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.

US Men’s Soccer Betting: Chile tops USA 3-2

usa-vs-chileThe US Men’s Soccer team looked like they were going to start 2015 with a bang as they took a 2-1 lead into the second half of an international match against Chile. However, they crumbled down the stretch and suffered a 3-2 defeat in this high-profile matchup.

Mark Gonzalez was the hero here as he scored two goals in the second half. Roberto Gutierrez also scored for Chile as they staved off the Americans. On the US side, Jozy Altidore and Brek Shea netted goals at the Estadio El Teniente.

The game plan here was for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to give some younger players a chance. Klinsmann followed through by penciling Steve Birnbaum and forward Bobby Wood into his opening lineup. He also subbed youngsters Shane O’Neill, Wil Trapp, Perry Kitchen and Miguel Ibarra into the match.

Team USA also experimented with a new formation, lining up in a 3-5-2 formation that puts extra defensive responsibilities on midfield wingers DeAndre Yedlin and Shea. The strategy seemed to be working quite well early on, as Shea received a perfect pass from Matt Bessler and put it past Chile goalkeeper Johnny Herrera.

Chile US SoccerHowever, the Chileans came roaring back just six minutes later after Gonzalez sent a magnificent cross into the penalty area, allowing Gutierrez to head it past US goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Just beyond the half-hour mark, the Americans took the lead again when Mix Diskerud found Altidore, who fired a shot in for his 26th career international goal. The US would take their 2-1 lead into the locker room at halftime, despite playing on the road in a passionate soccer country.

But this homefield advantage would prove to be crucial in the second half, as Chile started to look like the superior team. In the 66th minute, Gonzalez made some sensational moves to find the bottom right corner of the goal. He capitalized 15 minutes later on a rebound attempt on the left side of the box to give Chile the lead for good.

This was obviously a tough loss for the Americans since they played so well in the first half. However, it can’t be understated how this match didn’t quite feature both teams’ best lineups. As mentioned before, Klinsmann is looking to use the upcoming international schedule to get new players some experience. The goal is to try and upgrade the talent on this US squad, which showed plenty of heart in Brazil, despite not having the guns to hang with more-traditional soccer nations.

Klinsmann’s team will get another chance to gain some experience as they face Panama on February 8th. So if you’re looking to do some USA vs. Panama betting before then, you’ve got plenty of time to research the matchup and place a wise wager. Just keep in mind that, once again, there’ll be quite a few young players on the field for Team USA.

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

USA’s Jozy Altidore shines in World Cup Warm-up Win over Nigeria

jozy-altidore-usa-nigeriaThe US Men’s National Team was probably on the verge of putting a missing persons alert out for Jozy Altidore. Leading up to last night’s friendly against Nigeria, Altidore hadn’t scored in 28 straight international matches. However, he ended the drought in a major way by providing both goals in USA’s 2-1 victory over Nigeria. This is no doubt a huge victory for USMNT because Nigeria is a fellow 2014 World Cup qualifier, and the victory caps America’s undefeated three-game warm-up series before heading to Brazil.

Keeping the Faith

Mired in a huge goal-less slump, Altidore was starting to draw grumblings from die-hard US fans who wondered why he’s still seeing the field so much in international play. But coach Jurgen Klinsmann never lost faith in the 6’1″ striker, partly because Altidore had been so close to scoring on numerous occasions during his drought.

The first score was the result of a low-ball pass from teammate Fabian Johnson. Altidore’s second goal started when USMNT star Michael Bradley lofted an excellent pass to the striker. From here, it was all Altidore as he made a hard cut and blasted a shot past Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

Growing up in Boca Raton, Florida, Altidore picked the perfect time to shine at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. He scored two goals in front of 52,033 people in his home state.

Lessons for Brazil

jozy-altidore-usa-nigeria-1USA opened in a 4-2-3-1 formation, rather than the 4-4-2 version that Klinsmann had his team in earlier. The result wasn’t a complete success as Nigeria was able to put pressure on the American midfield and defense, most notably thanks to the play of Nigerian winger Victor Moses. USMNT also had trouble delivering crisp passes to each other as a number of balls went astray.

However, the Americans seemed to take control of the game after Altidore’s first score. They maintained possession well and started tiring out the Nigerian defense under Jacksonville’s hot and humid conditions. USA also did an excellent job at choosing when to counter, and the end product was another goal for Altidore.

But their play dropped off when late substitutions came into the match. At this point, USA showed less concentration and committed a big penalty against Nigeria in the box. This allowed Moses to score Nigeria’s only goal of the contest. Luckily, the score happened in the 86th minute of the game and USMNT was able to hold off their opposition for another win. However, the lapse of concentration down the stretch will serve as fire for Klinsmann to continue motivating his team before Brazil.

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.