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The tour continues Sunday when Germany faces the U.S. in an international friendly at RFK Stadium. Chances are Germany will make itself at home if the U.S. defense struggles again. The defense looked as lost as tourists in a traffic circle in a 4-2 loss to a strong Belgium team Wednesday.
Against Germany, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said his defense has to be more compact, more connected. “On many occasions we were just too far away from the ball,” Klinsmann said about the Belgium game.
Though Germany is missing much of its first team, a squad ranked second in the world, there are several stars on the roster, such as Klose, as well as young talent eager to make an impression.
The Americans will have midfielder Michael Bradley back in the lineup, which should help. (Bradley arrived in camp Thursday after playing in the Coppa Italia final for Roma.) They also have extra motivation given the atmosphere – the sold-out game is U.S. Soccer’s centennial match. It’s also Klinsmann’s first match against the team he coached to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup.
Opposing coaches don’t usually socialize before a match, as German coach Joachim Low noted, but this game is different. Minus Klinsmann, Germany’s coaching staff remains the same from the one he built in 2004. The staffs spent Friday night together at the U.S. team’s hotel in what Low called “a trip down memory lane.”
When Klinsmann took over Germany, he was trying to restore a soccer power’s greatness. With the U.S. team, the goal is to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil and advance further than the 2006 (first-round knockout) and 2010 (second round) squads.
“It’s very different so you shouldn’t compare,” Klinsmann said about his two national team stints. The U.S. process is “one that comes with some hiccups,” he said. “I think we have a way to go, as I’ve always said, to catch up to the top 10, top 12 in the world.”
Still, if the Americans lose in the same fashion as they did Wednesday, expect fan discontent to grow louder. And expect players and coaches to preach perspective.
“It’s a friendly, a test game, where both of us will try out new things,” Low said through a translator. “For Jurgen, the match is definitely less important than the three upcoming qualifiers. That’s where it really counts.”
Indeed. In the span of 12 days, the U.S. will play three World Cup qualifiers beginning at Jamaica on June 7, vs. Panama four days later in Seattle and vs. Honduras in Sandy, Utah, on June 18.
“We’re not where we want to be,” U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey said when asked if the team has improved under Klinsmann. “But the only way we’re going to get there is to play against top teams. These are the type of teams you’re going to see at the World Cup. And when we do qualify, we’ll be ready for it. We’re not going to be scared to play those teams.”