How the USMNT advances
A game plan for Klinsmann and Co. to earn a win or draw versus Germany
Despite a heartbreaking 2-2 draw against Portugal on Sunday, the United States enters its final group stage match with a great chance to secure a place in the round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup (ESPN's Soccer Power Index gives them a 75.8 percent chance of advancing). A draw or a win against Germany would clinch a spot for the U.S., although they could still get through with a loss (by winning goal differential). However, earning a result against a German team that is widely regarded as one of the strongest in the tournament won't be easy.
Germany is overstocked with talented attacking midfielders, and the core of manager Joachim Low's 23-man roster scored a UEFA-high 36 goals throughout World Cup qualifying. The team is also anchored by strong defensive presences such as captain Philipp Lahm and central defenders Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker to keep opponents from creating scoring opportunities.
In response, the U.S. will be tasked with collectively defending in a manner that keeps Germany's attack stalled in low-risk areas of the field, while also getting forward frequently enough that it can force those attacking playmakers to concentrate more on their defensive responsibilities. Here are the keys to the U.S. earning a victory against Germany, along with a look at contingency plans if the game is tied in the later stages.
Continue including Fabian Johnson in the attack
Germany opened the tournament with a very strong performance against Portugal, but it showed weaknesses in its 2-2 draw with Ghana that the U.S. will look to exploit. One of those weaknesses lies in the left side of Germany's defense, where converted Schalke center back Benedikt Howedes has struggled adjusting to his new role.
This position was a concern for Germany coming into the World Cup, and Ghana was able to create six of its 12 total chances against Germany from the right side. Fortunately for the U.S., its game against Portugal practically served as a test run in how to exploit the deficiencies of an opponent's left side, and as the heat maps below show, Johnson should be encouraged by the amount of damage that Ghana right back Harrison Afful was able to inflict against Germany's back line.
To read Adrian Melville's full analysis on how the U.S. can earn a result versus Germany and advance to the Round of 16, and to gain access to all of Insider's World Cup content, become an ESPN Insider.
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