also missed two months of the Major League Soccer season and some time with Team USA during this sabbatical. Klinsmann dropped him from the international squad for a while and made Donovan earn his spot back. Once this happened, it seemed like Landon was rejuvenated and focused on Brazil.

But earlier this year, there were already more rumors about whether or not Donovan was 100% into soccer. Furthermore, his conditioning and drive were publicly called into question by Klinsmann in an attempt to get the forward back on track. In the end, though, it seems as if the coach came to the conclusion that Donovan’s heart just wasn’t as into the game anymore. This, coupled with Landon’s aging skills and physical attributes, were enough to leave him off the World Cup roster.