Just 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
One 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
Under 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.