WASHINGTON, D.C. — Too bad the U.S. national soccer team couldn’t bottle this attacking performance for more consequential endeavors in coming weeks.
In a final test before three World Cup qualifiers, the U.S. squad scored three outstanding goals and took advantage of a comical goalkeeping gaffe Sunday to defeat a young German team, 4-3, in a wildly entertaining friendly before a sellout crowd of 47,359 at RFK Stadium.
In an early three-minute span, Jozy Altidore volleyed his way out of a scoring funk and Marc-Andre ter Stegen misplayed a back pass for an own goal. After Germany scored early in the second half, Clint Dempsey tallied twice in four minutes to provide what appeared to be an emphatic send-off ahead of Friday’s qualifier in Jamaica.
However, Max Kruse and Julian Draxler struck in the 79th and 81st minutes for Germany, which was missing eight Bayern Munich stars and two Real Madrid standouts.
It was the U.S. team’s first victory over Germany since 1999.
The turnout was the largest for soccer at RFK since David Beckham’s MLS regular season debut in 2007 and the fourth biggest to see the U.S. senior national team. The stadium record for soccer is 58,012 for a 1996 Olympic group match between the United States and Portugal. (At the time, the Redskins were still playing there and the facility accommodated more spectators.)
Juergen Klinsmann, the U.S. team’s German-born coach, made four changes to the lineup after the 4-2 loss to Belgium on Wednesday in Cleveland: Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson were available after completing club obligations; Brad Evans replaced Geoff Cameron at right back; and Matt Besler took Clarence Goodson’s spot in central defense.
Bradley took his usual role in central midfield, while Johnson, who has played almost exclusively at left back for the U.S. team, pushed up to left wing, a position he often fills for German club Hoffenheim.
The Americans showed immediate improvement over the Belgium game with confident ball work leading to two corner kicks in the first three minutes. Evans, a natural midfielder, targeted Altidore in the box for a deflected bid and Graham Zusi’s free kick located the striker for a glancing header.
U.S. defensive frailty resurfaced in the 11th minute. Unable to contain pressure on the left or clear a cross, the Americans were fortunate the ball rolled onto the foot of a German center back, Per Mertesacker, whose six-yard shot trickled a fraction wide of the left post.
Altidore’s scoring rut ended two minutes later. Zusi served a delicious cross from the right flank to the heart of the penalty area. Altidore was unmarked and unfazed, smashing a 10-yard volley with his right foot for his first goal since a friendly at Slovenia in November 2011.
Famous for impeccable composure, Germany made a comical mistake in conceding a second goal. Under moderate pressure deep in their own end, the Germans failed to find an escape route. Benedikt Hoewedes decided to play the ball back to ter Stegen, who let it slip past him and over the goal line before he could recover.
Just 21, ter Stegen started the past two seasons for Moenchengladbach in the celebrated Bundesliga and was making his third national team appearance.
The opportunities continued to flow. Sven Bender weaved through the U.S. defense but missed wide on a clear look and Altidore set up Dempsey for a near-post bid that ter Stegen pushed aside.
The goalie had another clownish experience midway through the half when, backpedaling on Alitdore’s ambitious floater from 40 yards, he tumbled. To his relief, the attempt was off target.
While Germany made four changes at halftime, Klinsmann had one: Brad Davis for Johnson.
The U.S. lacked cohesiveness after the break and conceded Heiko Westermann’s six-yard header off Kruse’s corner kick. Germany continued to press. Klinsmann turned to Eddie Johnson and Edgar Castillo in the 56th minute in place of Zusi and DaMarcus Beasley.
The Americans regained their two-goal lead in the 60th minute when Jermaine Jones delivered a long ball to Altidore on the left side of the box. Altidore waited for support and then crossed to the center of the box, where the on-rushing Dempsey tagged an 11-yard shot into the left side.
There was more Dempsey four minutes later. In a seemingly harmless position, he began toying with Lukas Podolski well beyond the penalty area, carved a pocket of space and then unleashed a swerving, 25-yard rocket to the upper left corner for his 35th international goal.
Kruse scored from 20 yards and Draxler converted a rebound, causing late angst for the Americans. But referee Paul Delgadillo of Mexico ignored Germany’s penalty kick plea in the 90th minute.
U.S. notes: The team will remain in Washington until Tuesday morning, then charter to Jamaica. The delegation will get settled in Kingston as the Reggae Boyz host U.S. nemesis Mexico on Tuesday night.
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